Manage your dogs’ reactivity
Understanding why your dog overreacts in certain situations is the first step to building a training program to curb reactivity. You will need structure, persistence, and patience to help get your dog to focus and start learning how to handle the things that cause extreme reactions. Training and exercise are valuable tools for improving a dog’s behavior and general well-being.
Create a Training Environment
The best place to start training your reactive dog is in a quiet setting with minimal distractions. Going to a park will provide too many opportunities for your dog to lose focus and it will probably end up being a frustrating and stressful attempt. For a dog to learn anything new, they need to be in a calm environment where they can respond consistently and with full attention on you.
Focus on Focus
Enhancing a reactive dog’s focus will help you both be able to better manage situations that can otherwise be distressing. Start by getting your dog to sit on your left side and use a treat to create a focus line from their nose directly to your eyes. When the dog moves his gaze from the treat and makes eye contact with you, emphasize the good response, and use the treat as a reward.
The idea is to train the dog to make eye contact with you before they indulge in something they find rewarding. You can mix this training exercise with treats, throwing a ball, or before you both walk out of the front door.
After a few weeks of one-on-one training, you can now start using the focus technique outside of the training environment. Take your dog to a small park where you may encounter things that will normally activate their reactivity, like seeing another dog while being on a leash. Read your reactive dog’s body language and observe the surroundings. When the dog looks like they’re about to be triggered, you need to intercept and cause a distraction. Throw down a handful of treats that gets them foraging. If the ‘threat’ is still visible, get the dog to refocus by making eye contact with you.
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Some reactive dogs could enjoy a structured obedience class in a group with other dogs, which will amplify their focus technique regardless of the distraction of having other dogs around. If it’s not the right option for your dog, some companies will provide private lessons until the dog is ready to train in a social setting.
As strange as it may sound to some, dog massages, calming remedies, and acupuncture have proved to be effective in over-anxious animals. These are methods best applied under the guidance of your vet. Dog-Gear says you could also use dog massagers that are absolutely safe.
It may take time and a mix of methods to settle your dog, but nothing is impossible, and you just need to persevere. While treats are a great way to enforce good behavior, don’t underestimate the power of love and play that strengthens the bond between you and your best friend.