5 Reactive Dog Management Tips

Living with a reactive dog can sometimes be tough work. They require special consideration, and it may seem overwhelming to do even the simplest activities with them like taking them for a stroll around the block, or opening the windows for some sunshine on a pretty afternoon. Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel through working with a certified professional to find the best behavior modification plan for your dog. Working through reactivity requires thoughtful training, but active training is only a portion of the process. Alongside working to change your dog’s behavior, we must also be sure to use management in their daily routine to ensure they aren’t getting opportunities outside of training to “practice” behavior we don’t want. Managing your dog’s emotions and giving them alternative behaviors to keep them under threshold will be key to making as much progress as possible in their behavior modification program. Here are a few tips and techniques to help you manage your reactive dog in your day-to-day routine:

Tip #1: Train an “Emergency U-Turn” or “Let’s Go” Cue

An emergency U-turn is a great way to get your dog to move away from an oncoming sticky situation out on walks. When you aren’t able to train in a structured manner, keep enough of a distance to keep your dog under their threshold, or aren’t prepared to have a training setup with your dog when seeing an oncoming trigger, an emergency U-turn is a great alternative to ask your dog to move away with you without a struggle at the end of the leash. This can also be used to manage the situation in training if your dog does cross over their threshold and start reacting. If training gets too difficult and you lose your dog’s attention, you can give the emergency U-turn cue and move away with them to help them be able to disengage from the trigger they’re reacting to.

  • To train an emergency U-turn, start indoors with your dog (on or off leash) with no distractions to make sure the environment is easy enough for your dog to learn. Ask your dog to walk with you in a straight line, then lure your dog to move with you as you change directions. When they move with you, click (or mark with “yes”) and give the treat.

  • Repeat in the other direction again multiple times. After a few repetitions, try fading the food from your lure and just using your empty hand to guide your dog around the U-turn for a few more repetitions. You can even toss the treat for your dog to chase down to add enthusiasm to participate.

  • From there, fade your hand lure and put your behavior on a verbal “let’s go” cue. If your dog is not able to change directions with you, this is information to you that you have progressed too quickly and need to go back a step in your training.

  • If they do move with you just on the verbal cue reliably, you can start practicing this behavior in different contexts. Firstly without any triggers around, then progressively working up to using this behavior in “real life” contexts when approaching oncoming triggers.

Tip #2: Use a Magnet Hand

A magnet hand is a wonderful distraction