There was a time when it was thought that a reactive dog meant that the owner was a bad trainer. It was also thought that the owner did not take good care of the dog. Today, it is clear that if this is sometimes the case, it is more often the result of bad experiences early in life or simply genetics.
Still, having a reactive dog can be difficult. Depending on whether your dog is reactive to people, dogs, objects, or a combination of these, it can be very difficult to take him to places where most dogs can go. But there's no reason your dog should be deprived of exercise or fun experiences because of his reactivity.
Making training a reactive dog fun
So, consistent training is one of the most important things you can do with a dog exhibiting unwanted behavior. Reactive dogs especially need regular training, or their progress may stall. Keep training sessions from being boring by alternating rewards.
If your dog is toy-motivated, buy an inexpensive set of several toys. This way, he can get a “new” toy frequently as a reward. If your dog is more food-motivated, consider getting a new flavor of treat for training. It's still important to pay attention to caloric intake. However, priority training sessions are often accompanied by high-value treats. For example, small pieces of hot dog, which are often more popular than a traditional dog treat.
The dog park at your fingertips
One of the best ways to allow a dog to expend its energy is to sprint with other dogs at the dog park. However, this is not possible for many reactive dogs. For parents of dogs who don't have a fenced yard, spending time off-leash is even more difficult. Sniffspot is a website where users can rent their yard to dog parents for any length of time.
One- to two-hour increments, rarely more than $15 per hour, are common. There are also filters to determine what stimuli are likely to be present. You can find a place where your dog is guaranteed not to see other dogs, people, or anything that might trigger him. While it may not be cost effective to do this every day, it is a great way to allow your dog to exercise in a safe environment.
Stick to the label. If you have concerns about your dog's responsiveness, contact the owner before renting.
Having fun indoors with your reactive dog
Many dogs thrive on activities such as dog sports. However, these events are often attended by other people and other dogs. Taking a reactive dog outside to expend energy can be complicated. Consider purchasing an indoor agility set for the home. This equipment can be used in the backyard or inside the house. The stakes are not as high as a real competition. This activity keeps your dog's mind and body active. Also, in recent years, indoor play spaces, such as doggie gyms, have become more common. They are often intended for groups. However, check to see if you have a dog play area in your community. If so, contact them to see if they accept private reservations.
For dogs that aren't as athletic, it's still possible to have fun indoors. Basic foraging activities, such as kong toys or play mats, can keep dogs busy and exercise their brains. For more experienced dogs, try more intense toys like those from Nina Ottoson.
Finding secluded places
Of course, reactive dogs still need to go for walks. But active, dog-friendly trails can be frustrating and scary. Before you take your dog anywhere, make sure you can handle it safely and confidently. Tools like the Gentle Leader or a harness can help your dog stop grabbing, in combination with training. For dogs at risk of biting, consider muzzle training. Muzzles look scary to some, but when worn properly, they don't hurt dogs. Basket muzzles are designed to keep puppies playing, drinking and accepting treats.
Finding a fun and safe place to walk your dog may require some creative thinking. Ask the owners of large properties if it is possible to walk your dog there (with their permission). Walk at night or early in the morning. At these times, there are fewer people and dogs outside. You may need to look for less popular walking areas in your area.
Responsiveness does not mean boredom
It's important to remember that even if a reactive dog doesn't allow you to have a “typical” experience, it doesn't mean you can't have fun together. Your dog doesn't know he's missing out – he just knows he's having fun with you. Hyperactivity does not mean that your dog's quality of life should be impaired.
I'm a big fan of short stories about people – I'm a pro at tech and smartphones, serial literature, and writing in my spare time.