We love our dogs and because sometimes people have too much to say, we can often feel responsible for walking a reactive dog. If this is you, stop! Here’s why:

Dogs learn enough in the first 14 weeks of their lives to blueprint their view of the world forever. If they are isolated from other dogs, people and experiences a dog’s blueprint will not contain relaxation around the new experiences. This dog will always experience anxiety with new things, sometimes the anxiety will internalise and other times the dog shouts it from the rooftops.

Similarly, if the dog’s mother was stressed during pregnancy some of the stress hormone, cortisol, may have passed through the placenta to the puppies, leaving them pre-disposed to anxiety. This is a common fate of puppy farm dogs. Any stress felt by a mother can change the DNA of her puppies, to prepare them for a dangerous world. Whilst well known with puppy farm dogs, this can happen to any mother and litter at any time, if the circumstances are conductive.

Holistic Canine Behaviour Diploma

Reactive means that the dog reacts, not acts. So, if you are trying to have a quiet and relaxed walk with your dog and other dogs come running up, causing stress, this is not your fault. Off leash dogs is one of the biggest problems for the guardian of a reactive dog.

Oddly, the other dog owner often sees no fault when their lumbering, half socialised, terrifying animal approaches your own dog. They then look offended when your dog chases them away with a war cry. Pity them, they are missing out on that vast reward of loving and gaining the trust of a reactive.

Many reactive dogs are rescued in one way or another. When we bring home a rejected dog they come with baggage and whilst we can help them to unpack, we can’t often change their early blueprint. We can work hard to help them to relax, we can remove the triggers and we can learn their needs, their language and signs of emotional change. We can build resilience. We can do our very best to get it right, and when we do that, we can’t take responsibility for their reactivity.

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