Checklist for Walking a Reactive Dog

Balance Harness
By: Melissa Kolmar CPDT-KA
Do you stress when it’s time to take your reactive dog for a walk? Today, I have a checklist for you to read over the next time you are ready for your walk!
  1. Make sure you have your dog on a harness (preferably a Balance harness!) or head halter and a 4-6 ft. leash. If your dog is conditioned to wearing a basket muzzle, you can use that as well. Bring high-value treats such as chicken, steak or cheese with you.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. Try to walk at times that have a low amount of human-and-dog traffic. Consider driving to a different area if your neighborhood is too busy.
  3. Watch how you hold your leash. Try not to wrap it around your hand and pull against your dog. You want to keep the leash centered with some slack in the line.
  4. Know your dog’s triggers and threshold. What does your dog react to? How far do you need to be for them not to react?
  5. Pay attention to your dog’s body language. If you start reading stress in your dog (stiffness, ears back, eyes wide, yawning, holding breath, etc.), move away from the trigger. By watching your dog, you can help keep them under threshold.
  6.  Create distance. Make sure to get space from your dog’s triggers so they can focus on you and feel comfortable.
  7.  Use the environment to your advantage! Is there a tree or car you can duck behind? Can you move off down an alleyway or walk up someone’s driveway to get space?
  8.  Pay attention to recovery time. If your dog is stressed by something on a walk, how quickly do they recover? Can they recover? It’s important information for next time!
  9.  Stay connected. Reinforce good choices while on the walk. Train when the trigger is not present to maintain your connection.
  10.  Take a deep breath. It can be stressful, frustrating and upsetting to walk your reactive dog. Take a deep breath and focus on trying to have the best time possible with them.