(Image: © Taika Brandorff - Het Boshuis)
Does your dog frequently lunge and bark while you're out on walks?
Do your walks feel like a continuous dodging of things that might startle your dog?
Are you forced to leave your dog at home, because you can hardly take him out with you?
Have you become a member of the "midnight-dogwalkers"?
Then there is a significant chance that you have a reactive dog. Reactivity is a widespread behavioural problem with pet dogs in our western society. It's not only reducing the dog's welfare drastically, but also affecting the other members of the household. It can cause frustration, feelings of shame, impotence, ... with the dog's owners. Due to their problem, reactive dogs frequently live restricted lives. Owners shield them from situations where the reactivity could appear and exclude them from planned dog-activities, reducing their welfare even more.
The behaviour is often diagnosed incorrectly, resulting in training programs that try to change the shown behaviour but overlook the underlying emotions. That's why it's so important to understand what reactivity truly is and what it does with your dog. Without this knowledge we will never be able to help our dogs!
In this section, I'll look into the behaviour, its link with stress and explain the behaviour from a physiological perspective.