How to Stop Dog Reactivity: The Ultimate Guide

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22 Comments on “How to Stop Dog Reactivity: The Ultimate Guide”

  1. So many dogs in my young dog classes have some reactivity issues. It’s so good to have tools for how to deal ❤ Many get so exhausted as every walk is a struggle.

    My pupper is the opposite, which also comes with some issues – they are just less noticable to others 😂

  2. I *literally* just practiced vacuuming with my easily-over-threshold 14 month old Aussie x Maremma. She hates things that move or transform in weird ways (eg: she FREAKED OUT when I folded up her wire-panel crate once, and it took us 2 full days of INTENSIVE work before she’d even eat her meals in it again even though she was really comfortable and relaxed in it until then because of all the crate-training games and work we put in in her first days home) so she was immediately uneasy when she initially saw the vacuum “hinge” back and forth as I demonstrated for her how I’d be using it across the floor without it even being plugged in (this rural house has zero carpet anywhere – it’s all linoleum, so I almost never *need* to vacuum even though it’s still an easy option for floor cleaning). To prevent a repeat of the crate-folding incident, I started leaving the vacuum out where she could see it next to the closet, and randomly giving her a treat if I saw her anywhere near it. After a few days, I started encouraging her to “check it out” (something we’re training) and giving her a reward if she moved her nose towards it. After a week, I moved it to a different location in the house and continued the rewarding. I was at my limit for “extra things I can dedicate my energy to train” at that stage so I left it at that for a couple of months, honestly, so the process was slower than it needed to be, but eventually I started calling her over, putting her in a Sit nearby, and just moving it back and forth slowly a few times (still not even plugged in, because I could tell she was on edge) and rewarding her…. and then eventually, just walking it around the kitchen island while she was in a Sit… we did that for about a month because it was the last step I could think of before actually plugging it in.

    What I didn’t anticipate was that unrolling the cord was going to throw her off (again with her “humans can make the physical world do really weird things I don’t think should exist in reality” trigger), so we took a small step back instead of turning it on, the day I was going to actually turn it on. She’s encountered electrical cords and ropes being manipulated before, so it was just something slightly different from what she already knew, and she hadn’t “seen it coming” I guess.

    After a few days of going back to just rolling the vacuum back and forth, and unrolling the vacuum cord and plugging it in and rolling it back and forth without it on, I cut up some scraps of leftover roasted chicken skin and meat, put her in a Sit, and turned it on and fed her tiny bits of chicken at as far a distance as I could juggle being from the on-off switch, only leaving it on for maybe 3 seconds of exposure.

    We did that maybe 3 times in a row, and then repeated it a few days in a row, and then I actually did a tiny bit of vacuuming, stopping to praise and reward her every 5 seconds or so (so a REALLY tiny bit of vacuuming).

    I still call it “practicing” vacuuming with her because she can still be uneasy around it, but sometimes she’s less uneasy, and she’s never ended up over-threshold with the process.

    Now – ask me how our leash-walking is going, and you’ll get a different answer, sigh. But it IS improving! I’m just so exhausted from having to continue to *train* instead of *go for walks.* Still, I know it’s worth it. *She’s* worth it.

    It was critical for me to understand that I have limits of mental/emotional energy, and I need to NOT engage in training through challenging stuff when I don’t have enough energy and patience. Training this pupper (this is my first dog who’s been trained using positive reinforcement/avoiding aversives) has taught me all sorts of things about how I still wasn’t identifying or respecting my *own* boundaries until now.

    1. (replying to myself because YouTube’s glitching out for me if I try to edit my comments) – I appreciate you doing this video even though you’ll have known it would attract opposition, sigh.

  3. There is a problem that dogs are put into molds and if they don’t fit into it they are considered problematic reactive dogs. My dogs was considered understimulated by everyone because they kept comparing him to their own dogs. If I only had known 6 years ago that every dog is different and to not listen to people so easily my dog wouldn’t be as “reactive” as he is today. Overstimulation is not talked about enough and to overexercise an anxious and overstimulated dog is not going to help with reactivity, it only made it worse. I really like your tips in this video and I just want to empathise on the part where you talk about encouraging calm behaviour. Some dogs need to learn how to relax and that it’s okay to just chill.

  4. Because I live in an apartment, its extremely difficult to exercise my cattle dog before going on runs. I live in the Midwest so we do have fields nearby that are within walking distance that are great for long lead fetch, but the walk TO THE FIELD (~10 minutes) is complected by itself because I live in a dog friendly area. I’m hoping that our move to a house with a more private backyard will help provide us the ability for some fun fetch and outdoor activities prior to our run.

