Category Archives: Reactive Dogs

Reactive Collie

I recently met a woman in the park with a very nervous and reactive Collie. As she saw me approaching with my pack of four, she calmly put her dog on a lead and stepped to one side of the path to enable me to pass without putting too much pressure on her dog. My dogs, being very calm and well socialised, passed without any fuss and I asked if her dog had a problem with other dogs, she explained that her rescue dog Meg had been attacked previously and had now become very defensive and had taken to ‘air-snapping’ at other dogs  if they got too close. We talked for a while and I suggested that she might like to try ‘parallel walking’ or similar technique to enable Meg to have choices when seeing other dogs and I explained about body-blocking and using naturally occurring objects as ‘blockers’. As she was open to my ideas I suggested that we try a ‘following’ technique as this would provide Meg with the opportunity to sniff where my dogs had been and she would retain the option to follow or distract. I set-off with my four whilst she followed at a distance to suit Meg. After a while Naomi let Meg off the lead and we both observed Meg begin to investigate my dogs at a safe distance, then Meg became confident to approach the tail-end of my little group and retreat back to the safety of Naomi when needed. As the walk progressed Meg became bolder with ever deeper penetration of my group and less need of Naomi’s support. By the end of our short walk of less than a mile Meg seemed quite happy to wander through my group without any sign of distress. Naomi was elated and near tears as her beloved Meg had never been able to do this previously and she had always sought to avoid other dogs.

Just by chance I met Naomi and Meg the next day; Meg appeared to remember my dogs and quickly assimilated into my group of dogs with my Boyz paying very little attention to Meg again. The whole walk was relaxed and Meg just fitted-in and all dogs just calmly went about their business of sniffing and checking-out the ‘newspaper’; wonderful!

I never cease to be amazed at how quickly dogs are able to apparently overcome a trauma and begin to enjoy the company of other calm and respectful dogs. It’s this that gives me the thrill of working with dogs and committed owners.  Image

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Reactive Pekinese

I’ve been working with a delightful 16 month old Pekinese who displays behaviours to suggest she’s reactive, but not aggressive, towards other dogs. Initially she barked at every dog she saw and loved nothing more than too rush up to all dogs to engage in play. The problem with that of course is, not all dogs want, or know how, to play – so this activity has the potential to get her into trouble.

My clients had attended a puppy training class but were asked to leave because their dog was barking too much and disrupting the class; surely a dog that is reactive and showing signs of stress when in the vicinity of other dogs needs support, perhaps on a one-to-one basis, excluding the dog only serves to alienate the dog owners’ and for the dog never to gain the basic canine social skills essential to all dogs.

To help this young Pekinese overcome her ‘reactive behaviour’ I initiated a strategy of ‘loose-lead walking’ with a harness and a long-line (7 mtr) and identifying her ‘critical distance’ i.e. the distance at which she doesn’t react to another dog and walking her on a parallel route with other dogs at this distance. When she’s able to observe another dog yet remain calm, i.e. not bark and pull on the lead, she’s given a reward, be it a treat or just a “Good girl”. As her ability to accept a reducing critical distance increases we can walk her on a converging path or in a following pattern, enabling her to gain confidence in varying scenarios. This strategy is proving so successful that a recent walk on Cefn Sidan beach exceeded our expectations when she walked past three calm dogs just 15 mtrs away without any reaction at all, and then later when we walked into the surf close to an exuberant, barking young Yellow Labrador she was able to remain calm and not react, I was so pleased for her to have the first calm walk without all the usual stresses of reactive barking.

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