7 Things Reactive Dog Owners Want You to Know

reactive-dog-ownersBarring heavy rain or freak Georgia snow storms, my dog Topher and I take walks nearly every day. At local parks, around our neighborhood, and the occasional hiking trail, we mark up the miles and enjoy the great outdoors. Usually these walks are uneventful. We watch birds, admire the foliage, and get our exercise.

Then there's that walk. About once a month, it happens: an off-leash running towards us seemingly from nowhere, their owner many, many yards away. In the moment I wonder if this will be the day my dog becomes public enemy number one. If I cannot keep this off-leash dog far enough away—while also controlling my own dog as he reacts (quite strongly)—this may be the day my dog bites another dog. Or worse, another person, should the scenario escalate.

It's the scenario we try very hard to avoid. This scenario sets our training back days or weeks every time it happens—and it happens much too often. In these scenarios, I’ve found that other dog owners aren’t exactly sympathetic to my frustration. I can understand the reaction: in those moments I’m certainly not at my best. But here's what I'd really love for average dog owners to know and understand, before they meet or come across a reactive dog and their owners.

We’re on High Alert Every Day

In the last three years Topher and I visited 15+ parks around the city of Atlanta. At every park, where signs dictating leash laws are clearly visible, we've encountered at least one off-leash dog. To keep "that one walk" from happening to us, I continue to try and find new parks, or unknown places less traveled. I even track other dog walkers' routines in the places where we walk often. For example, I know the approximate arrival time of the always off-leash Plott Hound at our favorite park, because she's run up to us three times now.

The number of times we’ve been run into by this particular dog would be much higher, if not for the fact that I am on high alert on every walk. I spot other dog walkers from hundreds of yards away, and start formulating a plan for a safe interaction or a careful getaway.

It’s imperative that we stay alert and make these kinds of plans—an increase in positive experiences and a decrease in negative or uncontrolled experience will help us move the needle on Topher’s dog reactivity.

Your Off-Leash Dog May Be Our Nightmare Scenario

Our experience with two off-leash dogs that left my own dog blind in his right eye was not our first encounter and it was not our last. However, it was the worst one, the nightmare scenario, and the one I flash back to with every other off-leash encounter.

In talking with other dog owners, I’ve yet to find someone without a story to tell about a negative encounter with another owner’s off-leash dog—situations out of their control, which could have gone either way. How many of these encounters end tragically? I don’t know. But many could be easily avoided.

Every Other Dog May Be Friendly, But Ours is Not

I believe you. Your dog is friendly. Your dog makes friends with every living, breathing thing they've ever met, easily and without incident. However, mine is not.

An owner calling out to me about the friendliness of their dog changes nothing about the scenario at hand, where my dog sees your dog—a thing he fears—running headlong at him. In this moment, how friendly your dog is does not matter. They are in a dangerous situation.

We’re Upset Because We’re Scared On Your Behalf

Reactive dog owners want you to understand that no obeying leash laws puts your dog and ours in dangerous situations. These situations often cause a spike in my stress level. I try not to let this stress at diffusing potential disaster leak out in the form of angry shouting, but sometimes it happens.

Shouting happens because I, as the owner of the reactive dog, often get saddled with 100% responsibility for the incident. If I could only control my dog more, somehow, then none of this would ever happen.

But here’s the rub: I am already controlling my dog.

Responsibility Is A Two-Way Street

I stick to leash-only areas because leashing my dog—regardless of temperament—when I’m supposed to do so is the easiest way to responsibly keep these incidents from happening. But this breaks down when dog owners let their dogs loose in the areas we are trying to remain within, for their safety and our own.

Which is why we get upset about leashes, off-leash animals, and owner responsibility so much. I cannot accept 100% of the blame. I'm already being as responsible as I possibly can. (Unless you believe I should lock my dog away to become a hermit. Then I can’t really help you or your opinion.)

I keep our reactive dog on a leash. I take him for walks at times and at places where I feel we'll have the most success and the least chance of causing trouble or strife for anyone else's pets. I am alert in my surroundings and always trying for the most positive experience. Even with all of this, I've been yelled at by dog owners whose dogs run up to us—off-leash in leash-only areas—and scolded for not doing enough to keep their dogs safe. Those of us who own what others call "problem" dogs can only be responsible for so much.

