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!