Reactive Dog Training

Colorado Springs Dog Owners Guide to Reactive Dog Training 

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Dogs and pet parents are challenged by behavioral issues, particularly reactivity, a trait that can make daily walks incredibly stressful. Because of the behavior pet parents will limit daily walks to trigger-free areas eliminating dog parks and fearing possible encounters that could result in a reaction. 

The behavior can be modified with a reputable, quality dog training program like Sit Means Sit Colorado Springs.  

The trainer will work with the pup to identify the underlying cause for the triggering reaction and understand the puppy’s perception of the situation to develop a strategy to modify his thought process.  

That will involve desensitizing the puppy and counterconditioning him to view the trigger in a positive light instead of as a stressor. 

Tips For Helping a Reactive Dog Find His Calm 

Reactivity in a dog is an unnecessary, typically exaggerated response to a trigger like another dog running past the window or a delivery person leaving a package. A reactive dog will excitedly bark and jump around to alert you to a threat, but unfortunately, the result is an overreaction. 

The basis for the behavior is often fear, anxiety, and stress more so than aggression. However, it’s essential to reach out to a Colorado Springs dog trainer to help identify the issue’s underlying cause and modify the pup’s thought process.  

In a positive and reward-based program, the pup will be gradually exposed to his trigger and be able to relax his reaction at some point, hopefully. Visit https://www.outsideonline.com/culture/active-families/reactive-dog-training-and-tips/ for guidance on working with a reactive dog. Here are tips to follow as a pet parent. 

Avoid punishment 

A reactive dog behaves in a way that comes naturally to them to avoid what they see as a threat. Scolding or punishing them for their anxiety and stress only adds that these emotions. He sees you as his safe space; it’s essential to preserve that role of security, someone your dog can trust when he’s triggered. 

The pup will view you in the same context as the threat if you react negatively when he’s upset. A positive approach is to reward him when he sees the trigger but doesn’t become overly excited. 

Align your dog for success 

Ensure your puppy is set up for success while working through his reactive behavior. You can stimulate his mental fitness and enthusiasm to encourage effective training.  

As with all successful dog training programs, the key is to begin slowly. With reactive training, the trigger should be a distance away, and the dog should be exposed for a brief period before being distracted. You can build from this point gradually rewarding the pup for each appropriate behavior. 

The threshold for a response will be different for each puppy. The trigger is relatively easy for most pups to ignore when at a distance. When the threat comes closer, the dog will take notice and begin to react. The goal is to remain within the pup’s safe zone; maintaining a level of calm and keeping his focus on you. 

How do you know when your dog is reaching his point of reactivity? A successful training session prevents the pup from reaching that level. That requires identifying the signs of stress in your dog so you can pull him back to a safer distance. Some signs that a dog is starting to react include the following: 

  • Fixed stare on the trigger 
  • Tension on the leash 
  • Rigid body 
  • Tail wagging fast with body still 
  • Ears flattened 
  • Raised hackles 

When you recognize this body language, calmly pull the puppy to a safer distance where he can return to calm and relax. The dog should be able to notice the trigger but keep their attention focused on you to be able to respond to cues. As the puppy desensitizes to the threat, he can gradually move closer. 

High-value treats  

Reactive behavior modification is challenging. In order to alter a dog’s thought process, high-value treats need to be integrated to bring the puppy’s focus back to you as needed. When rewarding, your timing must be specific to avoid praising inappropriate behavior.  

With counterconditioning and desensitizing, a treat should be something the puppy doesn’t receive for any other reason. This can include meat, cheese, or a favorite brand of treats. It will emphasize the fact that the trigger is a positive and not a scary, stressful, harmful object to react to. 

The rewards must consistently show that reliable action leads to a positive result, thereby increasing the appropriate behavior. 

An extended leash 

On some occasions, a shorter leash is practical, like if your pup needs to stay a distance from others. A reactive dog, however, can benefit from the freedom that an extended leash offers.  

It helps cut down on the stress level associated with a short leash and allows him to explore more freely using his body language to communicate.  

It’s important to ensure the area you take a reactive dog to has plenty of room for your dog to roam in a safe space on the extended leash where you’re able to control the distance in case there’s the possibility of an unexpected interaction. Click to learn how to walk a reactive dog. 

Vet check 

If the reactive behavior your dog is experiencing is unusual for him, underlying health issues could be a possibility. Scheduling an exam with the pup’s regular vet should be prioritized to gain further insight into the cause and discuss ways to approach the issue, including implementing professional dog training programs. 

Final Thought 

Reactive behavior is challenging for a dog and difficult to modify for the pet parent—counterconditioning and desensitizing his response to what he perceives as threats are recommended. A qualified, reputable Colorado Springs dog trainer will work to identify the underlying issues to help resolve the behavior. 

The solutions sound simple and straightforward, but each dog is unique in his response. All puppies will need a tailored approach to what are personal triggers and individual reasons for their reactions.

Also Read: How to Spend Quality Time with Your Dog

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