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1 Don't try to train them when they are reacting.

If your dog has reacted and isn't able to focus you've already lost that battle! Teach them behaviours at home that will help them cope better. We teach a find it which cues them to get their nose down looking for something, a 'let's go' as an emergency U-turn and simple focus games. It might sound simple because it is. There isn't any secrets here. It just comes down to how well you've taught your dog to do something, regardless of the distraction.

If your dog has been reacting for half their life, don't expect them to suddenly stop within a week or two.

2 Give them more down time.

Don't keep exposing them to stressful situations. It will make their behaviour worse. Our guys have regular days off where they can chill and do whatever they like which doesn't involve anything they find challenging, scary or overly exciting.

3 Focus more on yourself.

The leash is a huge reason why a lot of dogs develop problems. It's very restrictive so we really need to learn how to hold and use the leash effectively. The leash is a management tool. It's not a training tool and it's not there to pull them about this way and that way. If you're having to use the leash to get the dog to do what you want them to do, get a trainer to help you with your leash handling.

4 A reactive dog needs a proactive handler, not a reactive one.

If you react poorly the minute your dog reacts the situation is never going to get resolved. Shouting 'No!' whilst yanking on the leash is only going to make matters more problematic.

If you’re a member on our site you'll notice I barely bat an eyelid when a dog reacts, I just focus on how I'm holding the leash and how I can get the dog out the situation as quickly and as safely as possible. I know it's not easy but it's something we have to learn to do to help these dogs.

5 No isn't a behaviour.

If you are going to say anything you really need to give the dog some good, solid information. Usually 'no' has zero information in it at all. It's just a very common human reactive behaviour. This is why we spend time teaching our dogs what to do before we put them in challenging situations. The better they understand something, the more chance you have that they will perform the behaviour.

6 Move more.

When your dog starts reacting their body is being flooded with all sorts of chemicals to help them fight or flight. For them (and you), remaining still and calm is almost impossible in this situation. Asking a dog to sit in this instance is neither effective or fair. You will sometimes have to get moving with them.

7 Reinforce, don't bribe.

Don't become a predictor for the trigger. If you're using food in your training don't fluff about and rush to get food in your dog's mouth as soon as YOU see a potential trigger. That's not training. That's you teaching them that whenever YOU spot a trigger you're going to try to quickly get food to them.

Eventually, you trying to give them food will become the cue that the trigger is about to appear and the food will mean nothing to them - no matter how hard you try to put it in their mouth.

8 Be a bossy boots if you need to.

Some dogs don't do well without any guidance. A lot of working breeds seem to find too much freedom stressful. I can't remember who used the analogy but for some dogs in chaotic situations (from their perspective) if we don't tell them what to do, it's like us being in a helicopter and suddenly the pilot says - "Here, you take over. Do whatever you like." I'd rather have calm and clear instructions in stressful times and some dogs need that too.

9 Only give the dog a choice if they can't make a 'wrong' choice.

Don't let your dog off leash if they are going to rush over to people or dogs and react. It's not fair to anyone. Don't be a gambler. Don't keep trying the same thing over and over again and hope for a different outcome. Dogs are notoriously bad at making 'good' decisions. This is where we should help them and where the training can help them make better decisions.

10 Slow it down.

If your dog has been reacting for half their life, don't expect them to suddenly stop within a week or two. It's dog training, not dog trained. It's a process that never stops. The more time you allow for, the more you will be pleasantly surprised with how far you can get instead of upset that your dog isn't 'fixed' within a few sessions.

They're not light-bulbs. You don't 'fix' them. You help them, just like you help people that are struggling.


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