A woman holding a white don in leash

This is a reactive dog — one who overreacts to normal situations that other dogs would take in stride. Reactive dogs are not necessarily aggressive dogs, but reactivity can turn into aggression, so your attention to training becomes extremely important. Reactive dogs become overly aroused by common stimuli.

Cornell University Veterinary Department

Why is my dog Reactive on Leash when he sees other dogs? 

There can be a number of causes of reactivity in dogs. Here are a few:

  •  Genetics, fighting, herding, hunting, and guard breeds may be more prone to reactivity. 
  • Lack of socialization during the Critical socialization period. (3-12 or 14 weeks of age)
  • Direct traumatic experience like attacks, forced greetings, barking dogs coming at them or being encountered on a frequent basis when out on walks. 
  • Indirect trauma, such as seeing or hearing another dog being attacked.
  • Trauma during fetal development via the mother.  

What does Reactivity look like? 

There are lots of signs of reactivty (easily understood as extremely elevated stress). Here are a few:

  • Barking and lunging at other dogs at the end of the leash. (Although your dog may “want to play”, this is a behavior that can frighten other dogs and people and is not a healthy state of arousal. 
  • Shutting down: making themselves small and tucking their tail between their legs when other dogs approach. Being so stressed that they cannot react. 
  • Barking at or nipping people, dogs, or other pets either in your home or when off leash in other situations. Obviously we want to address this behavior before it goes to another level.

There are so many variations, but we will stop there. 

If your dog has a bite history, please be prepared to go into detail about that history and understand that your dog may have to begin training with a muzzle for safety purposes. When we discuss the bite history, we will use Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Bite Scale as a point of reference. 

What do we do to help your dog deal more effectively with her emotions? 

There are four main parts to the basic Reactivity Plan: 

  1. EDUCATE the handler in proper leash handling skills, how to anticipate trouble, and how to humanely remove your dog from a stressful situation, 
  2. RECOGNIZE the signs that your dog is getting over stimulated.
  3. Reward your dog for REDIRECTING his attention away from the source of stress.
  4. REPLACE the reactive behavior with a positive behavior such as sitting and looking to you or calmly moving away from the stressor.
Some specific areas that this training will address are: 
  • Help you learn to read the subtle clues that your dog is giving you that they are becoming stressed. 
  • Develop management plans for every step of the process based on your household. 
  • Teach you leash handling skills and emergency escape techniques. 
  • If not already trained, will work on some basic skills for humanely getting and maintaining your dog’s attention. 
  • We will expose the dog to the stimulus that she is reacting to in small doses and using incremental steps. One example is: For dog leash reactivity, we introduce your dog  first to a fake dog using distance and the ability to retreat and then to a real dog to teach your dog coping skills without getting them over threshold. 
  • We will take trial run walks and troubleshoot in your neighborhood and once your dog is ready, choose some fun and increasingly challenging places to meet and refine your skills. 

Testimonials from Reactivity Clients

Jenny at Seventh Heaven has been fantastic helping our pup Bella with her reactivity towards other dogs and her separation anxiety. Bella’s behavior when she sees other dogs on walks is so much better than a few months ago. And we have learned a lot in terms of how to help Bella manage her behavior and how to react. Jenny teaches the humans and the pups! Jenny also came to our house and gave us some great advice on how to set boundaries – physical and behavioral – with Bella to eliminate some boredom destruction and help with separation anxiety. We went to Seventh Heaven specifically for advice and training on reactivity and separation anxiety, but there are a number of other general manners type things that Jenny saw and worked on with us. Bella has come so far and we wouldn’t see these results without Jenny’s guidance. You can tell how much she loves dogs (and they love her back, Jenny is Bella’s next favorite human outside our family!) and I love how Jenny adapts and brings new protocols/ exercises to teach the same behavior. I would highly recommend Seventh Heaven Pet Care Services to anyone with a new pup!

Tara A

Jenny has been a terrific trainer for my reactive pup. She is very flexible and has allowed me to design training around his specific triggers. Just having her accompany me on walks to observe my skills and make personalized recommendations has been invaluable in building my confidence. I look forward to continuing our work together and enjoying the improvements I see in my pup.


Pricing and Packages

To get started, first schedule your initial consultation for a reactivity case. Check for the closest area to you. If your area is not listed, call to confirm availability: 571.389.0091