Dog Reactivity Training

Dog reactivity has become an increasingly prominent issue of dog ownership. With more of us now living in major cities within closer proximity to one another, we are going to be confronted with dog reactivity. Most people do not understand what it is or where it stems from. When learning about reactive dog training, there are two important ideas to keep in mind: the first, is that most dogs that have reactivity issues were born fearful or with what is called genetic anxiety and the second, is that the majority of dog reactivity comes from them being on a leash. The majority of dogs with reactivity issues wouldn’t actually become reactive without a leash. When we realize that allowing dogs to intensify or create tension on a leash will eventually create the need for them to release it somewhere, we can start to understand where dog reactivity is derived from. The upside to this is that because such a great deal of reactions is brought about by incorrect leash behavior, we can also focus our attention here when training reactive dogs and permanently correct the problem.


Another thing that is often misunderstood about dog reactivity is that it is usually not aggressive in nature but can be mistaken for it. Take for example when we see a dog go into a combination of lunging, barking and growling while pulling on its leash, we assume that it is being aggressive but in fact, it is actually demonstrating fear. Even if it is showing us its teeth! This is the dog’s way of displaying that it is nervous. And in most cases, the last thing that it wants is a confrontation with another dog or a person. The reality is that while it seems counterintuitive to control a situation this way, most of the reactivity would stop If the leash was dropped. But it’s still important to note that simply dropping the leash or refraining from using one isn’t going to shift behaviour and eliminate dog reactivity. The fear, or genetic anxiety still exists for the dog; however, it can be greatly reduced when we as their leaders, stop fighting tension with tension. Understanding the role of the leash is a key component to achieving success in training reactive dogs.


Another focus when reactive dog training, is learning how to observe and timely intervene the moment a dog moves from a calm state to an anxious one. If we can quickly bring the dog back to a relaxed state, we can help it to process that the fear isn’t real and that there isn’t an actual threat present. With enough successful micro interruptions, we can start to reconfigure the anxious dog’s brain so that it no longer goes into a fearful state in situations where it once did and therefore greatly reducing triggers and reactivity. Remembering that dogs, much like us, don’t want or choose to be fearful, will enable us to provide them with what they desperately need from us which is to be shown how to be calm instead. With effecting reactive dog training techniques, and by working with dogs in a way that dogs would work with one another, we can establish this easily.  At its worst, dog reactivity seems terrifying and unsolvable, however, it doesn’t have to be. It can actually change quickly and rather effortlessly for us and our dogs. Once we are communicating with them in a way that they can understand, we can achieve a healthier mind and a healthier dog. A better quality of life means a longer life and an improved relationship for all of us as a result.