Don’t give up on your reactive dog just yet

If you ever thought about giving up on your reactive dog behaviour training, I don’t blame you. It’s a frustrating job at the best of times. In this blog, I will delve into the intricate realm of reactive behaviour and show you why you shouldn’t give up just yet!

Treats and Distractions

Reactive behaviour often prompts well-meaning owners to turn to treats and toys, hoping for a solution. However, in this blog, we talk about why such strategies may fall short, especially when reactive behaviour is viewed not merely as a behavioural issue but as a complex biological response.

In reactive situations, attempting to change behaviour with a distraction becomes ineffective. Reactivity often stems from a primal fight or flight response triggered at the wrong time. Understanding this biological aspect reshapes our approach, emphasizing the need for proactive management rather than distraction.

Crossing threshold

The concept of threshold takes centre stage in managing reactive behaviour. Once a dog crosses the threshold into a reactive state, the body takes control, making distractions pointless. The key lies in proactive management and preventing the dog from reaching this heightened state in the first place.

It’s important to manage your reactive dogs emotions so they stay under threshold

I emphasize the importance of managing the dog’s environment, controlling proximity to triggers, and recognizing the signs before reaching the threshold. Reactive behaviour requires an approach that focuses on preventing the emergency response from triggering rather than attempting to redirect it once it has.

Going Too Fast

Another common stumbling block is the pace of training. Owners, eager to witness progress, might inadvertently push too hard, too fast. As we explore in this blog, managing space, diluting triggers, and gradual progression are crucial. Rushing the process risks triggering the emergency response, setting back the training progress.

If you suspect you’ve moved too swiftly, the remedy lies in revisiting the initial stages of your behaviour plan. You’re not starting from scratch; instead, take more time over each section, observing your dog’s body language to determine when it’s appropriate to proceed.

Look for early signs that your reactive dog is not coping and maintain a good distance from his trigger

Forming New Habits

If you ever felt that you conquered your dog’s reactive behaviour, only to see it resurface days, weeks, or months later you are not alone! This often occurs when owners stop the training process prematurely. Dogs need time to form new habits, and stopping too early means the old reactive behaviour resurfaces.

Understanding that forming a new habit takes time provides perspective. If you didn’t continue the training plan after perceived success, this could be the missing link.

Dealing with Setbacks

Life with dogs is unpredictable, and setbacks are inevitable. Whether due to a sudden encounter with another dog or a challenging situation, setbacks can be disheartening. However, the key is to acknowledge that all prior training is not lost; it’s merely a setback.

Taking a few days off, avoiding triggers, and then gradually reintroducing training steps can help rebuild confidence. Support groups and communities, like my FREE Reactive Behaviour Support Group on Facebook, offer a space for shared experiences and encouragement.

Also check out Seeing Patterns in Reactive Dog Behaviour – And What To Do If You Can’t Find Them!

The Reality of Reactive Training

Lastly, let’s address the reality of reactive training—it’s hard work. Recognizing that it demands time, attention, and commitment is crucial. If past attempts failed due to life circumstances, revisit the possibility now. Perhaps your schedule, mind-set, or priorities have evolved, making this the right time for a renewed commitment.

Reflect on past challenges, identify the changes in your life, and consider seeking guidance from a professional behaviourist (like me) if needed. Online or face-to-face coaching can provide the support and expertise necessary to navigate the complexities of reactive behaviour.

There’s hope

If you find yourself demoralized and uncertain about your dog’s reactive behavior, know that there is hope. Whether it’s revisiting the basics, extending the training period, overcoming setbacks, or embracing a renewed commitment, you can start afresh.

Dog training is a journey filled with twists and turns, but with persistence and a supportive community, success is achievable.

How can I help you with your reactive dogs behaviour?

Private Dog Behaviour Consultations are currently available in the Dundee area, and beyond. If you are looking for kind behaviour advice for your dog then please get in touch!


I have more than 15 years experience solving all kinds of canine behaviour problems, at home and in rescue. A bad experience with a old fashioned dog trainer inspired me to learn more about dog behaviour, and it is because of him, that I wall never use harsh methods when training and rehabilitating dogs.

I work privately with clients in Dundee and the surrounding area with dogs of all ages, breeds and issues including anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity.

In 2009 I was proud to publish a book about dog behaviour and training. How to be the Perfect Pack Leader (by Caroline Jenkins) remains popular today and a follow up is expected very shortly.

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