Tuesday Tip: Fear and Reactivity


Kylo reacting to one of his triggers.

For those of us with dogs who can be fearful, and/or reactive, there are some important things to keep in mind. Behavior change will not happen on it’s own, dogs won’t learn to just “get over it” without some effort on your part. Committing to training, setting your dog up for success, and managing the environment is the only way to make progress on overcoming fears and reactive behavior.

Helping your dog with their fears or reactive behavior will be a process and will take time. Fears are not easily overcome. Your behavior modification plan should focus on repeated exposures to weak triggers, meaning the trigger is far enough away that your dog feels safe, will engage with you, and take food. When training falls apart and your dog reacts you have usually moved too fast, gotten too close, or have not read your dog’s emotional state well enough.

Your dog decides what is too close, and how fast you will progress. Pushing your dog past their ability to cope is only going to set you back, but as humans it’s tempting to push! End while things are going well and resist the temptation to just get a little bit closer. Remember that they are not out to give you a hard time, they are having a hard time.

Be understanding, be present with your dog, and be patient.