If you’ve never owned a reactive dog in your life, you may not understand the effort and time required to deal with reactivity. But if you’ve owned one, you know how exhausting and stressful managing such dogs can be. You’ve probably felt a little jealous while watching other people at the dog park engaging in hearty conversations while their dogs hang out.
But you? You’re indoors on a Sunday afternoon trying to keep your dog busy. That’s because simple things such as hanging out at the park with other dogs, attending a dog party, taking a walk down the street are likely to set your dog off. This leaves you and your dog in a very small, lonely world. You can only go to certain places or engage in certain activities (like walking) you deem safe for him. While other dog owners are taking their dogs for a walk at 4 PM, you take yours for a walk late at night or very early in the morning because you’re trying to avoid anything that will trigger him to react.
If you’re dealing with a reactive dog, know that you’re not alone. There are many others out there who understand what you go through every day. The best you can do is to seek the help of a professional behaviorist or trainer to help you come up with a more suitable management plan for him. You also need to take things one day at a time. Managing reactivity in dogs is an ongoing process, so you have to be willing to do everything possible to make your pet feel safe, happy and comfortable for as long as it takes.
Perhaps these tips will make you feel better when having a bad day with your dog:
You Can’t Control Everything
As much as you try to control the environment around your dog at all times so that he feels safe and happy, sometimes shit will happen. That’s because you can’t control everything. For instance, you have no control over those people who, for some reason, choose to walk with their dogs off leash, or all the crappy things you run into when going for your daily walk. Don’t feel discouraged or start blaming yourself when something you didn’t plan for happens and your dog reacts badly to it. The best you can do is to calm him down and probably head back home.
Stop Comparing Your Dog To Others
You may have had a calm, carefree, easy-going dog in the past that enjoyed the company of other dogs and people. Don’t make the mistake of comparing him with your current dog. Every dog is different, so deal with the reactive dog in front of you as an individual. Through trial and error, you’ll be able to figure out what works for him and what doesn’t. Take things one step at a time and celebrate your progress and accomplishments. At the end of the day, what matters most is that your dog is happy.
You’re Not Alone
Sometimes you’ll feel very lonely and isolated as a reactive dog owner since you can’t do certain exciting things other people do with their dogs. But know that you’re not alone. There are several other people out there who have reactive dogs. Maybe you haven’t just met yet, but I guarantee you there are there. You may want to search online for reactive dog owners in your local area or city. Perhaps meeting a few of them will give you the moral support and motivation to continue caring for your pet the best way possible.
Overall, caring for a reactive dog is not easy, but it’s possible with commitment, patience and support (both moral and professional). Don’t give up on your pet; he needs you.