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How to Relax your reactive dog

Oxfordshire Dog photography

Reactivity is when a dog over reacts to things in the environment. This can include: Barking; lunging and growling, this doesn’t make a dog “aggressive” reactivity isn’t uncommon in dogs. It can be down to several factors the dogs generic make-up, a lack of social experience or it could be a scary experience. It can make it very difficult to handle a reactive dog, simple things like going for walks or being in public places can become very difficult.
Instead of “trying” to live with reactive dogs, you need to learn new ways in order to keep them calm and focused on you.

 Have a routine

Dogs crave a settled routine, they often know what our routine is. They know that when we wake up in the morning and going to put on our shoes mean they get excited for the morning walk. By having a simple and effective routine helps them feel calm, focused and safe in stressful situations. Once they get used to the routine and they’re more calm and settled you’re going to be able to take this to public places like the park or busier walks. Here at Darren Bedding Photography we allow you to be in control of the session so the dog feels safe and as though you’re in control. By doing this will allow for them to relax throughout the session and capture stunning images.

having equipment will be beneficial

To help reduce the reactive effects there is some equipment that can be used. A Gentle Leader, these are beneficial for dogs that may pull hard and that are more reactive during the walk. These leads can be used when you may need to redirect their head in a different direction if your usual commands aren’t working. This lead sits on the back of  your dogs head and takes the pressure of their throat which helps with them not choking whilst pulling. Check them out here
Another good bit of equipment is a Easy Walk Harness. This is a little bit different to your normal harness as this straps to the front of the dog, which actually reduces the chances of the dog from pulling while on lead. If your dog does try to pull they will steered sideways which will redirect their attention to you. With this harness there is no choking or gagging as it rests across the chest. You can check this out here

Counter conditioning

This is the process in which the changing of your dogs emotion or behaviour in response to a certain trigger. A dogs trigger can be anything (car, bike, animal, object, human.) Step one of this is to realise what your dogs trigger is, for example if its a car and you hear or see one coming. The second step is to reinforce the attention onto you whether this is with a toy or a treat, this must be done straight away before your dog starts with their unwanted behaviour. The first couple of signs that your dog shows that they’re uncomfortable this is an opportunity to change their behaviour. By doing this overtime you will ultimately change this their behaviour over time and they may no longer feel the need to be on edge with their trigger.

Body Language

Understanding your dogs body language is the most important factor and will allow you to communicate with them effectively. By doing this is will allow you to understand when they’re uncomfortable, scared or threatened. You need to understand your dogs body language as a whole, for example a wagging tail can mean multiple things “I’m happy to see you” or “please don’t come any closer.” A very happy dog is often wiggly and free, their tail is wagging, their ears are forward and their eyes are soft. However it is important to get an understand as to what characteristics your dog shows off when they’re happy so you know moving forward.
Nervous dogs have tense body postures. They will often use calming signals and exhibit displacement behaviour which ultimately allows them to calm down. They don’t show any aggressive intent, or diffuse situations. These signals are often used to other dogs that they mean no harm. Displacement behaviours are often used when a dog wants two things at once.
Alert Dogs tend to have tense and forward body posture. These are often wanting something but they don’t know how to react. They often use this body posture until they decide to react in playfulness, fear or aggression.
Dogs showing aggressive body language will be very tense and stiff. They will more than likely be baring there teeth, if you do encounter this just stop your approach and move slowly, you don’t want to seem threatening to them. You want to avoid all eye contact with them, remaining calm and confident. A lot of the time they show this body language because they have been spooked and the situation is easily defused if you remain calm.

How we make your reactive dog calm throughout a photography session

When we first bring you in for a session we get an overview of your pooch and anything we should know in advance to the session. This allows us to understand if your dog is reactive we will give them space to familiarise themselves with our surroundings. We will slowly introduce ourselves to your dog gently, whether this is with a couple of treats just so they can relax around us so throughout the session so they’re happy and comfortable. With being on a private manor estate there are no distractions or anything that can spook your dog, it is a very calm and relaxed session that is led by your pooch if they’re not comfortable doing a certain shot then we will try something else.
Check out some of our Dog Photography work here


How to relax your reactive dog