We’re Sorry We Can’t Greet or Chat

I promise I'm not trying to be some snob who doesn't want to meet or exchange pleasantries with you, or meet your dog. (I actually would love to meet everyone’s dogs; it’s just hard with the given situation.) I do promise this: if I move within a certain distance of you and then stop, my dog will begin to amp himself up while we're stationary.

The more amplified he gets, the closer to his threshold he'll be for the rest of the walk, and the more likely he'll lunge at you or another dog or passerby without any additional signal—because he's already at high alert. He's a bit like a ticking time-bomb that way—the best positive interactions are done in tiny increments with plenty of space to cool down in between.

I try to be sure to accommodate a stop or an interaction when I see Topher is in the right frame of mind. I can't plan it and I can't make it happen every time I see a nice stranger. So if you wave at me and I wave at you while turning to walk away where there are less people, please understand. We're trying to give our dogs positive training experiences; sometimes that comes at the expense of a nice chat or a simple hello.

We’re Doing Our Very Best

We've been training with Topher for almost three years now and Topher has made great strides. He gets better little by little and we're very proud of the progress we've made. I talk about it often.

This doesn't stop people on the street from suggesting I need to do more, or I'm wrong for what I'm doing. It's maddening. In the moment, I know my dog doesn’t look like much. To you, he might be a lemon. To me, he’s simply a work in progress.

We’re not giving up on him any time soon.

Do you have a reactive dog? What do you wish you could tell people about you and your dog before they meet you?


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Positively Expert: Lucy Bennett

Lucy is Co-Founder of Good Dogs & Co., a website celebrating the ups and downs of dog ownership. She's on a mission to help her dog Topher overcome his dog reactivity, after he was blinded in one eye by a dog attack.


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  • We only walk on the sides of busy roads in order to avoid off leash dogs.

  • Sylvia

    This is such a well written story. It is for me also a day to day strugle with my own reactive (out of fear because once bitten by another off leash dog) Blue Ray. I've put on a yellow ribbon on my boy's leash but almost no one seems to know what it means. I too am scolded several times that I have to put a muzzle on him but he doesn't do anything as long as we keep a distance between other dogs. A dog off leash is a red alert for him and I completely relate with your story. My greyhound is a couch potatoe, a complete human lover and yes it hurts when dog owners call me inresponsable for having a reactive dog. As if my dog hasn't the right to excist ! Well I've got news for them, he stays and while working with him every day, he gets more confident and even though we're five years further now, I love him whole and completely. Does that mean that I probably have to have an extra pair of eyes while we walk, then so be it.

  • Fran Campbell

    Well-wrtten with comments that are spot-on! My foxie/jackie cross ,Zen, gets incendiary when an off leash dog runs anywhere near him. However, learning his body signals( a tensing, a flick of the ear and eye at me to ask- fear, anxiety then attack) have meant I am able to move him to a safer( for him) distance , even if the other dog is leashed. . We avoid off-leash parks or places when its dog-busy -the beach at weekend or the bushland in late afternoon. It has taken 8 intense months for him to find trust and calmness again. Its absolutely worth every tiny step to alleviate anxiety to ensure Zen has an enhanced and calm life.

  • Susan

    Wow! I couldn't have said it better as if you took the words right out of my mouth! My Finn has come a long way but I also accept the fact that we will always be on high alert. His welfare is my top priority and it makes me angry when I get the dirty looks from people because he is reacting because either their dog is off leash and fast approaching or they don't "reel their dog in" when approaching another dog. My Finn though is slick....he knows calm behavior gets him a treat so he "scans" around first and then accepts it! 🙂

  • Crystal Mccarthy

    I have two Saint Bernards; One is reactive and the other is overly friendly and I understand this article so much. I have a very hard time walking my dogs anywhere there are other dogs at all. The friendly one will drag me to the other dogs to "play" while the other one wants to eat them, then the friendly one becomes reactive because of the energy. I get accused of not controlling such big dogs, yet when I muzzle them I get accused of bringing violent dogs in a public area. I have given up on walks because I don't want to be responsible for the death of an off leash dog. I can't even walk in my own neighborhood because of off leash dogs. I feel so bad for my girls, and training is at a stand still because I can't separate them to work with the reactive one, she also suffers from separation anxiety from her mother. Any suggestions?

