Many dog owners in this country as well as others have or have had a dog that is reactive on the lead.
This could be for numerous reasons, whether it be they are frustrated greeters that become increasingly wound up when they see other people or dogs that they cannot get to, they could be dog aggressive, or they may just be really nervous and fearful. Whatever the reason walking these types of dog can be incredibly stressful for the owners as well as the dogs!
Sometimes when walking a dog that is reactive you are watching everything else as well as the dog and imagining every scenario that could possibly go wrong when you’re out; will another dog come around that corner, is that man walking toward us going to turn into the side road or not, oh no there is another dog coming in that direction we best turn around, and that lady isn’t going to call her dog or child back.
A lot of the problems that arise when walking a reactive dog may not even be caused by the dog or the owner walking it but instead can be caused by the other people and other animals in the area. For some reason, people seem to lack both common sense and respect when they are taking their dogs out for a walk.
Firstly, if you are taking your dog out for a walk and you know that you have no recall or a limited one at that then please don’t let your dog off when there are other dogs and people around. If you want to give your dog some space to run around without letting them off a lead then put them on a long line until you’ve got your recall to pretty much perfect.
Secondly, if you see someone out and about and your dog is off lead and their dog is still on lead then call your dog, pop his lead on and give the other dog some space. You will be amazed at how this little action can cause such a big difference to an owner and their dog.
Just imagine a scenario for a second, you are walking your medium sized lead reactive dog. He’s been bitten several times by other dogs before and has become increasingly more aggressive to other dogs. You’ve been working on his behaviour and are noticing some improvements and in fact he is now able to walk past most dogs now without reacting.
You go for a walk in a usually quiet field and notice that there is someone walking their two dogs up ahead. You slow down feeling a little anxious but you praise your dog for not reacting to the dogs on the other side of the field. All of a sudden one of their dogs turns and starts running in your direction. You shout to the owner to keep their dog back and you get the dreaded response of ‘Oh, don’t worry! He’s friendly’(In other words I am going to let my dog come and harass yours.)
This strange dog you have never met before then rushes at your dog and you, excitable, barking and in your dogs face. Your dog by this point is completely stressed and snaps at the other dog. The owner has now reached you and disapprovingly looks at your now anxious dog and usually makes some kind of sarcastic comment about your dog’s behaviour and suddenly now in their opinion you are in the wrong.
If a dog is on a lead it is usually for a reason, and other owners should learn to respect that.
In the above scenario the reactive dog is now going to have to undergo all his training again to get back to the point he was at before the encounter. Common remarks that are made when you are walking a reactive dog include things like ‘well he shouldn’t be walked then’ or ‘can’t you control your dog.’
Reactive dogs have every right to be walked and a lot of the time owners are actively training the dogs, but that takes time. It really doesn’t take much to communicate with other dog walkers and to respect each others space.
Don’t crowd other dogs and especially do not make decisions on what is best for a reactive dog that you don’t know but see on walks. One of the worst things that you can do is allow your dog to approach one that is reactive, ill, or even fearful and then justify it by saying things like ‘well I’m helping to socialise him’ or ‘all dogs get along with my dog’ even things like ‘I’ve had dogs all my life and this is how you get dogs used to each other.’ It’s not helpful.
If a dog is wearing a yellow ribbon or a yellow vest or is on lead when out walking then please don’t invade his space. If you are unsure then simply ask the person walking the dog. If someone looks to be walking another way to avoid you and your dog then please respect that.
Just a thirty-second bad interaction between a reactive and non-reactive dog can cause extreme stress to both the dog and the owner.
All I ask is that we all have a little common sense when we are walking our dogs and that we don’t pretend that we know best when it comes to other people’s dogs. Respect, give space and please don’t judge when you see a dog reactive. You don’t know the cause and the owner is probably frustrated enough without your input.
Jayde Davey M.ISAP CTDI
I am an aspiring dog trainer, supporting positive reinforcement methods. I currently am studying an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour Management and have just passed my test to become a Certified Trick Dog Instructor. I have my own blogsite with connected social media and I also run a Facebook Dog Trick group where I help people to teach their dog lots of fun tricks. I am a member of ISAP or the International Society for Animal Professionals and also have a diploma in small animal care. I own a deaf Dalmatian called Logan who I do most of my training with; he knows lots of tricks like take my socks off, fetch my a tissue and wipe your feet but I also regularly work with a miniature poodle, a cocker spaniel, a jack Russell and a border collie. I one day hope to become a professional dog trainer.