Reactive Dog Ramble #1

This is a topic I talk about way to much, and I’m warning you now it’s going to be a ridiculous ramble. If you haven’t already I suggest you go make a bloody huge cuppa in a heat retaining mug or pour a large glass of wine and keep the bottle next to you.

Now, where do I start? I fear that this won’t have much structure to it, so I may just throw in the occasional paragraph here and there, but sod it, lets just go.

Walking is a nightmare. This isn’t always the case, but it happens a lot more often than it should. The amount of abuse I get hurled at me for walking an aggressive dog in public can be awful at times. And for someone that suffers with anxiety, it’s really not ideal. I’ve touched on this before so I apologise if I sound like I’m repeating myself with some of these points that I’m going to throw at you but I feel like some people just need it drilling into them before it really makes a difference. This is the normal situation that occurs before the anger and abuse starts (from both sides, I can give as good as I get when it comes to defending my dogs, you shit heads).

So Luna is walked in a bright yellow jacket that says “give me space” in massive back writing on both sides similar to this jacket and wears a bright blue muzzle like this muzzle but in blue – can’t find a blue one online, may need to contact The Company of Animals directly. Now you’ve got to admit, this dog is going to be pretty hard to miss even from a distance, a yellow and blue dog, not something you see every day. Unless you live around me then yeah maybe you might… So I like to let Luna run off lead when possible, but she has solid re-call, so even if she spots another dog really quite close to her, if I call she will come back to me. As soon as I see another dog I put her on lead and move off of the obvious path to give the other owner plenty of space to pass. Now at this point I believe it to be common courtesy for the other owner to call their dog back and put their dog on lead so they can pass easily and quickly while I put Luna’s training into place and use treats/toys to distract her from the passing dog. However about 50% of the time this is not that case. People have obviously looked at us and seen what I’m doing, yet they neglect to call their dog and put them on the lead. Some will shout “He’s friendly” or something along those lines, to which I have to reply “She’s not”. By now, they other owner has got a bloody good idea of what is going on, and thankfully by now about 80% of owners have gathered their dogs and passed. However there are some utter dickheads who still neglect to put their dog on a lead and knowingly let their dogs charge up to us! That or they have no control of their dog and no matter how much they scream they can’t get their dog back.

“Pretty hard to miss me, right?” PC: Graham Cherry Photography

To those of you who have no control over your dog – what in gods name are you doing letting your dog off lead?! That is so dangerous! I don’t just mean to others but dangerous for your dog. What happens if Fido spots something he wants and legs it? And said something makes Fido run out into a road?! Why would you want to let that happen to your dog?! Or what happens if they run up to a reactive dog who isn’t muzzled? Because there are these irresponsible reactive dog owners about, or those in denial. Or maybe a dog that isn’t normally reactive but they scare the dog with their over-exuberant invasion and the now concerned dog lashed out at Fido. You could then end up with a reactive dog yourself! Not to mention an injured pup and potentially rather hefty vet bill, or worse. If you don’t know how to train your dog recall go to training classes. If you can’t afford that, follow a YouTube tutorial. Find that YouTube tutorial didn’t work, find another! There is always a way, even if it’s not the most conventional. Make sure your training takes place in a secure environment where you aren’t going to bother anyone else – e.g. rent a dog field nearby, or buy a long line (I’m not really a fan of extendable leads). If you’re one of these and want to change your ways but don’t know where to start then message me, I’m more than happy to help if I can!

“I always come back when mum calls!” PC: Graham Cherry Photography

To those dickheads who choose to ignore all warning signs and not even try to call your dog back, there’s a rather unpleasant name for you, and I’ll let you figure out what that is. Just put yourself in my shoes for a minute and think about how you’re making me feel, then put yourself in Luna’s shoes and think about how you make her feel. You’ve just allowed your ‘friendly dog’ to terrify another dog and set back the years of training I’ve put in. Luna is only reactive because she is scared. She was attacked numerous times by another dog she lived with as a puppy and her owner never did anything to prevent this. This is why she is so scared, and through her training to help her overcome her fear she became more confident. But with this confidence came a ‘want’ to ‘get in there first’ meaning she now doesn’t even give them the opportunity, if she is confronted with another dog she snaps to tell them from the off to leave her alone. She has never caused any real damage to a dog, however I would rather use a muzzle and not only protect other dogs, but protect her. If she were to snap at a dog and accidentally catch a human, if they were to prosecute there could be a rather awful outcome for her.

