5 Guides to Help With Training For Reactive Dogs Using "Management"
Step 7 of 25 in the Dogly Reactivity Channel
with Cory & Jane of Dogly

How managing circumstances sets up your reactive dog for success

The first step in reactive dog training to help your dog's reactive behavior is what we call "management" in trainer speak. That means knowing how your dog reacts in situations and managing circumstances/potential triggers around your dog to keep your dog in his or her comfort zone so learning new emotional reactions is possible.

It's what we talk about so often in positive reinforcement dog training: setting up your own dog for success. Everything good flows from knowing your dog and setting the stage for your dog to feel comfortable and happy in the world.

In these 5 dog training guides on reactivity management from our certified positive reinforcement trainers and Dogly Advocates, you'll learn how to understand and anticipate your dog's triggers, what you can do to keep your pup under threshold, how to keep both of you in a lower-stress/higher-confidence mode, how to use enrichment to calm your dog's behavior, and even how to help your dog enjoy experiences like camping together.

Here's a quick look at each step-by-step dog training guide to help you understand and use management to support your reactive dog...


Reactivity Management Dog Training Guide 1: Keeping Your Dog Under Threshold

Helping your reactive dog work through his/her reactivity all starts with careful observation and really, really getting to know your dog. The key is to know your dog and your dog's triggers well enough to anticipate potential reactive behavior and situations to keep your dog under threshold.

You'll learn how to see those stressful scenarios coming and what tools you can use to preempt or at least minimize reactive behavior to get your dog back in his/her comfort zone.

What you'll learn in this reactive dog training guide:

  • What exactly is a threshold?
  • What does being "under threshold" look like?
  • What does "over threshold" look like?
  • Why keeping your dog under threshold accelerates learning to be more comfortable around triggers (No learning happens when your dog is over threshold!)

3 Key management points of awareness to help your reactive dog:

#1: Distance - you'll learn how distance is your number one friend in keeping your reactive dog under threshold.

#2: Body language if other dogs are a trigger - things to watch for: size/type of dog, direction the other dog is moving (toward you or away), the way the other dog is moving (slowly, prancy, disinterested, or showing the lunging, barking behavior of leash-reactive dogs). Whether the other dogs are familiar or strange dogs, all these nuances can come into play.

#3: Environment - what your dog is expecting in this space. For example, your dog may be more surprised and triggered by another dog or person in a normally very quiet place than where there is other hustle bustle around to blend distractions together. A dog park is an obvious example of so much going on that any one dog might not stand out as much as encountering another dog on an empty street. That doesn't mean dog parks are recommended for your dog! For any dog - reactive or not, there are multiple factors to consider and be careful about in deciding to visit a dog park.

In this guide, Dogly Advocate Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie takes you through how being more aware of your dog's reactivity and your surroundings helps you anticipate and manage your dog's reactive behavior and the situation proactively before your dog reaches his/her individual threshold.

For all the step-by-step details, check out the full guide here. And next up, now that you know how to anticipate your dog's trigger situations, training tips you can use to help keep those triggers from affecting your dog.


Reactivity Management Dog Training Guide 2: Management Tips for Trigger Situations

Once you have a good handle on what constitutes trigger situations for your dog, what can you do about them? In this guide, Dogly Advocate Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie takes you through 5 common triggers for reactive behavior and shares tips to make them less threatening and eventually no big deal for your dog.

What you'll learn in this reactive dog training guide:

You'll learn specific management training tips for each trigger to minimize them and help your reactive dog be more comfortable around specific triggers.

5 common triggers for a reactive dog and how to manage your dog's behavior:

  1. Other dogs, other dogs on leash
  2. Bicycles, scooters, skateboards & other moving objects
  3. Children
  4. External (outside) barrier distractions (people or dogs passing your fence, door, living room window...)
  5. Doorbell, guests, delivery people

How to balance management and reactivity training

Sometimes management alone is enough. Managing your dog's exposure to triggers is an invaluable training tool - whether that alone keeps your dog comfortable and happy or you use it to keep your dog in his/her comfort zone so learning new responses to triggers is possible.

For the full story on trigger management to help your dog, check out the complete guide here. And next up, how to think differently about your own reactions to be able to help your reactive dog more.


Reactivity Management Dog Training Guide 3: Take the "Spotlight Effect" Off Your Reactive Dog

Reactive behavior is all about how our dogs feel in a given situation - and they're incredibly good at picking up how we're feeling too. If we're feeling stressed, embarrassed, apologetic, nervous, or you-name-the-negative-emotion when our dogs react around other dogs, it only amplifies our dogs' stress and the lingering negativity our dog will associate with the incident.

Of course, we've all felt that way some time or another, when we feel all eyes are upon us and our dog, and we're not exactly our image of the perfect dog and perfect dog parent. It's common enough and enough of a thing that science has studied and named it: the Spotlight Effect. And bottom line, it's not a good thing for you or your dog; it's not even reality, just a projection created in our minds.

So what to do? Positive reinforcement trainer and Dogly Advocate Karen Chapdelaine, who happens to be a reactive dog mom herself, takes you through everything you need to know about the Spotlight Effect and the practical, real life ways you can get past it and focus on being your dog's best supporter.

