Reactive Dogs 101: No-Nos

I rarely draw a hard line in the sand. I try to meet people where they are, and find common ground. One thing I feel passionately about is why using punishment and aversive training techniques is NOT the way to work on your dog’s behavior. 

Other trainers might suggest e-collars, pinch collars, dominance, etc … as ways to manage your dog’s reactivity. I am here to tell you that the science says this is the exact opposite of what you should do. This isn’t touchy-feely-nonsense. This is backed by data, studies, plus my years of anecdotal evidence. 

When we talked about your mindset in training your dog – this is where that fits in. Your dog is not giving you a hard time. They’re not being bad to spite you. They’re struggling with something emotionally and it’s up to YOU to decipher that and help them. If you haven’t noticed, over the course of these blogs I’ve asked you to put yourself in your dog’s shoes (of course dogs don’t wear shoes, unless it’s too cold and icy out!). The reason I’m doing this is to help you empathize with what your pup is experiencing and to think about how you would want support if you were struggling. 

The last thing anyone who is struggling needs is a punitive response to their behavior – animals included. Your reactive dog is experiencing an emotional response that they can’t control, it makes them uncomfortable, and they react accordingly. When you use pinch or e-collars, it intensifies that negative emotional response. Dogs respond to this deeper stress in a number of ways. They might become more reactive, they might shut down and repress behavior (fearful dogs are not happy dogs). Remember that the absence of a behavior does not necessarily mean the dog is comfortable or happy. I NEVER suggest the use of these tools in training. EVER!

If your trainer has suggested these tools it’s time to find a new trainer. Your dog depends on you to be their advocate and abuse has no place in their training. 

By using positive reinforcement and counter conditioning your dog learns better coping skills and provides a healthier emotional space. They see you as someone they can trust, and when your dog trusts you, the options for their growth and your own increase exponentially. 

Your dog and you don’t have to live a life of avoiding triggers, with all these tips and tricks you are well on your way to learning how to navigate these situations in a way that is good for both of you. Want to really dive into the mechanics of helping modify your reactive dog’s behavior? 

Sign up for my NEW online course focused on managing, addressing, and shifting reactive behaviors in dogs. You will learn the science behind reactivity, and practicable training sessions to do at your speed. These skills can be practiced intentionally, or out in the world on walks. Soon you will be well on your way to reducing your dog’s reactivity, giving them better behaviors to replace meltdowns with, and a better relationship with your dog. 

Don’t wait, sign up today!

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