Let's talk for a minute about reactive dogs:
For those who are unsure of what a "reactive dog" is, it's typically a dog that explodes in lunging/barking/growling when encountering another dog on a walk, or for some dogs, even when encountering people.
Of course my recommendation for anyone with a reactive dog would be to seek help from a trainer who can help you and your dog with properly timed corrections, desensitization etc., but unfortunately not everyone is able to invest in quality training (for many different reasons).
For those people who are struggling with their reactive dogs, there are a few things you can do when encountering them to help make their walks a little less terrifying. And yes, for people with dogs like this, IT IS TERRIFYING. The walks often entail hiding behind bushes, hiding behind cars, turning around and walking the other direction, walking their dog at 4am before anybody else is out and about, and A LOT of apologizing and nervousness.
Instead of the disapproving looks, snide comments, and asking why they might want to own such an "aggressive" dog (note that not all reactive dogs are aggressive. Most are not!), here are a few things you can do instead to make their lives a little, or a lot less stressful.
1. Understand that SO MANY PEOPLE are dealing with reactivity in their dogs.
2. Give them extra space. When you're passing them, cross the street, or give as much space as you can to relieve some of the pressure on the dog.
3. Please don't stare! That only makes the dog more reactive. Instead, pretend they aren't even there and continue on your merry way.
4. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT MAKE KISSY NOISES OR TALK IN A BABY VOICE TO THE DOG thinking this will make them less reactive.
5. Ensure your own dog (if you have one with you) is under control, and not staring at or engaging at all with the reactive dog. They will only trigger more reactivity, which will likely set your own dog off as well and reinforce the reactive behaviour.
6. Show some kindness and compassion. It will ease a lot of stress for the reactive dog owner, who is likely making reactivity worse by being so nervous.
We will post some notes later this week on how people can avoid creating reactive dogs in the first place, but it really will be a community effort as people open up to learning how they are creating it in their own dogs, and other people's dogs too.
Have a peaceful day everyone!