My Reactive Dog Lunges and Barks (and that’s okay)

My Reactive Dog Lunges and Barks (and that’s okay)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Do I want my reactive dog to lunge and bark? Absolutely not. But will there be times in life that he will? Unfortunately, yes. 

Buster is reactive to both people and dogs, but really, our main issue is dogs. When Buster is reacting to someone or something, he typically lunges and barks, as most reactive dogs do. Like I said, don’t get me wrong. My goal as a dog trainer and owner of a reactive dog is to do everything in my power so that we have a nice walk or hike with 0 reactions. I could go into all of the science with you, but long story short, the more that a dog reacts, the more likely he will continue to react in the future. Plus, his reactions would likely escalate and become worse as time went on. Also, if you are actively working on reactivity, a reaction can unfortunately send you backwards in the progress you’ve made. 

The thing is, many people don’t understand reactive dogs. They will say things about how a dog should stay home if he can’t behave nicely in public. Let me just put it to you bluntly – that’s a load of crap.

3 Reasons that Reactive Dogs NEED to get Outside and be Active

 

  1. Reactive dogs require exercise, just like any other dog.
    I would even be happy to argue that reactive dogs require MORE exercise than an average dog. As the old saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog.

  2. In order to do any sort of training, your dog has to get outside.
    How else are you supposed to work on desensitizing your dog to his triggers?

     

  3. Reactive dogs are still good dogs.
    They are still someone’s pet or family. They deserve to get outside into the world and explore new environments and surroundings with their people. Besides, I’m pretty sure we would call animal control if we knew someone was keeping their dog cooped up inside of their four walls all day every day.

When I take Buster out, I employ a lot of strategies so that we’re prepared and hopefully have as few reactions (the goal is always 0) as possible. (And spoiler alert – at this point in the game with all the hard work we’ve put in, Buster is usually the quietest dog around.) It can feel like a lot of work. It can be overwhelming and stressful at times, but that’s the cross I bear to make sure that I have a well-trained dog.

8 Tips for Walking a Reactive Dog so he doesn’t Lunge and Bark 

 

  1. Always carry high value treats on you.
    Leave the kibble and “healthy” treats at home. Bring the good stuff – cheese, freeze dried liver, boiled chicken, etc.
     

     

  2. Walk at “odd” hours.
    You obviously want to beat the crowds to limit your chances of incidents, so usually very early mornings or very late evenings are best.

     

  3. Scope out the area.
    Are there a ton of cars? Does the trail have 500+ reviews on AllTrails? The more people, the more you have to worry. Maybe try to find a quieter place.

     

  4. Stick to trails and parks with wide open spaces.
    This way, even if you do encounter an off leash dog, you’ll have plenty of space to move so there are 0 reactions.

     

  5. Always scan the area.
    You don’t have to look like a scene out of the Exorcism or anything with your neck constantly moving, but beware of the area and the people in it. Are there people coming up behind you? Are there people approaching ahead of you? Do these people have a dog?

     

  6. Teach your dog an emergency U-turn.
    If people are approaching but there is no one behind you, great! Do a U-turn and go back from where you came until the coast is clear.

     

  7. Use proper desensitizing and counter-conditioning techniques.
    Reward your dog for looking at his trigger and not reacting. Always remember to give your dog more space than you think he may need, just to be on the safe side.

     

  8. Lastly, if all else fails, and a reaction is imminent, just hold onto your dog and get him out of there as quick as possible.
    Do not yell at him, because I assure you that will do nothing. Once you’re safely out of the situation, take a few minutes to stop and breathe. Both you and your dog need it!

Unfortunately, there will be times that your dog will react. You’ll be on a narrow path with no where to go. You’ll run across a loose dog that the owner can’t recall (oh how I could go on for DAYS about how much this annoys me). You’ll run across a dog that escaped from his harness. The sad truth is that while you do everything you can in your power to protect your dog, unfortunately, the people you are passing may not know or understand reactive dogs, or worse, they may truly not care.

So I’m here to tell you to get outside with your dog. Do your absolute best to be prepared so your dog doesn’t react. Work with a trainer so you can learn tools and skills to help manage your dog in a bad situation. But, if the unavoidable happens, it’s okay. If he lunges and barks, it will be okay. You will be okay, and your dog will be okay. You did the best you could, and I’m sure that walk or hike that you just get finished was still well worth it for both you and your dog’s health.

