This sounds a little backward.
Usually, when you have a REACTIVE dog, you feel the need to warn the general population, whether that be people or their dogs. So if you feel that others need to be warned, why would you need to protect your own dog?
Keep reading and we will explain.
Most people love dogs, and those of us who have dogs can hardly fathom the thought of someone not loving them too. Truth be told, many people don’t. To further trouble this problem, reactive dogs are a misunderstood group. There are many people who simply do not ‘get it’; the daily struggle this group of caring and dedicated owners go through, working with these difficult dogs, trying to give them a quality life that they deserve. Some people will cross the street in absolute terror if they see a red Caution or orange No Dogs leash headed their way. Others, with strong opinions, have no problem venting their feelings for allowing a ‘dangerous’ dog in public. “All red-labeled dogs should just be done-away-with.” “No one should own a dog that will put a person or other animal at risk.” You have heard it before.
As previously mentioned, this is a misunderstood group. Clearly, as owners, we understand there is a problem. We know the severity of our dog’s problems, and they should be managed appropriately and responsibly. Not all dogs were born and raised to be the friendly ambassador of the neighbourhood. As a dog owner in general, but even more important if you own one of these misunderstood, non- conforming, unruly beasts, you need take steps to be that much more of an exemplary dog owner. Yes, you really do.
For the general public, you need to demonstrate that you are a responsible pet owner. We aren’t just talking about picking up your dog-poo on walks, though that is part of it. This starts with doing the right thing and warning others of potential problems. You need to effectively manage the issue, know what is and isn’t safe, what you are capable of handling, and when to draw the line.
That also means taking precautionary measures to protect others from your dog, and your dog too, from others. Sadly, with your dog being reactive it puts an easy target on your dog to take the blame if things go sideways.
If a dog fight were to break out, it is almost automatic that the “problem dog” started it. So much as even licking a person as they pass by could be deemed a “bite” because their mouth made contact. So what can you do?
Avoid putting your dog in scenarios where bad things can happen.
Do not take advantage of your dog’s patience and try to push them through their comfort zone so a stranger, who insists on being great with all dogs, can approach and pet them. If you aren’t 100% confident about the situation just say no and walk away. The stranger may be great with dogs, but your dog may not be. Don’t push it. Do not forget that you cannot control the actions of others, so don’t put your dog in the position where just anyone has access to your dog and open the door of opportunity for things to go wrong. Protect your dog, keep them comfortable and take all precautions necessary.
If that includes wearing a muzzle so your dog can be part of the normal population and maintain a normal life, that’s okay. If your dog is muzzled, they cannot be blamed for “biting” someone. It is for their own protection, and muzzle training can be very positive when done right. Keep your space, distance, walk at less busy times, choose your routes carefully. Remain focused, do not stop for friendly chit-chat, become distracted and let your guard down. These are all ways to begin to minimize the risks of something happening. Do not put your dog in a situation where things can escalate and the potential arises for something to go wrong.
A reactive does not always mean dangerous, but it definitely means that caution should be used. There clearly is some type of problem and unless the person is well up to speed with the situation and is a trained professional, the general populous has no business interacting with your dog. Besides, why add the risk and put your dog on the line just so someone can come to pet your dog? The average person just doesn’t get it but you do!
Be smart. Be safe, and don’t put your dog in harm's way.