unkdec82013The problem you have with your Boston, George, is simple. He over reacts to the presence of other dogs when you are walking him. This is a very common problem. So what can you do to correct this behavior? We hope to give you some ideas to try, here.


So George's behavior is not simple. You have a problem. How can you stay motivated to walk George if each walk is like tip toeing through a mine field of constant possible triggers that cause George to react and with time it is getting worse, not better, as you had so hoped.  You are not even really sure if George is aggressive or just over excitable. All you know for sure is the walks are not fun any more.


First, we need to look at the terms Aggressive and Reactive. These two terms can be easily mixed up and are often. A dog usually displays aggression based on confidence, while a reactive dog displays actions based on fear. Aggression is a natural response and occurs in many circumstances, including territorial protection, resource guarding, and protection of pups. While a reactive dog 'can' be aggressive, he will only likely do so if placed in a situation where he feels that there is no escape.¹


In researching this topic, and from personal experience, we should warn you that you must go slowly. You will need to be observant of your actions, and how what you do and do not do, effects your dogs behavior.


Second, you should realize and understand certain things.  You must not let your dog walk in front you. In a dogs understanding of the world, the leader always goes first. Not sure about this? Ask yourself these questions: Who is in charge?  When you left for the walk; who led the way out of the door/gate?  Who leads on the walk?  Is your dog relaxed or hyper or on alert?  Are you able to relax or are you too on alert, why?  Was the dog following you, watching you for direction or were you following the dog? I bet you have not even thought about this.btgreeting 5276


Did you know that you are reinforcing in a dog's mind, that he is the leader, when a dog walks in front? If he thinks he is the leader, how can he relax, he is in charge! Other questions to ask yourself: How often are you walking your dog?  Does the dog only go to heel when it pleases or when it is tired?  Was your dog calm and in a submissive state when you put the lead on?


If it is all about who is making the decisions, can you decide to let your dog walk in front? No, since instinct tells a dog that the leader leads the way, your decision to allow your dog to walk in front will be communicating to your dog that you are allowing him to be your leader.²  


Be patient. Dogs, like people, learn at different rates. Some dogs may take weeks, and even months, of patient training before they completely learn how to heel on command. Young dogs usually take well to wearing a collar and leash, though temperament and energy level can influence how quickly they learn. 


Some breeds, such as Beagles and Dachshunds, often require more intense training because they are very easily distracted. This isn't to suggest that a dog is less intelligent if he doesn't calmly walk at his owner's side after a week of training, only that he may require a longer learning period. Older dogs may take a little longer to get used to a collar and a leash, especially if they haven't had leash training before.¹ 

Jake 79512


What Is a Reactive Dog? Are you a stressed out foster or owner?  Do you always have to be on alert when you walk with your dog?  Reactive dogs aren’t hard to spot.  Such dogs will lunge at people or dogs that get too close. They usually also bark loudly, growl and may even bite anyone who gets too close to them or their human. Inside, the reactive dog can seem very threatening to other people and their dogs, as it jumps, barks and stares.


 Some breeds are more prone to reactivity. Terriers tend to respond excitedly to other dogs, for example, while herding dogs, like shepherds, are innately reactive toward movement, such as joggers. Any dog, though, can become reactive if it feels its safety and security are threatened. “The majority of reactive behavior is fear-based,” explains Case. “If a dog is confident, it doesn’t need to do these things.”²


Understanding the Reactive Dogbtgreeting 5264

 Human misunderstanding of dog social norms is responsible for a large percentage of reactive behavior. Case says, “Dogs have greeting rituals, and they don’t involve walking up to another dog.  For dogs, that isn’t polite. Once we’ve got them on their leash and are dragging them toward another dog to say hello, we’re setting them up for what might be a bad reaction.”


Humans also fail to identify their dog’s own pre-reactive behaviors. “Dogs are peaceful animals,” says Case. “They don’t want conflict. When they begin to feel tense, such as when they’re around another dog, they engage in self-soothing behaviors like looking away, sniffing and yawning, to let themselves and the other dog know things are okay.”  If these initial calming behaviors fail, the dog may stare or growl.²


Be aware that you may tend to tense up and correct you fur-friend for growling. You should really only take the growl as a signal that it’s time to soothe your Boston. Something we all have to remember is that growling is communication. Instead of punishing your dog for expressing itself, simply stay calm and walk it away from the situation.


Staying calm yourself is very important. Tightening the leash and tensing up is one of the most frequent mistakes made by dog owners. Explains Case: “Dogs should be confident that we will handle things for them. They react because they feel they’re out there on their own. If they see their person is confident and proactive instead of reactive, they’ll feel a lot better. It's person needs to be a good leader.”²


How to Manage a Reactive Dog


If your dog is reactive, there are some proven recommendations to follow:


Use a harness:  Any tightening of a leash with a collar, is restrictive to a dog’s airway, which will only heighten its anxiety. Knowing what you will do (e.g., turn and walk away, keeping the dog moving) when your furry friend responds to perceived threats will allow you to remain calm.


Stay aware of your dogs body language. When dogs begin to become uncomfortable, they may lick, yawn and sniff. As they get tense, they may exhibit changes in posture, such as becoming more upright, tucking their lower body backward or stiffening up. Staring is usually the last move before a more intense reaction. Remove your dog out of a situation before the stare. Don't wait for your dog to start staring before you take your leadership role and move the dog away.


When you and your dog walk away from the tense situation to a comfortable distance, keep the object of the dog’s discomfort in sight. Get your dog to glance at the other dog or person before it gets to the point of staring, and then give it a treat. Soon the dog will begin checking back with you when it sees things that make it tense.


Another idea if you can’t handle the problem on your own, is to find a good trainer or behaviorist to work with you and your dog. Ask your professional to observe your dog.  This trainer may possibly see a lot more about what your dog is doing, and make some suggestions on other ways to avoid or condition the dog, into a joyful companion that you enjoy walking with. Do you not admire those that seem to just stroll along and are so relaxed?





²Dog Breed Info.com