Dogs, like humans, can get overwhelmed in social situations. This is especially true if they are not used to being around large groups of people or other animals. When they are reactive in public, they may bark, growl, lunge, or even bite out of fear or anxiety.
Before we discuss how to deal with a reactive dog, it’s important to what a reactive dog is and understand why it may be reacting in the first place. So, let’s start with the basics.
What is a Reactive Dog?
A reactive dog is a dog that over-reacts to stimuli in its environment. This can be anything from other animals, to people, to sounds, to movement. The dog may bark, lunge, growl, or even bite out of fear or anxiety.
Several factors can contribute to a dog becoming reactive. It could be due to genetics, early life experiences, or even something as simple as a lack of socialization. Reactive dogs are often insecure and lack confidence. As a result, they can be easily startled or overwhelmed in new and challenging situations.
How to Deal With a Reactive Dog
While it’s not always possible to prevent your dog from becoming reactive, there are many things you can do to help them feel more comfortable and confident in social situations.
Here are a few tips on how to deal with a reactive dog:
- Keep them on a leash– This will help you keep control of the situation and prevent your dog from getting too close to the thing they are reactive to.
- Give them space– If possible, try to give your dog some space from the trigger of their reactivity. This will help them feel more comfortable and less overwhelmed. The further away they are, the better.
- Distract and redirect– If your dog is fixated on the trigger of their reactivity, try to distract them with a toy or treat. Once they are distracted, you can then redirect their attention away from the trigger altogether.
- Reward calm behavior– It’s important to reward your dog when they are calm and not reacting. This will help them associate being calm with positive reinforcement and make it more likely that they will remain calm in the future.
- Avoid punishment– Punishing your dog for being reactive will only make the problem worse. It will increase their anxiety and make them even more fearful of the trigger of their reactivity.
Dealing with a reactive dog can be challenging, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources and support groups available to help you and your dog through this difficult time. With patience and understanding, you can help your dog overcome their reactivity and enjoy a happy, healthy life.
Dealing With Embarrassment and Shame
It’s natural to feel embarrassed or ashamed when your dog is reactive in public. However, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Many other dog owners are dealing with the same issue.
Here are a few tips on how to deal with embarrassment and shame:
- Acknowledge your feelings– It’s important to acknowledge your feelings of embarrassment and shame. This will help you healthily deal with them. You may want to talk to a friend or therapist about how you’re feeling.
- Don’t take it personally– Your dog’s reactivity is not your fault. Several factors can contribute to a dog becoming reactive. You are not responsible for their behavior and should not feel guilty or ashamed.
- Seek support– There are many resources and support groups available to help you through this difficult time. You can also ask your friends and family for support.
- Be patient– It will take time for you and your dog to work through this issue. Be patient with yourself and your dog and don’t expect overnight results.
- Seek professional help– If you’re struggling to deal with your dog’s reactivity, consider seeking professional help from a dog trainer or behaviorist. They can help you develop a plan to address your dog’s reactivity and make progress towards your goals.
Dealing with a reactive dog can be challenging, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Some patience and understanding can go a long way in helping you and your dog through this difficult time. With the right support, you can help your dog overcome their reactivity and enjoy a happy, healthy life.