“Mum likes to call me bane when I’ve got this thing on…” -.- PC: Graham Cherry Photography

However in ranting about how people act around aggressive, reactive and fearful dogs, I also get to see it from the other side. I have 3 dogs in total, Tiff – the Chihuahua – is fearful of dogs that are larger than her, so she is not a great example. But Aurora is good with other dogs provided they don’t jump allover her – honestly, who wants that? And Ollie – the Cavalier – loves everyone and everything. I love to let these guys socialise as and when I can take them out at a separate time to Luna. However I never let them charge up to other dogs, if the other owner leaves their dog off lead I will let them greet. The problem here for me occurs when someone with a reactive dog does not make it obvious. We get owners of reactive dogs who leave their dog off lead, no jackets or bandanas to say they need space, no muzzle, no verbal warning from the other owner and no attempt from them to leave the main path. They have so many warning options but none of them are used! This is the worst because now, how the bloody hell am I supposed to know that dog is reactive?! I then don’t find out until the dog has either shown body language to state they are not comfortable – in which case I will call mine back as soon as I spot the signs. Otherwise if the dog is ‘unpredictable’ – basically meaning that I don’t know that particular dogs warning signs – I don’t know until this dog has snapped or fully had a go at mine! Then I get abuse from the other owner for leaving MY dogs off lead! Me?! My bloody dogs?! Yours just attacked mine and you haven’t even tried to do anything about it! That is the worst kind of reactive dog owner! You’re getting a bad name for all of us!

“I’m just here to have fun! I don’t like scary dogs, I’d rather be with Mummy anyway.” PC: Aura Photographs

Stop ignoring this problem that you clearly don’t want or can’t be arsed to address and do something about it! If you don’t know where to start, putting your dog on a lead when you see another dog might be good – and rather obvious in my opinions, but hey, what do I know right? – and go and speak to a trainer or behaviourist. If you don’t know where to look for a behaviourist, a good place to get some advice is on the Facebook group – Reactive Dogs UK. This group is great for advice, or even just moral support when needed. I find breed specific groups on Facebook have a mixture of supportive people, and people who make you feel like absolute crap. But I don’t see that on Reactive dogs UK, I only see positive support and constructive criticism. There’s nothing worse than having some stupid know it all trying to ram false facts that they’ve materialised out of their own opinions down your throat. There are people like that everywhere, and if you’re one, stop it. Right now. Just stop. No one wants to listen to you with that attitude. A bit like me really, although I like to think that I’m open to others opinions and will definitely take advice, hints and tips from others. So no, I think I can distance myself from them, even though I am opinionated. Very opinionated. But seriously most of the time those people think that the same method should work for all, however I know that is not the case. I have to use altered or completely different techniques for training each of my dogs as they are not all the same! Just because one method hasn’t worked this does not mean all hope is lost!

“I was a natural at recall once I fully trusted mum! Ollie, however, was pretty useless…”           Bow Tie: Luna’s Loft PC: Graham Cherry Photography

But on the other side, once Luna knows dogs and has been introduced correctly she can make friends! But charging dogs is not the way forward for her, this scares her and she normally lashes out. If you want your dog to make friends with her please ask, and ask me how to go about it the right way! It will take some time but eventually Luna will come to trust them! Provided they are not too boisterous, this is very negative in Luna’s eyes and must be controlled! When she is introduced to new dogs she always wears a muzzle until we can see that she is comfortable with them, safety first! Not all reactive dogs may be this way though, Luna has come such a long way since I first got her. She can be social in a controlled environment, but this may not always be the case so always ask! We wouldn’t have been able to do this 3 years ago!

“I have lots of friends! I just need to determine whether they’re good enough first…” PC: Aura Photographs Friends: Adventures Of Doodles and Silly Tilly Poodle



Well I think that’s quite enough for today’s reactive dog ramble. Bravo if you made it this far and thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts on area’s I’ve covered in the comments! Anything in particular you want me to cover on reactive dogs in the future? Let me know!

