Dog-to-Dog Reactivity

Two dogs on leashes

*Information adapted from Best Friends Animal Society*

Some dogs are reactive toward other dogs when they are on a leash. They may whine, bark, snarl, growl or lunge at other dogs. It can be scary or embarrassing — and take all the fun out of walking your pup. Dogs can also be reactive toward other things, such as cats or other animals, skateboarders or bicyclists.

Regardless of what is triggering your dog's reactivity, the way to address it is moving away from the source and teaching an alternative behavior.

Reactive dog training

Start with practice sessions using a helper — like someone with a calm, non-reactive dog on a leash.

With your dog on leash, approach the helper until your dog has noticed the other dog but hasn't yet reacted. Calmly say "Let's go" and walk your dog away from the other dog. When you are far enough away that your dog can focus on you again, reward them with praise, toys or treats.

Repeat the exercise a few times. When your dog begins looking to you in anticipation of walking away, you can use that behavior as the cue for moving away. As your dog becomes more relaxed, you can eventually decrease the distance between the dogs as you approach.

Other tips

While working with your dog on reactivity, avoid walks where unpredictable situations may occur. Understand that your dog doesn't have to approach or meet every dog that you encounter. Other dog owners may be working on similar challenges, and avoiding them can help with their training.