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Ask a Trainer: How Can I Help My Reactive Rescue Dog?

Q: Our rescue dog is so reactive when he sees other dogs, whether through the window or on walks. It is making it difficult to walk him. I don’t know what to do to help him. – Kate

A: Hi Kate, great question! This situation is going to take practice and consistency, but you can definitely make it much better.

Start with figuring out what his favorite food is, for example, peanut butter or cream cheese. Have those things handy on a LickiMat® (frozen) or on a long handled spoon or ladle when out on walks. Get him used to those items when nothing is happening so that he thinks “yippee” when they appear and you won’t have to fight for his attention.

Barking at Dogs 

When he is looking out the window and starts to bark, you can walk over with the LickiMat® and when you have his attention and he stops barking, hold it for him to lick while he watches the dog and then move it to the floor for him to finish.

Calmer Walks

For walks, I’d take the long handled spoon with me along with his favorite treats. When you see another dog from a distance, present the spoon and let him start licking it. Continue until the dog has gone past or is out of sight. Figure out where his “threshold” is, how far away he can be without reacting, and maintain that distance for the next week of encounters. Slowly you can lessen the gap, a little at a time. If you reach the distance that he becomes reactive again, back off a bit and start again.

Find a Force-Free Trainer 

We want him to think that good things happen when he sees another dog; this will greatly decrease his frustration when on leash and behind the window. If these tips do not help him, please contact a trainer in your area (or virtually) from the Pet Professional Guild.

About the Trainer

Soul Dog Training Business Logo

Claire Clark is the owner of Soul Dog Training in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. She has been a trainer for five years and is the only accredited trainer in the Trust Centered Training method in the state of Illinois. Thinking outside the box to problem solve when dealing with behavior cases and rescue dogs is her specialty. She offers customized, in home private lessons so she can best help you with your specific needs.


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