  • Ben C

    Your every normal dog owners worse nightmare

  • Pablo Herrera

    But...for how long has this been happenning? Is your approach really working or you should re—design your training plan?

  • Oliver and I

    This is my life in words. One of mastiffs suffers from anxiety. He is being treated by a holistic veterinarian for his anxiety and I have working with him for 7 years. He has made strides in his ability to cope within the external environment outside of his yard, however I must remain hyper vigilant when I leave our property with him. He is not aggressive but he is often targeted by other dogs and bullied and bitten. He has a strong flight response which has almost resulted in both of us being dragged into and injured in traffic. He is 203 lbs. I weigh 134 lbs. I use physics to my advantage but even physics has its limits.
    All he and I want are for other dog owners and people to own up to their societal responsibilities. I will control him, others need to control their own dogs or kids or their own impulses. He and I just want to go for our leashed walks in peace, without dealing with other people poor judgment and choices.

  • I do have a reactive dog, but my experiences are different. In particular, what I'd like to tell the owners of other dogs is that it would really help me if they would approach, but do it slowly. Our social skills work is going really well, but it's hard to practice, because when many owners of other dogs see her muzzle or if she starts to react, they politely run away with their nice well trained dogs. So, often, it seems I only meet the people who have no control at all, and no understanding of what I'm trying to do!

    When the people with 'good dogs' are prepared to hang around for 10 mins at a safe distance, it means that instead of my dog only seeing disappearing tails or incoming idiots, she can have positive experiences and actually make some friends. This works really well for us.

    I'd also like to say to other dog owners : I am trying really hard, but sometimes I make mistakes!

    And finally, I'd like to say to the people who work on planning : we need more places and more space for offlead dogs to meet. Natural spaces, with bushes and hedges and varied environments. When so many places are lead-only, it becomes very difficult for dogs to exercise and socialise and learn without being crammed together in small boring empty plots in a way that inevitably results in problems. So, some people end up letting their dogs offlead inappropriately. And that means you get more and more dogs that don't know how to meet other dogs, and the problem escalates.

  • Chow

    Thank you so much for the article. We also have a reactive dog, who spots other dog(s) a hundred yard away and his adrenalin just shoots rocket high. We did encounter an off leash dog (or worse, dogs) while walking in the past and it was a nightmare (luckily no injury). It gives me a big fear of walking him in the neighborhood, but I am trying to balance the several negative walks with hundreds of positive successful walks day by day. It is very encouraging to know that someone at somewhere is facing the same challenge as mine every day.

  • kathleen brennan

    how so?

  • Chris Sawyer

    I see a huge disconnect going on... if your dog is that much of a problem... do NOT go to parks or places where other dogs are behaving like normal dogs.. your dog is NOT normal. Personally I would not own such a liability without at least 1 M in insurance.. hope yours is paid up.

  • Kay

    This is exactly what I go thru with my adopted Border Collie/Corgi mix. He is very fearful of other dogs, and I, too, have adjusted his walks to the times when, hopefully, the off-leash dogs won't be around. And this IS a neighborhood where dogs must be on leashes, and no long than 6 feet long. That's pretty much a joke as at least half the people have extended leashes. It's also an area loaded with coyotes, and we've had several attacks in the area. Yellow ribbons are a waste of time...not one person I've met knows what they even mean, and besides, THEIR dog LOVES other dogs. Which is great, but Jack FEARS other dogs. I spend most of our walk time watching for other dogs and detouring to avoid them. No fun for me, but Jack needs his exercise.

  • Karen

    I have a dog who we adopted when she was three. A 95 pound lab. She is a really sweet dog, but she is somewhat fearful of new people, but warms up to them after a minute or two. She is reactive only when she is on a leash, and only with other dogs on leashes. When she is off leash, she is friendly with other dogs and they romp and play. When on a leash, she lunges and growls and acts like a demon. There is no dog park near us, so I take her to play fetch, off leash, at a huge park not far from our house. I go when no one else is there. I always have her leash in my hand and when I call her is she always immediately comes to me, even if she starts to chase a rabbit. I am always on alert when I have her in the park. If I see another owner with a dog on a leash, I leash her right away and head the other directions that I don't upset the other owner. I sympathize with this owner. I have a similar problem, with different circumstances, and it is difficult to exercise my dog in our tiny yard. After six years of trying to train her to relax on a leash, this is the only option I can come up with to get outside and play with her.