    Off peak runs have resulted in dramatic improvement in his behavior outside (no more biting and nipping on runs, no more leash pulling, and he made lots of progress on heel), but his reactivity is still a struggle. We adopted him last year and he was untrained at 11 months so although we are happy with his progress, will be hiring a trainer very soon!

  5. My rescue pittie, who is also my first dog, used to have window-shattering barking and pulling/lunging to other dogs. we utilized all of these tips and now he is at most “dog selective”. It was really hard at first but it has paid off so much and the positive training also helped us develop a stronger bond, which made the rest of the training easier. I’m so proud of us both!

  6. i love your videos, thanks to you my dog is amazingly trained. Of course i had something to do with it but without your help i would have been lost. So thanks again!

  7. I get both the super chewer box and the Pupford box. When they arrive, Gucci knows that they’re for her! The last comment about spending quality time with your dog is something I try to do, but it’s definitely difficult when you have other household chores, laundry’s in the basement, mealtime, assisting my mom, and not getting along with my senior dog. Reactive jumping up when you do anything with her, but she gets along with other dogs, especially herding dogs. They’ll play with her. I guess that dogs are kind of like people. They choose who they want to be with.

  8. Awesome video Zak, needed this as Ive been struggling with my dog having huge outbursts over people coming to the front door. Time, patience, understanding & consistency and we’ll get there 🙌🏻

  9. I needed this video today. I was on a hike yesterday and he was so good for the first half, allowing dogs to approach him, even ones that came running and barking he remained calm. Then we came across a dog who mine didn’t like, apparently. They both started barring teeth and lunging. No biting, no injuries, just intimidation. Now he’s been regressing back to snapping at larger dogs who approach him. It’s so exhausting, when they exceed your expectations in one moment and then fall back to square one the next. I will try to remain hopeful though, because he has shown me that he has the ability to become confident, I just need to turn around these bad interactions. (Which unfortunately means I can’t walk my neighborhood anymore, since no one leashes their dogs around here…)

  10. I’ve noticed that whenever we were going through a really bad setback, he made tremendous progress in the weeks after. It’s so consistent that I’m embracing the setback now.

  11. 7:49 I love that you address that people need to take responsibility (and drop their ego) for controlling the environment in order to find and stay below a dog’s threshold! I know your old series address it, but I’d love to see new videos diving into each of these points in detail. I think people don’t understand how many steps back to take in counterconditioning and desensitization, like you show briefly with the vacuum. Seems silly to show people how to build a relationship and encourage engagement with their dog, but I think that’s what’s needed. The biggest change so far in dealing with my GSD’s reactivity was actually just building his engagement with me. I took steps back because I can’t expect my dog to engage with me when he’s triggered if he didn’t engage with me around the most minor distractions.

  12. Our husky pup was extremely reactive, but we watched the Moira & Chop series and applied it all over the past year.

    He’s gone from instantly over-threshold from seeing another dog (30+ meters) to being able to stay in a sit 2-5 meters from a passing dog. He still has a hard time listening while another dog is around, but he will now automatically sit and watch because he knows we will let him enjoy his doggy TV.

    Today we were playing fetch and, as other dogs were being walked around the field, he chose to re-engage with the game! It might take a while, but it really worked for us.

  13. We have 2 reactive Kelpie males (other one a 6mo old puppy). Love these videos. After our 2nd dog came into the picture, the first one has regressed a little bit and has gotten more reactive again. Just trying to be patient with them both.

  14. Awesome video!! Any tips besides distance & working your way up for dogs that are friendly (socialized with others via dog day camp) when on the leash, desperate up day hello to the other dog that they’ll keep lunging vs waiting/calmly approaching? Even on long walks where the dog is tired out, will still lunge to say hello. Dog goes on daily multiple walks, has a dog sibling & occasional dog camp. Don’t know how to break the habit, thought it was more a puppy thing but dog is now 4 and it’s the one habit we still have. Many thanks in advance!! ❤

  15. Great advice, both dog and trainer need to be on a safe calm environment to begin with. Over lots of years I have learned to be more aware and less embarrassed by my dogs not acting as I expected. I know just tell people any mistakes are trainer errors

  16. This video was so helpful. I like how it’s broken down into steps, and the emphasis on bonding and communication. It also made me realize how similar this is to exposure therapy in humans. It makes a lot of sense.

  17. Thank you for mentioning the car thing! That is our major issue – she starts drooling immediately. We are working on it slowly (doesn’t help that I also hate the car). But today we just sat in the car for 5 minutes and ate cheese. 🤣

  18. This is a really great video for my 15 month old jack russell reactivity where he instantly gets ‘over threshold’ almost immediately.

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