What you'll learn in this reactive dog training guide:

  • What is the Spotlight Effect?
  • How can understanding it help reactive dogs?
  • How to rise above the imagined "spotlight" for focus on what matters: your dog's needs
  • What behavioral science tells us: to reject old habits of projecting and reacting to your false perceptions and stick to the reality of simply staying on your positive path with your dog.

3 practical ways to turn off the spotlight and enjoy your dog

Your new natural go-to's: replacement behaviors and practiced lines you don't have to think about.

  1. Not apologizing - how exactly do you not apologize? The full guide includes examples of how to respond and phrases to practice.
  2. Prep for prevention. Learn exactly what you can do to create a positive force field around your dog.
  3. Practice a no-stress walk. What that means, how to do it, and how to take that feeling with you on all walks.

Remember, it's your and your dog's walk! For all the details on how to develop muscle memory to get past the spotlight many reactive dogs get and enjoy your dog, dive into the full guide here.

Now for how to use enrichment as a tool to help your reactive dog.


Reactivity Management Dog Training Guide 4: How to Use Enrichment to Help Your Reactive Dog

Enrichment for reactive dogs? Absolutely! Enrichment is a critical tool to help you with reactive behavior and, ultimately, your dog's anxiety. Enrichment helps dogs in so many ways that lead to less stress, more calmness, better behavior choices, and better, happier behaviors overall.

Whether your dog is a puppy or an older, adult reactive dog, it’s never too early or too late to start helping your dog be happier and healthier with enrichment.

What you'll learn in this reactive dog training guide:

  • Why dogs LOVE to be engaged mentally as well as physically - and how it helps reactive dogs
  • What actually is enrichment?
  • What kind of enrichment is beneficial for most dogs?
  • What behavioral science tells us about giving dogs opportunities to do "dog things" (sniffing, chewing, etc)

The 7 types of enrichment to provide for your dog and why:

1) Olfactory

2) Human contact stimulation

3) Auditory stimulation

4) Interactive dog toys

5) Food enrichment toys

6) Play

7) Cognitive enrichment

You'll learn what each type of enrichment is and why it's important to your dog's well-being in the full guide.

You'll also learn how you can put enrichment into practice:

Your goal: enriching/adding value to your dog's everyday life

Your bonus: likely reducing reactive behaviors at the same time

5 simple ways to enrich your dog's life

1) Make your walks physically and mentally stimulating - let your dog stop & sniff as often & long as his/her heart desires.

2) Add some fun "training" post-walks for mental stimulation.

3) Introduce interactive toys & puzzle toys.

4) Ditch your regular bowl for some of your dog's meals.

5) Give your dog some chew time.

Included with each of these in the full guide are step-by-step training plans and exercises to share with your dog.

For the many ways to enrich your dog's life and help alleviate reactive behaviors from certified professional dog trainer and Dogly Advocate Karen Chapdelaine, jump into the full guide here.

And next up, if the desire to take your dog everywhere with you includes camping, this one's for you.


Reactivity Management Dog Training Guide 5: Camping with a Reactive Dog

If you've been thinking of camping with your reactive dog but wondering how you could make it the relaxing, fun experience you have in mind for everyone, we've got you covered. Dogly Advocate Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie took her whole family, including new baby and reactive dog, on a camping adventure and figured out how to make it work so you don't have to.

Even as an experienced dog trainer, Tressa learned or was reminded of a few things that make for a successful camping getaway and she shares it all with you in this guide.

What you'll learn in this reactive dog training guide:

  • How to choose your location with your reactive-dog lens in place
  • What to keep in mind as you select your campground - it's about more than just being dog-friendly! 3 things to start:

1) Space between individual sites

2) Picking your spot within the campground

3) Timing for more peace & quiet

  • How & why to BYOM - bring your own management: options to keep in mind and how you can use them to your advantage to help keep unwanted behavior away
  • How to be prepared - includes a checklist for those things you absolutely want to have with you to help make life simpler and safer . A good reminder of the what and why of key items from high-value treats to ID tags and first aid must-haves for your individual dog.

And finally, give yourself some grace! There may always be "oops!" moments, and there may be some other dog owners who aren't as actively aware of their dogs as you are. But when you've always got your dog's back - and your dog knows it - you and your dog can be the happiest of campers.

For all the details on pulling off your best camping trip with your best bud, check out the full guide here.


Next up in the Reactivity Channel on Dogly

Once you've finished these guides on training for reactive dogs, you should have a good sense of your dog's triggers and how you can manage the circumstances around your dog to help anticipate and diffuse stressful moments.

If you haven't already, check out the many guides on understanding and managing reactivity, then continue to Reactivity Training and Leash Reactivity in the Reactivity Channel.

If you have any questions about your dog, just ask in our Community Discussion.

And if you need more personalized dog training guidance, get started in your dog's training plan here.

Cory & Jane of Dogly

Dogly started with our own dogs and quickly became about yours. We want our dogs to live long and we want them to live well, to go where we go and do more together with us. That’s why we created Dogly. To help you live well with your dog.