  • Susan Mansour-Hammond

    Why? If your dog is under control like they should be, what is the problem? There are leash laws and people should obey them.

  • Christine

    Thank you for writing this. I have the same issues here in Australia. Its so frustrating. The joy of walking my dog has been taken away from me after 2 attacks from unleashed dogs. I'm now too fearful to walk my small dog alone anymore.

  • Joshua R. Kern

    Not socializing your dog is part of the problem. I let my chocolate lab off-leash at the park frequently to run and play either with me or other dogs because it is neccesary for a healthy dog; you have to let them live according to their nature. If Lilly gets snapped at, I don't blame anyone because...wait for it...they're dogs! If some dog tries to mount her and gets snapped at, I don't get upset...because they're dogs! Nobody should have a dog they cannot physically restrain if necessary. Leash laws are usually championed by litigious idiots that don't properly socialize or train their dogs. Final point: a dog will take behavioral cues from the dominant member of its "pack". Don't be such a nervous/reactive human and your dog will follow.

  • MaryAnn G.

    I wouldn't classify my dog as reactive but he is nervous. He pays attention to everything, every noise, every person when we walk. Consequently I walk him on main roads, never on a side street, too many dogs reacting. We just bought a vacation home, I was so excited to take him on a rural walk with less distractions, only to be met by dogs that are just allowed to run, no human in sight. Very frustrating because as much as I love animals, I'm ready to catch these fur balls and take them to a shelter. I'm told that dogs on the loose is normal, I have a hard time with that. I have no patience when I come across their owners either, very frustrating. I come across as the bad guy for complaining about someone who doesn't control their pet. I will assume not their children either.

  • Hi. Author's husband here.

    This isn't about going to dog parks (which we explicitly don't do because...well, we're not idiots). This is explicitly about areas like public parks and neighborhoods around Atlanta. Areas not primarily designed to socialize dogs. These areas have standards (rules or laws) about how a dog is to be handled in these areas. We're abiding by them, and we're simply asking that others do the same. "Behaving like normal dogs" is fine, but we're asking simply that they be kept leashed while the dog is in an area where that is the law of the land. I don't feel that Lucy is wrong in asking for that.

    All of the "You're a menace to society" responders seem to think that we're seeking out interactions with other dogs to terrorize them. We're not. It's just as stressful on us when Topher jumps out of his skin while we're on a walk. That doesn't mean it's entirely our fault - we're abiding by the standards and - believe it or not - we actively attempt to not provoke these scenarios by crossing streets or changing direction to avoid direct confrontation with animals.

  • Muriel

    This is not true in my case. I let my dog run free at off leash trails and beaches from 3 months to 9 months. He went everywhere with us, restaurants patios, various stores etc. We also did puppy training, 3 independent trainers and agility. The problem was that he is remembers a handful of poor encounters where other dogs barked or attacked him off leash. He does not back down even if he's the medium fluffy dog against a pit bull. He is not a bad dog, but I wish I did not take him to uncontrolled social settings where I don't know how other dogs react. I guess not every dog is goofy or laid back as a lab, every dog is different and their journey is different. If you like taking your dog off leash go ahead in designated areas. Our dogs still have a right to take a walk in leashed areas and not be home bound.

  • Molly H

    Hi Lucy and Bryan,
    I know how it feels, because my old border collie didn't get socialized properly and subsequently interacted poorly with strangers (people and dogs). You want to take him everywhere and do the things people do with dogs, or maybe things you did before. It's frustrating because it's not you or your dog's fault in this case. I'm sorry that Topher was attacked, it sounds painful for everyone physically, mentally, and emotionally. I'm sure you will keep looking for "the place" that no one goes to and you can walk him (on leash) safely away from other dogs.

    In the mean time, I'm sure you have people offering advice left and right, I can tell you a training tip. If you can, find a person with a dog who really does want to socialize. My dad's current dog has this temperament and I've seen it work on the dogs in his neighborhood and it's incredible to see dogs turn from "stay away" to "play with me" postures after interacting with her. Check with a local trainer or get to see if anyone offers positive-only training for dog aggression. And keep in mind that your stance, posture, behavior and energy affects the dog in the respective aspects.

