Over the years to has been many names for dogs who ate easily excitable. Mostly these adjectives tend to be on the negative side. From aggressive to anxious, dogs who are prone to reacting have been put firmly on the naughty step for many years. Well we don’t think that’s fair, which is why we getting behind the term reactive. We’re not sure where and when the phrase was coined, but we agree wholeheartedly with the ethos behind it. There have been too many dogs mislabeled and tarred with the same brush.
Some dogs just can’t help reacting to elements around them and this doesn’t make them any less of a pet or a best friend. Indeed treated correctly and with the right owner reactive dogs can be great companions.
The key to overcoming the difficulty inherent with a reactive dog is training. To successfully train your dog you must first understand what triggers it’s reactive behaviour. Take a pen and pad with you when you go walking and try your best to document any signs of reaction from your dog. You may find the triggers are quite specific, like people in wheelchairs or people of other ethic backgrounds or the triggers might be more generic like other dogs on the lead. Even in situations where the behaviour seems more or less random, you may be able to spot patterns. Perhaps your dog only barks at male dogs, or puppies or dogs of a specific breed.
Once you have established your why and when ,it’s time to decide which of the stimuli to tackle first. There are a number of good techniques you can use to train your dog to cope with its triggers. You might use a Haltie to steer your dog away from potential reactionary forces, or you might use a treat/click bases system to distract and reward your dog for not reacting. Alternatively you might decide that simply avoiding certain stimuli is the easiest course of action. If your dog only reacts in the low light of twilight for example, then clearly by changing your exercise time you can make a big impact.
Training your dog to be less reactive is possible, but it can be a labour of love. We recommend seeking out a professional trainer for advice. For most people with reactive dogs, tolerance is the best key, particularly with smaller breeds.
If you haven’t got a dog yet and are considering getting one then there are some breeds to pay attention to if you want to avoid a reactive pet.
The Barkers – Beagle, Dachshund , Miniature Schnauzer
As reactive traits go, these tend to be lower on the scale and usually easier to live with than most, but they can be wary and will almost certainly be vocal
The Chasers – Whippets, Greyhounds Wolfhounds
Although lovely pets these sight hunting dogs have a strong need to chase prey which can make them flight risks and a potential worry to other dogs and in extreme cases toddlers.
The Nervous – Bichon Frise, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Miniature Pinscher, Papillon, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Miniature and Toy Poodle, Pug
These lap dogs can be lovely little pets when properly socialised at a young age, but too often they are mollycoddled and this can lead to them being nervous and occasionally snappy.
There are of course no clear and simple rules and some dogs will be prove to be the exception to all rules, but the key to raising and keeping any pet is as true with reactive dogs as it is with any other. If you treat your dog with respect, understanding and allow it the proper training, then you’ll have a loving and trusting companion for years to come.