16 thoughts on “Reactive Dog Ramble #1

  1. You are a good person for muzzling your dog. My dog has come within inches of being bitten twice by other dogs because the owners didn’t muzzle them and didn’t give me any warning. The one time was at a Farmers Market. This guy would bring his unmuzzled reactive dog to the Market every week. Now the market has banned dogs. (Because apparently it’s impossible to just ask the irresponsible dog owners to leave and let everyone else stay???! But I digress.) Anyway, a crowded market was a horrible place to bring the poor scared thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s so not fair! I think a lot of people are in denial because I don’t think you can actually be that ignorant to the fact that your dog is reactive! Muppet’s getting a bad name for the rest of us reactive dog owners 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m just glad my dog hasn’t become reactive because of it. I always make sure to keep her close when we go by other dogs. She’s 50 lbs but fortunately I can pick her up if I need to, though it would look ridiculous.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Completely understand where you are comng from. Prior to Maya I had an Akita. ( I didn’t walk her off lead for obvious reasons) On one particularly memorable occasion I remember this idiot letting his 2 dogs come up to her barking away and wnen I mentioned to him ( as I had on previous occasions) the natural instincts of her breed he pulled her tail and said *she’s alright”!!! Good luck to you and Luna, sounds like she’s made alot of progress with you. xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You’re right on every single bit of rage that came from your toes upwards on this one so don’t feel a need to apologise!

    I’m fortunate to have dogs that aren’t reactive, well-trained and have excellent recall but we also meet our fair share of complete bell-ends that shout “He’s friendly!!” as their dog comes bounding over totally ignoring whatever they’re shouting to try and bring him back. The “He’s friendly!” shout basically means “I have no control and can’t do jack shit with this dog” which annoys me because as you rightly say they don’t know what mine are like and I don’t want to be put in a position of having to try and stop any dogs from having a full-on scrap which is easily done even with a patient, otherwise placid dog.

    Besides I always assume other dogs aren’t friendly unless and until I know otherwise so we stop and either put them on leads of just have them lie down and stay until the other is passed.

    One woman let her little pissy-arsed thing come hurtling over from a distance when my eldest collie was still only young and we were training at the far end of a field in which a public footpath runs through on the opposite side. Little shit came running over all teeth and noise and even though I wasn’t worried as such I didn’t like the attitude and neither did she so off she went with tail between her legs trying to put distance between her and this rat. He wasn’t for leaving her alone though and with the clueless owner still half a mile away slowly mooching over I got pissed off and just grabbed his collar to keep him still until she got there.

    Laughing about my much bigger collie running away from hers she went “Ooh fancy a dog like that being frightened of a little thing like this… I don’t know” then clipped her dog on a lead and went..

    The same thing happened two days later – exactly the same scenario with him tear-arsing over and my dog doing her best to get out the way and me having to grab him again.

    Again she chucked and tutted and rolled her eyes at mine being soft only I wasn’t happy to just let it go that time and said “It’s a good job mine is as placid as she is to be honest cos if it had been another of my dogs you wouldn’t be seeing the funny side of it at all – she’d have had him”

    “Oh give over he’s only a little thing!!”

    “Well be that as it may you’ve let it happen twice in as many days so are on notice because it won’t happen a third time. If I see that dog running over towards her like that I will drop kick the fucker clean into that river without another word”

    “You will not!!”

    “Yeah I will… honestly. If you don’t so by all means let him come at her another time or we can get it out the way now if you like? Either way up I promise you faithfully he WILL get my foot up his arse if it happens again”

    That she had a small dog is no excuse to let him behave like that and I despise people that think having a friendly dog means it’s fine to let them go annoying other dogs or people – many of whom might be terrified of dogs or otherwise not happy at the prospect. It’s tragic and something I wouldn’t wish on a worst enemy but in the last few years several dogs have been shot dead by farmers having got loose or been loose and started chasing livestock or cattle and same thing / different wording which is always “He was only playing / he wasn’t being aggressive” about the dog that’s sadly now dead.

    Basic common sense and courtesy to keep dogs close and make sure they’re under full control at all times but for some reason and for so many this one is lost on them.


    1. That sounds like a nightmare! If that was Luna, that dog would definitely not have come back the second time. But Aurora is also submissive so would have reacted the same. People with little dogs are the worst, I like to remind them that if it were a German shepherd performing that kind of behaviour they sure as hell wouldn’t like it! And if they say “Oh but they’re only little”, I would reply with “So if a dwarf stood in front of you with a knife you wouldn’t be concerned? Pretty sure that’s discrimination.”
      Some people just need to take a long walk off a short cliff.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey so this is unrelated but if you don’t mind I’d appreciate your opinion on something.
    My puppy likes to “play” with the cats, doesn’t hurt them in the least just annoys them. So I thought, well, she’s only 13 weeks and probably hasn’t got much self control, but maybe I could try teaching her “leave it” and see how it goes. I thought I would start with teaching her to leave a toy when asked since toys are a little less exciting than cats. So I’d drop it on the ground, and when she went for it I’d pick it up before she could get it, then drop it again and on and on until I dropped it and instead of going for it she just stood and stared at it. I said “leave it,” clicked and and gave her a treat. Well after a few sessions, she got it, but not quite in the way that I wanted. After the first “leave it” she would not play with the toy, even though I said “okay” (which is my release command, and she does know it,) and when I threw it she would start to chase it then stop and look at me like, “should I go for it? Will you give me food if I don’t?” I spent the rest of that session getting her to chase after the toy like she used to without stopping and looking at me. I want her to understand that I only want her to leave it when I say “leave it,” not all the time. Is she too young to learn this? Should I not use toys and go straight to cats? I don’t want her to be looking at me for food every time I try to play with her.


