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Reactive Dogs

by Robin MacFarlane

The first step in solving reactivity is teaching the dog to redirect his focus.

None of us go looking to own a challenging dog. There is often embarrassment when owning a dog that goes into hysterical fits of barking at the slightest disturbance in the room. It certainly isn't a goal to have a companion that lunges and snaps at every other dog that walks by.

When we do end up living with "that dog", we have one of two choices to make:

1. Give up and have the dog live a life of isolation from the rest of the real world so there are no incidents of embarrassment.

2. Deal with it, by working with resolve to improve the problem.

People that fall into choice number 2 are the ones I want to give a shout out too today. I've worked with lots and lots of dedicated pet owners who wanted to figure out how to have a better life for their dog. They want more enjoyment, less stress and they are willing to sweat through the challenges in order to conquer the problem and improve their dog's behavior.

This was the case with one of our Dog Camp participants. One owner came with her young Bouvier des Flanders who had a history of acting like a real butt head around other dogs. She was frustrated with his behavior, but determined to find a way to help him improve.

There are a number of steps we have to take to fix cases like this. I want to make sure I point out there is no quick solution and immediate solution. However, if we are going to tackle the problem the first step is learning to redirect the dog's attention away from what triggers him and teach him to focus on his handler instead. At minimum, this strategy gives us a dog that can take a walk and remain under control.

Then, if we have access to a fairly stable pack, we can work on social skills so that that dog can learn to communicate more appropriately and gain trust in being around other dogs.

For now though, let me show you this first step and how we did it to help our Dog Camp attendee focus more on his owner and less on trying to drive all the other dogs away.

-- Robin

Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.
  • Robin writes for Gun Dog Supply on our E-collars Dog Training blog
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