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Are you concerned that your reactive dog won’t be able to live life to the fullest? People with reactive dogs sometimes feel discouraged or that they cannot give their dog a full life, but don’t worry! In this article, we will go over how to lead a full and happy life with your reactive dog, including self-care, managing your dog’s environment, and tips for having fun with your dog. Reactivity is common, and with some creativity and problem-solving skills, you and your dog can still have a great time together!
An important note: make sure to have a qualified trainer evaluate your dog before engaging in any new activities that have the potential to be harmful to your dog or anyone else (e.g. off leash play). You can definitely manage your dog’s environment and your own self-care, but it’s important to get a trainer involved when you have a reactive dog.
What is reactivity in dogs?
The American Kennel Club defines reactive dogs as “[dogs] that overreact to certain things or situations.” Typically, this looks like barking, growling, or lunging. Reactive dogs have certain triggers that cause them to react. Some examples of common triggers are: other dogs, tall people, men with beards, skateboards, and so forth.
Reactivity isn’t necessarily forever
First off, remember that your dog’s reactivity is not static and can be improved through training. To train a reactive dog, you’ll definitely want to find a trainer to help you. (You’ll want to find a trainer who also uses positive reinforcement training, and does not use any punishment or aversives.)
Taking care of yourself with a reactive dog
When you’re in the position of caregiving, it’s important to make time for self-care. This is true with dogs, too! If you have a reactive dog, you might feel stressed or overwhelmed at times, and that’s completely normal.
Taking care of yourself is essential for both you and your dog. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of your dog’s needs. That’s why self-care is an important part of providing a great life for you and your reactive dog.
For more self-care tips, the Reddit community r/reactive dogs has a great thread on the subject.
Manage your reactive dog’s environment
You can help your dog’s reactivity by managing their environment. This means identifying your dog’s triggers and limiting access to them as much as possible. This might look like:
The situation will be different depending on your dog’s triggers, but in many cases, the trigger is avoidable (or can be lessened) at least some of the time.
Tips for having fun with your reactive dog
Don’t worry, you and your reactive dog can still have a ton of fun! Reactivity is common and there are many ways to manage it while still having fun with your dog. Remember, it’s important to have your trainer evaluate your dog before engaging in any new activities, especially if they involve off leash play.
Trainer Review of this Article
There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers.
This is the trainer that reviewed this article:
Professional Canine Trainer - Accredited / PCT Level 2
Courteous Canine/DogSmith of Tampa
AKC CGC® and STAR Puppy Approved Evaluator
Licensed Pet Dog Ambassador Instructor/Assessor