    Good luck folks, and reach out to me if you would like!

  • Tessa

    I have a reactive dog, but she is not as extreme as the dog in the article. I'm actually happy when other dog owners let their dog meet mine (if she is not acting aggressive already). Mostly because I do come in off leash areas, because she acts better if she is off leash. She only tends to run away (to go hunting or whatever), so I keep her on leash till we meet a nice dog and I think it's save to put her off leash. But whenever people see I keep her on leash they think she is some kind of aggressive and dangerous dog that they mostly won't let their dog approach mine. She can be very intense and extremely aggressive, but she won't bite, she only tries to scare the other dog away and she still needs interaction with other dogs. She just needs time to evaluate the other dog. I think if you keep your dog on leash all the time and keep her from socializing: that matters only turn for the worse. Dogs need social interaction with other dogs, it's in their nature. You just need to set the situation to your hand so things won't turn out for the worse. Btw my dog is from the streets of Turkey, so she has her bad experiences from there and from that one time she was attacked by another dog (who is her number one enemy now, cuz this dog cannot be trusted cuz she has attacked other dogs as well)

  • Tessa

    Maybe you can let a dog trainer come to your house? For me it is no option to not walk my dog, because outside is the only place she can pee and poop etc. so I would just go outside with a muscle on your case and explain to others that your dog is not aggressive but you want to avoid accidents, so you have you have the muscle just to be sure.

  • Jaime

    The naysayers posting here should know that there is a world out there where people abuse, neglect and fail their dogs before abandoning them to be rehomed. Should those dogs who have become reactive through no fault of their own be killed or locked away? Or should they be allowed to be safely retrained in on leash parks and on public streets?

    My husband and I have a dog walking business. We take on clients that other companies won't all the time because we have experience and training in behaviour modification. We have successfully socialized extreme cases. It takes time and patience and would take less time if other dog people would obey leash laws. I always have reactive dogs attached to me and on a training harness for maximum control. I use wide open parks so I can see what's coming or their neighbourhood streets that should be free of off leash dogs. I teach dogs to avoid conflict by having them turn the other way from problem situations. But we still constantly encounter people who have their dogs off leash AND AT MY CLIENTS' FRONT DOOR WHEN WE OPEN IT. Or other dog walkers with 6 dogs who let one run aggressively in the middle of my three and have no way to help. Or a myriad of other problems arising from the fact that people allow dogs with unreliable recall off leash in public areas.

    Why does your untrained dog have more rights than the one I'm walking? Why do you, who can't teach their dog basic commands, think you are in the right? I am working very hard so that these dogs can have a more normal experience, so that they can have dog friends and romp and play (in the safety of my yard). I am trying to help their rescuers give them a new and better life. Please think of all the dogs that are used as bait or kept chained in a breeder 's yard or beaten every time they make a noise next time I (calmly and politely) ask you to call your dog. Or when you see that reactive dog in your neighbourhood and let your dog off leash anyway. What does it hurt you or your dog to leash up for a few minutes when it could help that dog learn that other dogs aren't so bad? You and your dog have the chance to help. Please take it.

  • heather

    Btw it should be "you're" not "your". Great article. My first dog was attacked twice by people walking dogs off leash. Once on a bike path, once in a neighborhood. Both times the owner(s) just kept on walking and let their dogs get mine. Leash laws are there for a reason. God forbid those dogs went after a child (yes, not every person wants your "friendly" dog charging up to them), or chased something into the road and got hit by a car.

  • Lora Avery Mitchell

    I have to disagree. Until my dog was 1 1/2 years, he played regularly and very well off-leash at the dog park. Then we adopted a big brother for him. Things went well until his new bro began displaying idiopathic rage syndrome (something i didn't believe in until I saw it for myself). Now my pup sees every dog as a potential aggressor. At 3 years, he is finally starting to comfortably walk by another dog without snarling and lunging. It isn't about "dominance" within a "pack". It's about normalizing behaviors. His brother's sudden and unexplained aggression became a normal stimulus, and my dog's response was to maintain a low threshold for aggression during any interaction with him.

