16 Nov What is a Reactive Dog?
Tyson’s signs of reactivity surfaced at 8 months when he began staring and barking at certain people on his walks. Even though I didn’t know much at the time, I was smart enough to get two good books: Click to Calm by Emma Parsons, and Barking by Ian Dunbar. After I got a handle on the first stage of reactivity, the next stage surfaced. Tyson started exhibiting reactivity towards other dogs on leash – lunging and barking. And so began my quest for how to manage my reactive dog. At times I kept a journal but when I look back now it was not thorough enough, with huge gaps. A lot of the pages are filled with sadness, humiliation (I had just finished a training program and my new dog was not turning into the prodigy I dreamed of) and frustration. Reactivity was very new to me 4 years ago. It’s been a long and arduous learning process.
So what is a reactive dog? Just recently, I came across the best description of reactivity. It’s in Leslie McDevitt’s book Control Unleashed. She writes, ” Reactivity comes from anxiety, which comes from feeling uncertain about something. Reactivity is an information-seeking strategy. A reactive dog will rush toward something or someone that he is uncertain about, barking, lunging, growling, and making a big display. People sometimes perceive reactive behaviour as aggression, but a reactive dog is not rushing in to do damage; he is attempting to assess the threat level of a given situation.” I highly recommend this book for anyone who is seeking more information about how to manage a reactive dog.