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Frequently Asked Questions

My dog is reactive. What does this mean?

Generally speaking, a reactive dog responds to stimuli with behaviors such as barking, lunging, and raising hackles. Often times a dog is reactive to other dogs, to strangers, to children, cars, or sometimes any of these but only through boundaries such as windows, fences, or while on leash.

There are a couple of types of common reactivity that you may find in shelter pets: 

Barrier reactivity is one of the most common types that we see in the shelter. This can be present in dogs in and outside a shelter environment. Barriers are very frustrating for dogs. They can see or hear everyone and everything going past but never interact with anything. This can cause the dog to start barking incessantly, showing hackles, and even doing low growls, etc. This is not usually aggression-based, many dogs are simply asking for attention in a less than ideal way. Dogs who spend a fair amount of time on a chain often show this behavior.

Under-socialization is also very common. If your dog was not able to be exposed to enough stimuli as a puppy, such as strangers, unfamiliar dogs, cars, etc., they can develop fearful responses to these things because they simply do not know what they are or how they should handle them. As the dog gets older, these unknown variables can become even more stress-inducing. Unfortunately, this often is not a behavior that can be trained out, but it can be managed. Often if you take it very slow and respectfully for your fearful dog, they can become comfortable with a new person, dog, or another stressor, but it will likely have to be done again every time. This is can be very stressful to work through for both you and your pet.  Going slowly and with understanding for what each other needs is very important.   

Exposure, if done respectfully and with care, can help over time. We recommend working with a positive reinforcement trainer as soon as possible to learn how to manage reactivity in dogs as reactivity can often get worse if ignored or improperly managed.

Learn more about reactivity and how to work with your dog to overcome his fears here: https://spiritdogtraining.com/reactive-dog-training

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