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Help! My Reactive Dog Just Barked/Lunged at Another Dog! [INFOGRAPHIC]

So you’ve just come in from the walk from hell – and your reactive dog has barked, lunged, or snapped (or worse) at another dog.

Firstly, breathe. Have a cup of tea. Or something stronger.

It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. That’s why I’ve created an infographic about what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

Think of it like an SOS Help Guide for a bad walk.

Infographic about reactive dog - how to manage after your reactive dog barked at another dog on a walk

Step 1: Take a moment

After a reactive outburst, it’s so important to give both yourself and your dog some time to calm down and reflect on what just happened. Stress hormones can linger in the body for many hours, so it’s best to avoid walks for the next 24 hours while stress levels return to normal.

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The reason for this is if you go straight out now for another walk or the next morning, those stress hormones are still circulating in your dog’s body, so you’re starting the walk with a dog primed to react rather than a calm dog.

Instead, focus on creating a calm atmosphere at home and engaging your dog in sniffy or licky activities, such as providing a Kong toy or a lickimat. These soothing activities can help your dog relax and redirect their attention away from the triggering event, helping all those nasty stress hormones ebb away.

Step 2: But the reactive outburst came out of nowhere!

Reactive incidents may appear to have come out of nowhere, but there are usually warning signs that we might have missed.

Dogs, like us, experience trigger stacking, where multiple factors contribute to their reaction, and the last trigger becomes the tipping point that pushes them over the edge. It’s essential to identify these subtle signs and triggers that might have led to the reactive behaviour so we can plan for next time.

For example, your dog might not usually react to the post man, but this morning, there were some scary noises in your street that put him on edge. Then a few delivery men came and scared him a little more, putting him on edge. By the time the post man turns up, your dog is already at 8/10 on his stress scale and can’t calm himself down like he might usually do. So he reacts.

Other factors can be that your dog might have a preferred distance from other dogs, and this time the other dog was allowed to get that little bit too.

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Step 3: Recognise that your Reactive Dog is really trying

It’s crucial to remember that you and your dog are both doing your best. Reactive behaviour is not a deliberate act of disobedience on your dog’s part; it’s a response driven by fear or discomfort. Mistakes happen, and instead of dwelling on what went wrong, use this experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.

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Additionally, if your dog has barked at another person’s dog, it can be helpful to have a conversation with the person or dog owner your dog reacted to. Explain that you are actively training your dog and striving to improve their behaviour. This open communication can help others to be more understanding and ensure a more positive experience for everyone involved (after all, they’re probably a bit shook up too if their dog has been barked at).

Step 4: Learn some useful tricks for sticky situations with your dog

There are a couple of really useful tricks for training your reactive dog to get out of difficult situations. Whilst these tricks won’t stop the reactivity at its core, they can help prevent any reactive outbursts which you continue to work on your reactivity training.

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We’ll be creating some videos and guides for each of these tricks:

  • 180 degree turn
  • Let’s Go! command
  • Continuous treat feeding in hand while walking
  • Scatter feed to distract

Always remember to investigate pain as a potential reason why your dog has reacted as pain is often at the base of all problem behaviours so please do check it out with your vet.

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