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Loving a Reactive Dog

Loving a reactive dog can test your patience and push your buttons. It forces you to take the long way round because you know that the dog is out that drives your dog crazy, and forcing him to pass by their house will set him up to be triggered for the remainder of your walk and maybe even day. It puts you on high alert when you have guests over, ever vigilant to watch for signs of stress and interrupt if necessary. It forces you to build 10 extra minutes into the walk just in case you see more triggers than usual on a given day, so you won’t be late for work if you have to take another route.

Loving a reactive dog will make you a dog body language detective. Did you know that piloerection AKA hackles isn’t necessarily a sign of pending aggression and that it’s an automatic response that the dog likely can’t control? Do you know how many seconds you can let your dog stare at THAT THING before he explodes into barking and lunging? (Hint: it’s usually 3 or less!) Do you know what your dog does RIGHT BEFORE he goes off, and how to help him out of it before he explodes? I do, and if you love a reactive dog you probably do to!

Loving a reactive dog can teach you things you never knew you needed. They will teach you patience, empathy, and compassion, far more than you realized you needed. They’ll teach you how to put their needs first, and how to act more selflessly. They’ll teach you how to stop caring so much what other people think, and how to set firmer boundaries. They’ll teach you to stop and literally smell the flowers. Just do it, who cares what the neighbors think! You’re already the crazy dog lady, what’s one more quirk?!

Loving a reactive dog is hard, sometimes heart breaking work. It’s acknowledging the dreams that you had for your dog, and realizing that their life is going to look different then you had planned it. It’s giving up dog park trips with your friends, and hikes at beautiful locations that simply won’t work for your pup logistically.

Loving a reactive dog is opening your heart completely, knowing full well that you may never 100% accomplish your goals, but trying your damndest to get there. It’s having this unbelievable bond with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you, but who may as well be able to read your mind, and you his! It’s learning to trust your dog in situations you didn’t think possible. It’s a promise that you will always keep their safety your top priority, no matter what happens.