Does your dog bark and lunge? What are your best tips for avoiding those incidents? What do you do if you feel like a reaction is unavoidable? Tell me in the comments!

 

7 Tips for Traveling with Your Reactive Dog

7 Tips for Traveling with Your Reactive Dog

Do you have any fun trips planned before summer is officially over? Or maybe you’re like me, and you actually prefer to travel when the weather is cooler in the fall. Either way, these tips will have you covered!

Buster is now 7 years old, and we have traveled together his entire life. In the past few years, we have made it an effort to travel even more than usual! To be honest, I’m mostly a homebody, but I love going on adventures with my dog! 

We also went to Maine for the first time ever back in 2017, and we have been back multiple times since! Maine holds a particularly special place in my heart, and let me tell you, I truly hope to call that state home in the next 1-3 years. But, until then, we will keep traveling there as often as possible!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a qualifying purchase. 

TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH YOUR REACTIVE DOG

1.) Confine your dog inside of your vehicle.

Don’t let your dog run around loose in your vehicle. This can cause major safety concerns not only for your dog, but also for the driver and any passengers. It’s much safer if your dog is confined while traveling. There are a variety of options – ranging from expensive crash tested crates like this one from Variocage and crash tested seatbelt restraints like this one from Sleepypod. You could even use a normal soft travel crate, or even a regular plastic or metal crate, but just be aware that they might not provide a lot of protection in the event of an accident.

As an added bonus, a lot of reactive dogs actually travel in the car much better when they’re confined in a crate. They can’t see any triggers outside of the window to react to! You could even drape a sheet or towel to cover the crate, which may actually make your dog feel more comfortable and sleep through the entire car ride.

2.) Try to coordinate potty breaks with the food/fuel stops you’ll already be having to make.

If you can, I highly recommend coordinating your dog’s potty breaks with the stops you’ll need to make for fuel and food. I know though – sometimes nature calls! Traveling with a dog can easily add 1-2 hours onto your trip time  when you add up all the potty breaks, so try to coordinate it with the already necessary stops to save some time.

 

3.) Make sure to pack your dog’s normal food, along with his food and water bowls.

Traveling for even the most well-traveled dog can be a little stressful, so make sure you bring all of the normal stuff your dog is already used to, including food. The last thing you want is to have buy a different kind of food on the road because you forgot to pack some! That can result in tummy ups

4.) Make sure to bring at least 1 durable puzzle toy that can be stuffed with food and frozen.

 You could bring something like a Kong Extreme or the West Paw Toppl. These provide entertainment and can help release some energyy. You can simply stuff your dog’s normal food in them, fill with water, and freeze, or you can stuff with something yummier like peanut butter or yogurt.

5.) Always travel with a dog first aid kit.

As the old saying goes – “better safe than sorry.” You should always travel with a first aid kit for your dog, but we’ll hope that you never need to use it! The good news is that a lot of things can do double duty for humans and dogs, so if you get scratched up, you can patch yourself up with items in this kit! If you’re not sure what your dog first aid kit should include, you can download my free checklist here.

I keep a larger first aid kit in a tupperware in my car at all times, and I travel with this much more portable dog first aid kit in my backpack throughout when we go on hikes, etc.

6.) Always travel with your dog’s Rabies certificate, vaccine records, and an In Case of Emergency sheet.

Again – better safe than sorry! This information will be incredibly useful to first responders in the event of an accident.

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7.) Some reactive dogs can benefit from a calming supplement while traveling.

Some reactive dogs have a harder time traveling than others. Buster is quite used to it by now, but I do still ocassionaly use this Richard’s Organics Pet Calm. This is an all-natural product that relieves stress. I notice a huge difference in Buster when I use this! It really seems to take the edge off. Alternatively, you could also try CBD oil.

FREE BONUS!

I’ve created a free resource so that you can stress less and focus your time and energy on having a fun adventure with your dog! Click the image below and you can download my Dog Friendly Travel Checklist & Tips. It also includes a printable In Case of Emergency sheet, so that you’ll have everything you need to travel and have a great time with your dog!

Tell me in the comments below – where are you headed with your dog? I’d love to hear about some of your favorite places to travel to. What are some of your favorite travel tips?