How to train a reactive dog – When Bikes and Runners are the Enemy
November 23, 2020
Reactive Dog Walking

Reactive Dog Training Edinburgh

Your walks have turned into a stress-inducing nightmare, you’re tense, anxious, and stressed that lurking around the next corner could be a cyclist or a runner. This is your new normal when walking your dog because they REACT to the sight of one of these offending things. In the blink of an eye, your dog transforms into a barking lunatic.

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Reactive Dog Training Edinburgh –

I have been there, the shame and embarrassment of a dog kicking off in the middle of the street or walk. You can feel the eyes of passers-by judging as you try desperately to get your dog to stop. My dog Ally I swear to god use to turn into a screaming banshee and I swear cars would stop because the sound was so awful. Ally’s problem a cyclist went past on the road and if she could she would give chase.

I remembered the first time it happened a couple of months after I had got her, I was in the park with Ally and Erick, Ally was off lead and while I was dealing with Erick she saw a bike and took off at full speed, barking too. I had zero chance of catching her or calling her back. I could just about see the bike disappear into the distance, while she slowed down and stop and then returned to me.

After that, if she saw a bike she’d either chase it, try to chase it, and bark like a lunatic. Trouble is I live on the main road in Edinburgh there are a lot of bikes, the local walk ways are also cycle paths so there was no way I’d avoid seeing a bike.

Ally also barked at people on Roller Blades and Skate Boards, also suitcases on wheels being pulled and she just about tolerated prams.

As you can imagine this discovery of Ally’s pet hate turned my easy walks into stress-inducing nightmares. Once Ally had started barking Erick would join in, although he had no clue what he was supposed to be barking at it has to be said. I must have looked like a crazy person with two big barking dogs, it’s not a good look.

Ally is reactive and I hate that title ‘Reactive’ so much. It has such negativity attached to it, Yes Ally is ‘reacting’ to seeing moving bikes but it’s because she was scared of them, I’d rather call her scared over-reactive. But the general dog-owning public sees know barking dogs as being reactive so I’ll stick with that label for the time being.

I have worked with a lot of rescue dogs who as it turns out, can turn in to barking, lunging, and pulling lunatics at the sight of a dog, or a runner, or a bicycle, or children, the list goes on and it can also include certain noises, movement or objects. When it does happen people label the dogs as Reactive and assume some sort of aggression plays a part. However the label reactive actually covers dogs who are either Scared (like Ally)or Frustrated.

Why your dog is reactive is never really crystal clear and when you have a dog who has an unknown background it’s even less clear. More often than not the reactivity is due to not being socialised properly i.e. if the dog has had a sheltered upbringing, so seeing something like a skateboard can be scary. Sometimes it can be what the dog has learned to do to protect himself.

Frustrated reactivity could be a dog who is now unable to go meet every dog he sees, finding himself confined to a lead around other dogs. If he previously lived on the streets or in a large open kennel then he was probably used to doing as he pleased when interacting with other dogs.

In its basic form reactivity means that the dog can not handle what he has seen, becoming over-stressed instantly. This stress can cause the dog to breathe heavily/pant, increased heartbeats, and becoming so worked up that he can’t even hear or acknowledge his owner. It also can play havoc with a dog’s digestive system causing it to slow down and even cause skin problems.

Stress it is a horrible thing to have to deal with, I should know once I am over stressed I have sore neck and shoulder muscles, a headache, and get over tired. So I am sure you can understand it isn’t a nice experience for your dog and chronic stress can lead to heart disease or diabetes too.

When handling a reactive dog you need to understand what is causing your dog to react, change how your dog views it and you also need to give your dog the opportunity to relax and de-stress before another reactive event can happen.

Help With Reactive Dog Training

There are various ways and methods you can use to help your dog stop reacting and create positive associations with what triggers their reactive behaviour. It might be that you have to use a combination of ways, and that’s totally fine, each dog will respond differently.

IMPORTANT: Avoid Training Your Dog In The Following Ways

Punishing your dog – This means no shouting, pulling/dragging, and hitting your dog. It may seem like a natural thing to shout at your dog, especially when your dog is kicking off at that bike, but it gets you nowhere. You will end up stressed, and your dog will end up more stressed at best and scared of you at worst, both options just make the original problem worse.

Blocking – You can see a dog your dog reacts to walking in your direction, so you decide to body block your dog from being able to look at it. This may seem like a sensible idea, but all you achieve is you constantly sidestepping to block your dog who is moving side to side to get a better look at the dog in question. You’re getting frustrated and so is your dog, so either of you wins.

Tense Up – Easier said than done, but you need to relax especially in front of your dog’s trigger. Your dog knows when you’re tensing up and getting stressed, even when you think you’re hiding it, dogs are masters at reading our body language. Take deep breaths, relax your shoulders and loosen the death grip you have on your dog’s lead, over time this becomes easier. The more you can relax, the more your dog will be likely to relax.

I teach a variety of different games and techniques that will help you manage your dogs behaviour and help to train them not to react. All the same methods I have used with Ally and other former reactive dogs I have helped trained. If you are concerned about your reactive dog then book a FREE call in with me by clicking here.

There is light at the end of your reactive tunnel and your stressed induced nightmare can be soon be forgotten.

Take Care


Further Reading

How to Change Your Reactive Dogs Behaviour

How to Change Your Reactive Dogs Behaviour

Edinburgh Dog Behaviour - Reactive Dogs Reactivity happens for a reason. True Story, reactivity is never your dog being naughty its an important bit of information your dog is giving and it also gives your dog something that they need in that moment. Maybe their...

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How To Help Your Reactive Dog

How To Help Your Reactive Dog

Reactive Dog Training Edinburgh Tips To Help Your Dog Living and working in Leith, Edinburgh is hard work when you have a reactive and anxious dog, I should know I live with my own barking lunctic Ally in the heart of Leith. Ally is a 3 year old, Old English Sheepdog...

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Dynamic Dog Case Study: Brodie

Dynamic Dog Case Study: Brodie

The problem isn't always straight forward, check out Brodie's Red Herrings. Brodie is a very handsome and playful Old English Sheepdog, his owners reached out to me over problems they were having, with Brodie growling and barking towards his family in the home, at...

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Dynamic Dog Case Study: Puka

Dynamic Dog Case Study: Puka

The Vet Doesn't Always Know It All...... Puka(1) I first met Puka when I had be called in to help with his brother Albi's reactivity and after inital work put in place, we discovered that Puka and Albi were having fights. The fights were in part down to one or the...

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