Fear and reactivity in dogs

What is a reactive dog?

“A dog called reactive is a dog who reacts more or less excessively to something that would seem ordinary in his daily life. He can react badly to humans, dogs, cars, certain noises or anything. what stimuli while trying to flee or to attack. Sometimes only when kept on a leash, sometimes even at liberty. It is a dog which cannot manage its emotions in certain situations. It can be in great suffering and seek to express as best it can an unhappiness or an unmet need “. In any case, a reactive dog is not a poorly educated dog, it does not throw itself at the end of the leash barking to annoy you or shame you. It must be understood that when a dog triggers it is that he is really in an emotional state that is complicated to manage. He’s in distress.


Having experienced it, I know that having a reactive dog is not easy on a daily basis. You have to succeed in accepting it, succeed in managing it and endure the disapproving gaze of people. When you have a reactive dog, you are often singled out, “He does not know how to manage his dog”, “This dog is mean”, “He does not listen to anything”, etc. From a human point of view this behavior is unacceptable, stressful, even distressing. Often, the reaction of the latter will be to pull on the leash, yell at his dog, get angry, hold him, yell at him to sit, etc. And the dog, him, at that moment, where is it? When my dog ​​triggers it is because he is very uncomfortable, the stimulation that bothers him has gone beyond his comfort zone, it is too close to him! So he expresses his discomfort as best he can, more or less strong depending on how he feels.

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I will share with you my experience, my own fear of panic! I have an irrational fear of snakes, not practical when working outside! In theory, yes, I know most are not dangerous, that if I don’t bother them they’ll leave me alone… In practice it’s a whole different story. A few months ago, on a walk with my bitches, I passed two meters from a snake. My reaction at that moment: I freeze, all the muscles in my body are tensed and I scream, my eyes riveted on the object of my fear.

It took me several seconds to leave. It was impossible for me to make a decision like stepping away from what scared me. I was overwhelmed by my emotion: fear. I was in a panic, my heart was racing, the slightest noise made me jump and cry! Impossible to finish my walk! For weeks, going alone for a walk with my bitches caused enormous anxiety. Even months later! And I never went back to this path again! Imagine that at the time of my meeting with the snake, someone held me by force in front of the object of my terror, worse, shouted at me, argued or abused me? It would only have made my anguish worse. In no case would it have helped me stop being afraid. However, yes, my behavior was to scream like crazy!

Desensitize it

Whether with a human as with a dog, we cannot punish and sanction an emotion, on the other hand we can work on our fears, manage our emotions, by being accompanied in a benevolent way. If your dog is reactive, he needs to be desensitized at his own pace; you may have to start working 200 meters away from the stimulation that bothers him. He will need support, reassurance, confidence and knowing that he can count on you, and that as a guardian you will not put him in trouble.

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Lucile Poupliée, educator at “Clés en patte”, clesenpatte.fr or [email protected] or Facebook. Phone. 067 85 73 67 27.

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