  • Mary Hinchman

    Wow. Perfectly well behaved dogs have been attacked and killed in dog parks. Many dogs running off leash in areas designated as "on leash" ...most places, run up to a leashed dog and stick their nose right in the leashed dogs face. #1 This is very rude behavior in doglish. #2 Being on leash, while safest for the dog, is also a bit of confinement for a dog and naturally will put it on the defense. If the dog reacts, it is not necessarily a training issue. You people that are jumping to the conclusion that it is the owner's failure to socialize and train need to be more open minded on that subject. #3 A dog has the right, just like every human, to not like another dog or another dog's behavior.

  • Hi Matt. You're inferring some ideas about my mental state from this article which simply aren't true. In this piece, I am explaining—as the owner of a reactive dog—what I want people to understand about my interactions with them. Specifically, the owners who flagrantly break leash laws and are unable to control their dogs, even when walking on busy street sidewalks and in other areas we go to just to avoid these kinds of altercations that are high stress for our dog (ie. off leash dogs running up to him while he is on a lead).

    It's in these altercations I'm describing what my reactions might look like to other people. Anger, frustration, anxiety. These are my feelings, as a dog owner trying to do the right things by my dog. These are not things I feel 100% of the time, or when training with my dog. Considering the number of encounters I've had, no, I do not live in some constant state of fear and anxiety about them.

    I don't typically feel those feelings in the moment: I've had plenty of training on how to safely remove ourselves from high stress encounters, ones that are put upon us by the irresponsibility of other dog owners. But after the fact, when I'm sitting at home and rethinking it, these emotions crop up. And I write about them, because it's something a reactive dog owner may very well have to deal with and they just might be feeling very lonely too, that they have to deal with this all by themselves, just as I have felt in the past. I'm here to tell them it's okay, and these are just obstacles to be worked past. I have an article on dealing with these kinds of frustrations (on your own, rather than having them effect your dog's own mental state) on Positively as well.

    And re: three years of training—we've not been training specifically on dog reactivity for three years with no changes. I've owned my dog for three years, and so I've been walking him for three years and in the beginning we were doing obedience and other trick work on our own, to clarify those sentences in the article.

    Our dog was attacked and blinded in one eye by two off leash dogs about six months after we got him. It took another 4 months of vet and eye doctor visits for us to be sure the inflammation and damage in his eye was stable—the risk of needing surgical removal was very high—and as healed as it was going to get. After that and the realization that he'd developed a strong leash reactivity around other dogs, we started looking for what we could do within our means to work on our dog's reactivity, and I'm not interested in sharing what's within our means and what's not with strangers. For that, I point you to the last piece of my article about how great it feels to be told I'm clearly not doing anything right or doing what's best for our dog.

    (Also as you'll see from my profile on Positively, I'm not a trainer or a behaviorist and I will never claim to be. I write about shared experiences, and from the reaction to this article alone, these feelings are not uniquely my own and deserve space to be honestly shared and spoken about.)

  • Gina Lee

    Thank you for writing this. Being a responsible parent is the only way to be. I have a Catahoula Leopard dog. I rescued her from the local pound not knowing anything about her breed. She is a herding breed. GREAT with people (she goes to work with me every day at my office) and even good with my friends dogs..up until she's not (muzzle is usually necessary). She requires a ton of exercise and deserve to be able to get as much as I want to give her. She is always leashed because I live in Tahoe and everyone seems to think it is ok to never have their dogs on leashes......anywhere! She is a protector (extremely reactive: pending distance) and wears a very bright vest that says "WARNING: AGGRESSIVE" right on both sides. I advice all reactive dog owners to put one on their dog. Whether they are aggressive of not. It helps so much when the "off leash" owners see it, and allows them to call their dog or run like hell to keep their dog out of our range.
    I always try walking, calmly the other way first. If the other dog keeps coming I stand firm with her by my side, yell and then blow my whistle at the off leash dog. If this doesn't stop them, god help them, because my dog thinks they are coming to attack me and she is relentless. She won't even try to pull away from me. She just does what she was meant to do if a "perceived" attacker comes within leash or arms length.

