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React To This!- How To Tell If You Have A Reactive Dog

Photo credits- Carol Ribordy

This is an article for the panicked pet owners out there, we’ve got you back. We’ve all been there, known a dog who is a handful, or had a family pet that made us constantly on edge. The simple fact is that while we love our canine companions, taking care of them should not consume our lives. If you are constantly concerned while caring for your dog, I can guarantee your dog is too. Here are some simple steps to walk through to figure out whether your energetic furball is a nuisance who needs to be trained properly or an example of a reactive dog.

Firstly, what exactly is a reactive dog? Reactive dogs tend to overreact or be triggered by certain stimuli or situations. Reactive dogs can be overly anxious and easily distressed or agitated. This can be a result of genetics, a lack of proper socialising, insufficient training, a frightening experience or sometimes even a mix of all 4. Fear is typically the driving force. If your dog is reactive it is not necessarily your fault. Reactivity is a massive topic, there are many different types, elements and moving parts.

 A reactive dog would have triggers that may seem inexplicable and confusing, such as feeling trapped on a leash, small children, other dogs, the doorbell, men with beards or even your house phone. These triggers can send your dog into a frenzy of frustration, for example barking, lunging, snapping, growling, or pulling on the leash.

A reactive dog is commonly confused with an aggressive dog because of the similarity in the symptoms displayed. This is the underlying danger that lies in your dog’s reactivity. But I am here to tell you that there is still hope for your reactive dog! Your reactive dog is not aggressive because the intentions behind their behavior are different. Your dog does not want to attack or cause harm, they are expressing their fear in the sign of a warning (#growlingispolite).

Unfortunately, reactivity is not something your dog is likely to grow out of, but it can be managed and regulated. There is great importance in assisting this characteristic in your dog to avoid the issue developing into something more serious.

The next step, of course, is learning to live with and help your reactive dog. Firstly, and most importantly, learn to read your dog. Know the signs that your dog is feeling agitated and be aware of which situations your dog finds stressful.

Another thing which reactive dogs benefit from is mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. This uses up some of the energy that fuels their anxieties. Mental stimulation can be the introduction of new, more difficult games with your dog. Activities that engage their senses and animalistic instincts to channel their over vigilance and distract their hyper alert state. These games could be as simple as hiding treats your dog has to find.

It is important to remember that your dog can pick up on your emotions. If you are anxious and frustrated yourself when dealing with your reactive dog they will be able to register this, so to try and remain calm although dealing with a reactive dog is difficult.

Note: if you are seriously concerned with the behaviour your dog is exhibiting always ask your vet or consult professional dog training.





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