Confidence IS The Cure – Dog Leash Reactivity

dog training articles

I’ve owned my reactive dog, Loker, for almost 3 years already. Man does time fly! Our walks lately have been surprisingly relaxing. He’s mastered loose leash walking as long as I’m consistent and I’ve developed a new attitude:

Whatever happens, happens.

As we were walking down the street enjoying the nice spring breeze, I realized how confident and calm I have become when walking him. I’m not even on high alert for other dogs anymore. Of course, our path has nice visibility, but I’m looking around at trees and houses without anxiously scanning the street for other dogs. I thought to myself, this must be what its like to walk a “normal” dog. My dog is far from normal, but I understand him and how to handle him in challenging situations better than I ever have before – and THAT give me peace of mind.

My Toolbox

dog reactivityOver the last three years, I’ve learned so much more than I ever thought was possible about training a dog. I am thrilled that I’ve had such an opportunity despite the tear inducing challenges I’ve faced with Loker. Let me put this out there: Having a reactive/anxious dog is HARD! But I truly believe you get the dog you need, not always the one you want. Each dog is a gem in my eyes because each one has something to teach me – which, in my case, usually involved patience and kindness.

I want to make a quick, bullet point list of my thoughts when it comes to dealing with dog leash reactivity:

  • Always carry treats even though you don’t always use them.
  • Find the right harness for your dog.
  • Loose leash walking is most likely when you hold the leash at the same spot every time.
  • Understand classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and counter conditioning and how they overlap with each other.
  • Click the Trigger, Behavior Adjustment Training, Look at That, and feeding while looking at the trigger are all useful, but each dog in each situation may need different versions of each technique.
  • Training a dog is a science AND an art.

My experiences have strengthened my skills as a handler as well as grown the understanding I have about my dog. The confidence I have in my ability to handle Loker’s challenging situations is stronger than ever which has brought many calm and enjoyable walks to our lives. I often find myself unexpectedly disappointed when we go on a walk and aren’t confronted with another dog so we can practice!

What has been YOUR hardest challenge in owning a reactive dog?