  • Jessica Lundin

    Excuse me. Our dogs might not be "normal" but they deserve to be excersised. Any good dog owner knows that. What do you mean normal anyway? Every dog is different. I work at a dog groomers. Every dog has a different past, they have different likes or dislikes. Some don't like there paws touched, some don't like there ears touched, some don't like there tails touched and the list goes on. The fact is they are all just as individual as humans are. I'm sure your smart enough to understand that. Just because some dogs do not like other dogs does not mean they deserve to not exist. Some people don't like dogs in general they still deserve to live. What do you supose we do? My dog needs to be excersised and like we've all said we stay alert. Every dog deserves a good loving home even with there issues. Some people aren't fit for that and thats fine we all hope you dont take a dog your not fit to handle but the strong willed people that are, and do take on that responsibility still have the same needs to take care of that other dog owners do. Our dogs still need to be taken out. They still have love for sertain toys like balls and still love to play fetch. We already do pay alot more attention than others because we know the problems that can occur and we try extremely hard for them not to happen. If you've never had a reactive dog your not going to understand the difficultys and stress we endure. Having to be on your toes every second just to get your dog the exercise it needs to stay healthy and happy isn't fun at all. We go through it anyway because we care so much about what we concider another family member. We love to see how happy it makes them we could care less about what we go through. We are constantly thinking about other dogs. We never want to put them in danger or people in danger. The fact is we need to learn how to coexistence. Just as you teach your kids to not talk to strangers or to not pet a dog without asking. Keep your dog on a leash and ask if it's ok for them to be around each other from a distance. Don't just assume. That's your fault at that point. We don't ever just walk our dogs up to you and let them hurt your dog's we try so hard to stay away from other people and there dogs so if an incident occurs you and your dog obviously got to close which isn't our fault.

  • humansarestoopid

    Ugh. I hate it when people deem themselves knowledgeable about other people's situations. Lots of reactive dogs are rescues who come with baggage and unknown histories.

  • humansarestoopid

    The "alpha" dog theory was debunked decades ago.

  • Veronica Macaya-Santiago

    This "normal dog" reasoning is caca. A dog is just that, a dog. It's not a human, it's not a baby or a child. It's a dog. I have had both high and low prey driven dogs. In either case, the only time my dogs are off leash is when they are within the confines of home. This is for my safety, my dog's safety, your safety and your dog's safety. Right now, I am the owner of a beautiful American Bulldog Rescue. He has an acre of fenced yard to run around. He shows no signs, or attempts, of wanting to escape. Still, I like to take him out for walks. I walk a path that is, for the most, dog free. If we do encounter another dog, and my dog goes on alert, I warn the other dog owner. I do have a muzzle especially design for his breed, which I use as a precaution when need be, (ex., going to the vet, which is extremely stressful for him). I also use a pinch collar. However, I will not muzzle my dog on walks because, I do not want to leave him defenseless if he is attacked by an aggressive off leash dog. I fulfill the requirements, and take the responsibilities of owning any dogs regardless of breed. If you can't do that, then consider a hamster for a pet.

  • esme

    Wouldn't it be nice if we were all dog trainers? Then we'd know exactly how to resolve our reactive dogs' anxieties, train our dogs to pee on cue, have our hounds walking right past rabbits at heal, have them using special doggie toilets,... so we could all relax and enjoy them. Not only are most of us not dog trainers, many of our dogs would be a challenge to train even if we were. We bring home a puppy or a dog from a shelter, and we have the best plans. We'll never, ever let the dog pull on the leash. They'll develop recall naturally, as they grow up. We're going to socialize them, train them, do everything right, and that will be a perfect dog. Then life gets in the way. We do the best we can and live with the results. It's how we raise our children and how most of us raise our dogs. We have the best intentions and we do the best we can.

  • D in Va

    I went through 2 dog fights at a county park with different male dogs running loose up to my male dog. Both cases resulted in the other dog injured enough to require medical care promptly. You can safely assume a person with a loose dog who is carrying the leash cannot control their dog. And they will be of no help breaking up the fight. My last one to break up had a middle finger joint dislocation and months of therapy. Now I always carry stream type foam pepper spray in dog formula. A leashed dog (mine) and a loose dog that I spray will make it clear to a judge who was at fault. And I will have a lawyer to help if sued. A dog that is a real threat to me or my dog can be shot in Virginia to protect 'self and property from serious injury'. A dog is property, not a baby, family, puddin'pie, or 'my best friend' ... a judge does not care about your dog fantasies, nor do I. That's why my dog is trained and on leash and I stay armed.

