Life with a reactive dog can be hard, here's how to make it better

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Living with a reactive dog takes its toll. I know because I’ve been there with my terrier Missy. You may feel frustrated, a failure and even shed tears. But it can get better. There are things you can do to help your dog.

Reactivity doesn’t get better on its own and your dog won’t “get over it”

A reactive dog is usually frightened. Barking, lunging, and growling are involuntary responses to a scary thing (a trigger). Treating dog reactivity before it becomes a bigger problem is vital - the longer it is practised, the worse it will get.

As a dog trainer I’ve helped many dogs overcome reactivity using this four-step approach which is based loosely on Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs:

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Step One:

Give your dog an emotional detox and avoid exposing them to their triggers for a few weeks. For example, take a break from walks or choose quiet places and times for walks. Empty their stress bucket and give their feel-good a boost.

Step Two:

Include lots of things that you and your dog can enjoy together. Nose work games, trick training, interactive play – anything that brings some joy.

Step Three:

Use positive and force-free dog training methods to teach some essential life skills. A “let’s go”, hand target and “find it” are particularly helpful.

Step Four:

Introduce gradual exposures to triggers using systematic desensitisation and counter conditioning techniques. This will help change how your dog feels about the trigger, so it’s no longer scary.

Getting support:

If you are struggling with your dog’s reactivity, seek support from a qualified force-free professional. 

Blue Dog Canine Services offer a one-to-one Reactive Dog Support Package to help dogs and their owners. It can be delivered virtually, so you can get support regardless of where you are located.

Subscribe to The Happy Pack for four pawsome free dog training downloads!

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