If you struggle with your dog reacting too often out on walks or find each venture outside too stressful, you are being reactive vs proactive with your training. Please review our post on Prevention and Management to understand how important this is when we are working through a treatment plan for our fearful/reactive dogs. We must understand how to set our dog up for success and become proactive in our training! This not only allows your dog to progress through the program faster, but also makes it much more enjoyable for yourself and your dog!
Go to the Right Environment
As we discussed, you need to go to a space that sets your dog up for success. This may be in open on-leash parks, green spaces or just wide roads in our community. It may also be certain times of the day. Mid-day we are less likely to see as many dogs, and we should avoid pick up and drop off times for schools as there are likely to be a lot of kids out and the environment will be busier which will make it more challenging for your dog.
Set Up the Training
Don’t just take your dog out for walks and wait for the dogs, or people or bikes to appear. Take them out to places where you can set it up. For example, if my dog reacts to bikes, I will take them to a place near a bike path, but with enough space that I can keep my dog at a distance where they will not react. If your dog struggles with people, recruit friends and family to set it up. If you find it hard to find dogs, go to a vet clinic, dog daycare or pet store and work with your dog in the parking lot while dogs go in or out. There are always ways to set up the training, so get out with your dog and do this!
Always be working on attention with your dog. Watch their arousal levels and keep their pace slower. If your dog is already out in front and ignoring you, you will have minimal success at getting them back to you if one of their triggers comes into their sight. If you do see something approaching and can give your dog adequate space, move to that spot, step down on your dog’s leash and begin working on the auto watch right away. Do not wait for your dog to react to set this up. And if you struggle with loose leash walking with your dog, purchase an anti-pull harness from us right away. This will calm your dog and improve their attention, which is a key part to the success of the Reactive urbanK9 program!
If you find every walk stressful and struggle taking your dog out, then you are not in the right spot. Take your dog somewhere with more space. Keep your sessions short and build off the positives. Running to the grocery store or the bank? If the weather is good, why not bring your dog with you and do a short training session before and after you go in?
You have a reactive dog, so you will have situations arise that are too much and they may explode! Things also do not just continue to get better, so it is normal to have set backs. The key is to learn from them, understand what trigger caused your dog to react and figure out how to set up that situation better next time. Laugh it off with your dog and sit down for some quiet time. Be proud that you are out with your dog and know that you now have the knowledge and tools to keep them moving forward!