Bringing a new dog into your home isn’t a problem-free process. Canines aren’t one-size-fits-all creatures. Each is unique in their own way, from their personalities, to their favorite toys, and more importantly, their backgrounds. If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue, there’s a good chance that he or she has had a “checkered past,” potentially resulting in reactive dogs.
Reactive dogs may lash out at certain things and present situations you wouldn’t expect from them. Does this mean your pooch is “bad,” and maybe you should give him up? Certainly not. Just like humans, dogs develop psychological responses to trauma that stick with them for a long time, unless someone is willing to help them fix it.
If you have adopted one of those reactive dogs, don’t give up on them. All you need is the right information and you can make life better for both you and your best friend. So here’s what you should know about reactive dogs and how to handle them.
Reactive Dogs: 5 Things You Need to Know
1. Figure Out What Provokes Them
Most reactive dogs have certain things that trigger unwanted behavior. It’s not that they’re just inherently mean or aggressive; abnormal growling, barking, and biting is often created by a traumatic incident that the animal has experienced.
Let’s say you take your pet to the dog park on a regular basis. They play and socialize like normal with a group of other dogs, until the excitement gets to be too much. Suddenly, you’ve got a scuffle on your hands and a group of canines fighting over a toy or any other plausible reason.
One bad experience can set the tone for every encounter going forward. Your dog is bitten in all the chaos, and now every time a dog approaches them, it leads to growling and biting. They may begin to guard resources like toys, food, and water, and appear to be agitated if you reach for them.
You have to recognize what causes the reaction before you can solve the problem. This can include your body language, tone of voice, or bad behaviors that were previously accepted (barking as a puppy because it was cute) that have now spiraled out of control.
2. Certain Breeds Have Built-In Reactions
It’s a common misconception that a dog who is reactive will automatically be aggressive, and this isn’t true at all. Labradors are an excellent representation of this because they have a tendency to bark and howl in response to certain kinds of stimuli. They also tend to “mouth” people and objects without applying pressure, but teeth still hurt.