Reactive Dogs

and how best to help them.

The main causes of reactivity are:

  • lack of early socialisation;
  • previous negative experiences with other dogs or with people;
  • threats (perceived or real);
  • health problems.

Reactive dogs and lack of early socialisation:

Although it is seldom too late to socialise a dog, the best time to do it for optimum results is between the ages of 6 and 14 weeks of age. At this age they are most open to different experiences.

Of course, any responsible breeder will not sell or give away a puppy that is less than 8 weeks. This is because pups younger than this still need to be with their mother. So earlier than 8 weeks, the responsibility to socialise a puppy rests with the breeder.

However, once you get your puppy home, you will need to socialise it to :

  • other puppies;
  • older dogs;
  • children;
  • noises;
  • people of different types (gender, age, ethnicity, ambulatory status, etc); and
  • different social situations.

Failure to socialise your puppy between 8 and 14 weeks can mean that your puppy could become a reactive dog when he is older. It is also a longer process to socialise an older puppy than a very young one.

It is too easy to buy a puppy because it is cute or because it is cheap. (Puppies are becoming exceedingly expensive to buy and there are many unscrupulous breeders who are in ti for the money alone.) So, before buying a puppy, if you are in NSW, check that the seller has a registration number. This number allows you to look up search the NSW Pet Registry to find information that could help you make a more informed choice. Other states have similar srrangements.

Previous negative experiences:

Any experience such as being attacked seriously by another dog can change a calm dog into a reactive dog if the conditions are right. For instance, say your dog is attacked by a large white dog. In such a case it is possible for your dog to become reactive in the presence of other large white dogs.

Cruel treatment by people can lead to reactivity. The more negative the treatment, the more likely that the dog will become reactive. Dogs who have been badly treated might seem to be frightened but any dog will bite and a frightened dog is more likely to bite than a calm, confident one.

The best guideline to prevent dogs becoming reactive is to use No Pain, No Force, No Fear!

Threatening experiences and reactive dogs:

Any person or any animal will react to threats to the life or safety. Serious threats or perceived ones easily turn calm dogs into reactive dogs.making calm dogs reactive dogs

The child in the illustration is obviously intending no harm to the dog. The child is doing what any human would recognise as giving the dog a loving hug.

However, from the dog’s point of view, it could be quite a different story. Dogs have only 2 means of escape from danger – attack or run away. If a dog is prevented from running away, there is a higher possibility of it’s attacking.

The majority of reported dog attacks on children are made by the family dog or a dog belonging to a friend or relative. This is because children do not know how to communicate with dogs and so make many dangerous mistakes in interacting with them. So, for people with children, educating the children in the best ways to interact with dogs is a positive way to prevent calm dogs becoming reactive dogs.

 

Poor Health as causes of reactivity in dogs:

Just as with people, painful conditions can cause irritability and loss of temper, dogs can also suffer in the same way.

 

 

 

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