Living With A Reactive Dog
Do you have a reactive dog? I do. Tula, my three year old mix, barks and growls and lunges when she is on a walk and sees another dog. She barks and growls and lunges when she sees another person. She loves playing with other dogs off leash and she loves when we have visitors, but put a leash on her and she turns in to a raving maniac.
I teach a class for people with reactive dogs. At the beginning of the first session, I ask students to introduce themselves and say the things that are wonderful about their dogs. Then they can go on to describe how their dogs are reactive. Why do I start out this way? Because it is so easy, and I am guilty of this, to forget all the wonderful things about our reactive dogs and just focus on that awful behavior on leash. We start to define them by their frustrating behavior in one or two settings instead of seeing that as only part of who they are.
Yes, Tula is reactive and every walk involves using treat magnets and treat searches and clicking for looking. She is getting better but she will never be one of those dogs who wants to go over and socialize when we are on a walk. She is also adorable, with legs a bit too short and a head a little too big for her body, ears attached to her head in slightly different directions and a bottom lip that juts out. She is smart and silly and cuddly and a dream to train.
Perhaps instead of saying I have a reactive dog, it would be more accurate to say I have an awesome dog who over-reacts in a few situations involving a leash.
Just like us, our dogs are multi-dimensional. That makes me feel better; I hope it makes you feel better about your “reactive dog” too!