    1. I wouldn’t say she is too young to learn leave, Aurora learned it by 10 weeks!
      Maybe it would be worth swapping out training with the tot for now and teach with treats only. If you want to get her back into her toys I would start a lot of engaging play – so not fetch but tug instead, and then when she’s really engaged with tug try to throw it again. You want to get her back interested in the toys as soon as possible.
      Okay so personally when I teach leave it I actually use food. So I would use a low value treat as the food item that I wanted them to leave and have a higher value treat for reward (e.g. Their kibble if they are fed kibble can be low value, then sausage or something really yummy like that!).

      I would sit on the floor with her and show her the low value treat in one hand then close the hand. She should try and get it, then as soon as she backs off give the high value treat.

      Once she understands than I would move the low value treat to the floor and use a hand to cover it if she tries to get it, but lift the hand if you can, remembering to only give the command once – as a repeated command makes for a dog that doesn’t like to respond the first time you ask! If she struggles to leave food on the floor just move it a bit further away from her to half reduce temptation a bit. Once you have got it to the floor and you can lift your hand with no problems I would then start to bring in your release command. Do this by rewarding her for leaving the food on the floor and then give your release command. If she’s not sure move the treat closer to her by pushing it across the floor just a little bit, don’t pick it up. And then when she’s eaten it also reward her with high value again so she understands the release better. Hopefully after doing this for a day or two you will be able to transfer it back to the toy but I would not try the toy again until she is fully engaged with a. Toy and doesn’t leave it at all when playing with it.

      If you have any, fluffy squeaky toys will be best for the leave it exercise when you have moved back over to toys again to mimic the cat as best as possible. And I would try, rather than rewarding her with food, reward her with another toy. So have a more boring toy – but one that she is still interested in – then have a high value toy. Get her to play with the toy by engaging with her and it then ask for a leave and if she does reward with the high value toy. Hopefully then you will be able to ask her to leave the high value toy then give her the release and she will play with that!

      That’s how I would go about it, let me know if you try it and how you get on! Also let me know if any of that doesn’t make sense.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah that makes sense. As soon as she stopped playing with the toy entirely I thought, “well that’s not what I want,” and stopped training and just played with her, and eventually she realized that she was no longer going to get food for leaving the toy and started going after it again. So she’s still into toys. I guess one should not mix food and toys when teaching leave it? Thanks for the advice, I will do that.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Some dogs your won’t struggle with mixing food and toys but others you will. There is never any one set way to teach dogs to do things, they are all different. It’s a matter of seeing the problem, breaking it down and working out how you can improve each area. How you are doing it would work with one of my collies but the other probably would have reacted the same as your pup!
        Let me know how you get on and if you get stuck at all!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Just to chip in and reply to your question for Hannah. I’m keen on working with the most simple commands that aren’t easily misinterpreted if that makes sense.

    You’re entirely right with what you’re doing so don’t worry about that but what I just wanted to throw in is it’s always a good idea to differentiate between a “Drop it” and “Leave it” because the two can easily get mixed together and confused.

    As a rule I use “Drop it” only to ask them to let go of whatever they holding. “Leave it” is a simple “Don’t touch it at all” instruction and then what I think is the single most important thing anyone can teach their dogs – the “Stop / lie down!” or what I call the “emergency stop button”

    I don’t use clickers or food as part of training (no particular reason other than with mine it’s easier to work without) so can’t offer any thoughts on that I’m afraid but would definitely suggest making sure you give clear one-word commands that aren’t easily misinterpreted or confused.

    Chances are you pup will get a scratch from a kitty or two I know mine did. Made them wary of cats and not so keen to chase after them anyway. In fact one local cat “George” is something of a terrorist and comes hurtling out of his driveway at my dogs the second he sees them and both set off running knowing if he catches them it’ll hurt!!

    Don’t envy you starting from scratch with such a young puppy it’s never easy no matter how many times you do it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s