How To Help Reactive Dogs Get Through A Walk
Are walks with your dog stressful? Does your pet tend to jump on people in excitement, bark or even lunge at other canines? If so, your dog could be exhibiting reactive behavior. A dog can develop reactivity for environmental, developmental or medical reasons. In fact, shepherding breeds and Terriers are more likely to develop reactivity.
Reactivity is an issue that takes time, dedication and patience to reverse, and various training methods can be beneficial for your furry friend. Read on to learn about reactivity, as well as some tips and tricks to keep your pet calm while walking.
What Is a Reactive Dog?
A reactive dog is one that overreacts to stimuli in the environment, such as another canine, a person or an object. There can be many causes of reactivity, including lack of socialization, genetics, insufficient training or a scary experience. There are also different levels of intensity. Reactive behavior may include barking and lunging and is often confused with aggression; however, they are not the same.
Here's how you can help your dog:
Destress Before Your Walk
Do you usually feel tense and anxious before you begin strolling with your furry friend? If so, your pet may be picking up on your anxiety, since dogs are intuitive creatures. Moreover, if your pet does get triggered, you might behave reactively yourself by shouting or pulling on the leash. To avoid this, start your walk in a calm frame of mind, as this can help your pooch feel mellow and relaxed.
Use the Right Equipment
If your pooch tends to pull or lunge on the leash, consider using a head collar to reduce this behavior. This type of collar has a strap that goes around the neck, just behind the ears, and another strap that goes around your pet’s nose. It works by applying pressure behind the neck and around the muzzle, which helps you control your dog by guiding its head. Head collars can have a calming effect on dogs and even give nervous or fearful canines greater confidence. Moreover, canines can still eat, drink and pant while wearing one.
Walk Your Pet With Another Person
If you’re not confident in your ability to control your reactive pet, consider bringing a friend along on your next stroll through the neighborhood. Having another person with you can have a calming influence over you and your pooch. Additionally, walking your pet between the two of you can give her or him reassurance in anxiety-inducing situations.
Pick the Right Time of Day
Your goal is to have a successful, quiet walk. However, this could be impossible if you decide to take a stroll when other dog owners are likely to be out walking their canines, too. For this reason, consider picking a time of day that allows you to avoid as many triggers as possible, such as the early morning. Being strategic in this way can help your pooch stay relaxed.
Try Counter Conditioning and Desensitization
Counter conditioning is often used to change unwanted behavior in canines. It involves training your pet to change her or his emotional response or attitude to a certain stimulus. The first step is to anticipate your dog’s reaction to a trigger, then provide a treat or a favorite toy to distract her or him. This teaches your dog to associate the trigger with a positive reward. Be sure to expose your pet to the stimulus at a low intensity in the beginning.
Walking a reactive dog can be challenging. However, it is important to remember that it does get better with training and consistency. With enough quality training, you’re sure to notice a more relaxed walking buddy.
AUTHOR BIO: Alec Hutchins is Chief Marketing Officer of Recherche Kennels - Goldens, a professional breeding and training facility. Recherche Kennels has over 10 years of experience breeding with top parent bloodlines and training puppies to be the perfect family pet.