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Canine Conversations discusses the four steps that they take every day with their dogs to prevent reactivity. Many trainers consider reactivity (dogs that bark and lunge) to be a contagious problem.
Marissa Martino and Kayla Fratt break down how they help keep their dogs relaxed around other dogs.
#1: We Avoid On-Leash Greetings With Other Dogs
- Being on leash reduces a dog’s options.
- Even socially savvy dogs can struggle to communicate when they’re constrained with a leash.
- Humans tend to tense up on the leash, adding extra social pressure accidentally.
- You never know who the other dog is and how he’ll react!
- Exposure isn’t the same as socialization.
#2: Keep It Cool When Other Dogs Lose Their Cool
- Yelling at other dogs (and other owners) is likely to stress your own dog out.
- Your dog is likely to follow your lead, so losing your cool may lead to your dog losing her cool.
#3: Reward Your Dog For Noticing Other Dogs, Pretty Much Always. Especially if the Other Dog is Being Rude.
- Pop a treat in your dog’s mouth whenever you see another dog. Soon, you’ll notice your dog looks up at you when she sees another dog, waiting for a treat.
- If you don’t have treats, praise, pet, or play with your dog to reward her for staying calm around barky dogs.
- Kayla has taught her dog Barley to grab a stick and play with her when other dogs are being rude, helping both of them dispel stress and diffuse the situation.
#4: Block Your Dog’s View of the Street and Put On White Noise when She’s Home Alone
- If your dog keeps “practicing” barking while you’re gone, she’ll keep doing it.
- Barking at people “works” because the people walk by. You’ve got to combat the environment, which is teaching your dog to bark!
- Even if your dog spends much of her day looking out the window, that may be more due to hypervigilance than because she truly enjoys it.
For Further Reading:
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.