  • Sandra Myers

    Counter-conditioning and desensitization training takes years for dogs with extreme cases of reactivity. Sounds like they're on track to me.

  • Sue

    Sorry but i really think you need to train your reactive dog to be not reactive. I actually think its cruel to keep dogs on a lead yep its my opinion & i know others wont agree. I go to non public places so i can let my energetic lurchers run & still people moan cos THEIR dog isnt properly socialised . Go walk them in a public park then not an empty field where i have gone to let mine run free as nature intended. I had a reactive dog & i persevered till he became socialised & im not a trainer i just didnt give up.ive never had leaded dogs & just wont. Hate me if you want . Nnone of my dogs have been in a fight

  • chris blair

    Here's a thought. Don't break the FUCKING LAW and leash you dog when in a leash law walking trail. Guess what? Some people are afraid of dogs, others may not like dogs running up to them and some dogs just don't like other dogs.

  • Erica

    This definitely hits home -- we've had our Boxer/Lab Layla for 6 months now, and 5 of those she has been in training for her fear aggression and reactivity; she's three years old. Nothing has worked, and she continues to get worse instead of better. We got her from a rescue whose only history on her was that she was fearful, and submissively pees (we have not had that problem with her). We've done BAT training/desensitization, extra exercise, positive reinforcement, this collar and that leash and this muzzle and that head collar, and even puppy prozac-- to no avail. My husband and I have both been hurt by her in trying to control her on walks -- this, despite being always on high alert and trying to stay as far from her trigger situations as possible. She never hurts us on purpose, she just becomes totally engaged in getting at the other dog she sees (or even people, if it's a particularly bad day), and she hurts us in trying to get away. We live in a highly populated area, and our apartment community is VERY dog friendly, which essentially means we live in a mine field of bad situations waiting to happen. She's even broken through our screen door to go after dogs twice [we no longer just have the screen door open]. Perhaps the most confusing and frustrating of all is that she does perfectly fine at doggie daycare (while she's in the play rooms -- if we see dogs coming in or coming out, she's a reactive mess, but once she's inside with all the dogs she is fine!). Before we adopted Layla, we wanted to be very responsible and make sure we were a good, stable home for a dog. I work from home so she'd never have to be crated for long hours/etc (important for a boxer breed), and we live in a dog friendly community with a dog park a two minute walk from our back door... Unfortunately, we did not bank on ending up with a dog with such deeply ingrained behavioral/emotional issues. Our trainer and vet believe that she may actually have been trained to be a fight dog (she also has a lot of extra skin which is a sign of this as well), because she reacts so unnaturally and violently upon seeing another dog. It has become so bad that I am actually afraid to take her on a walk by myself -- I'm pregnant now as well, and I know that Layla will be a danger to our child because she also snarls and lunges at small children on walks. We have tried everything, and when we spoke at length with a behaviorist they said it sounds like she'll always be this way, and we just have to learn to manage it.. but we can't. We have done our best for six long, hard, expensive months and now we're out of options, money, and sanity to keep going. We love this dog, which is why we have tried so hard for so long, but she gets to be more of a danger to herself, us, and other people/kids/dogs, every day. We are finally admitting to ourselves today that we need to try to rehome her, perhaps to someone who has a fenced in yard, and no other dogs or small kids. Unfortunately, we also know that home may not exist. The rescue we got Layla from said that because of the aggression she's shown, if we brought her back, she would not go back up for adoption. They didn't say it, but obviously we're aware that means they will put her down. This breaks my heart. Layla is such a wonderful dog, 90% of the time. It's just very dangerous that other 10% of the time. I don't know what we'll do. I just know I'm tired of people telling me we're obviously not training correctly or just haven't done this or that or whatever, or that we're just being selfish. We have done so much, and we're just at the end of what we can do now. And that really, really sucks. I have always loved all animals, but I honestly don't know if I will ever trust myself to get another pet. If I couldn't take care of Layla, and had to give her away or put her down, how will I ever think I can be a good home again?

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