Helpful Tips Walking With Your Reactive Dog

reactive dog

If you’re anything like me the simple task of taking your dog out for a walk can be quite a challenge. Over the past couple years we’ve made a lot of progress following these steps. Sure – it’s not perfect – there’s always going to be unpredictable circumstances, but it’s made a huge difference.

Walking Your Reactive Dog

Walking your reactive dog isn’t generally a nice or relaxing experience, but there are ways to make it easier. Unfortunately for us reactive dog owners we’ve had to put so much effort into avoiding situations that might set our dogs off we become mentally tired before the walk even begins.

Reactive dogs are hard to control. When you get looks from strangers wondering “why can’t she control her dog?” it’s a pretty disheartening feeling. Trust me – we’re working on it. You need to be able to move past the fact that you’re going to get dirty looks.

People that have never owned a reactive dog can be clueless when it comes to the time and effort required to treat reactivity. It’ is embarrassing – but in order to make progress you’ve got to get out there and work on it. Ignore the dirty looks and remember you’re doing this for your dog – not for your neighbors approval.

Owning a reactive dog is a liability. If you’re not comfortable training with your dog I highly suggest seeking out a professional trainer that’s worked with reactive dogs. Trainers that use positive training techniques and desensitization methods can work wonders for reactive dogs.

It’s Going to Take Time and Commitment

The best piece of advice I can give when it comes to walking your reactive dog is to stick with it. Whether you only make it a block or 10 miles in a day doesn’t matter. If you have many bad experiences because you’re moving too fast for the dog you’ll end up back at the beginning.

Start out slow and find out which techniques work best for your dog. Once you’ve got a decent technique it’s then time to gradually increase their exposure. Desensitization is a long process; training your dog to walk without incident is something you build on.

Unfortunately there is no perfect formula or overnight trick to guarantee a great, uneventful walk for you and your reactive dog. There’s a few tricks and techniques you can try; they’ve all helped Laika to varying degrees.

Make The Threat A Positive Experience

Letting your dog know that good things happen when they get close to their trigger is what’s worked best for Laika. Remember that your dog is under stress when she’s being reactive, try and communicate to them that nothing bad is going to happen.

It’s accomplished easily with their favorite treat and your handy dog clicker. For Laika I make sure we have some carrots or snap peas on hand. I know I’ve gotten too close when she immediately spits them out and stays focused on the approaching person, dog, bike etc. When this happens we turn back around and go back to finding her comfort threshold. The threshold is the point at which she isn’t exhibiting any signs of stress. Don’t be afraid to overpraise; if your dog is remaining calm while in the sights of another dog feed her treats like crazy and praise often. I’d recommend watching this great video by Kikopup who demonstrates calming behaviors you can practice when walking with your reactive dog.

Repeat Until Your Dog Believes It

Your dog needs to believe that other dogs (or whatever they’re reactive towards) make great things happen. Some discomfort for your dog is going to lead to a lot of praise, play, treats, and affection. Whatever your dog is most motivated by.

Training your reactive dog while walking is by no means a quick and easy process. It sounds easy enough but being able to actually implement it enough times to see tangible results will take some time. Remember that patience is a virtue.

If you remain consistent with the constant praise, clicks, and treats while your dog is nearing their threshold you’ll eventually begin to see a difference in their emotional response. Their reactivity may not ever be completely gone but you can learn a lot about their specific boundaries by constantly practicing this technique.

Choice Training

This technique is closely related to choice training, which is another popular way to train yourreactive dog to walk on a leash. You praise your dog whenever they make the choice to remain calm and well behaved in the stressful situation. It relies on catching behaviors you like and praising them for the choices they’ve made.

Failures Will Happen

If your dog becomes overly aroused it means you pushed too far, too fast, simply back up a few more feet next time and start again. It takes a lot of time to desensitize a dog to their stressors, don’t become discouraged if it doesn’t work quickly. Failure is always going to be a part of training, but it also helps us learn to improvise. I failed yesterday when I decided Laika and I should go meet some horses. Lesson learned, my reactive dog doesn’t like horses.

Keep it Unpredictable To Keep Your Dogs Attention

Incorporate something unpredictable and fun into your walk. Change your pace, switch directions. Praise your dog as they follow your lead. This will help build their interest in what you’re doing rather then focusing on what may possibly lie ahead. If your dog doesn’t give you a lot of attention on your walks this is a great exercise to gain their interest and focus, it’ll also make your future training sessions easier.

Teach Your Dog To Target You

Teach your dog to touch or target you with a specific cue. For Laika I use the ever so original phrase “touch” as I put out my right hand. When I see something up ahead that I’d like to avoid I’ll start to walk backwards and say “touch.” Laika may not know why I’m suddenly walking backwards, but she gladly turns around and comes running back to me. And of course she’s rewarded handsomely. I can then decide how best to handle the upcoming dog while I’ve got her full attention.

Avoid What Cannot Be Won

If you ever find yourself unsure about a certain situation the easiest way to avert a problem is avoidance. It’s not really a training technique, it’s just a way to keep things under control when you’re not feeling confident about confronting the situation. Safety should always be on your mind when you’re walking a reactive dog; if you don’t feel like you can handle the situation it’s best to avoid it.

As soon as you see a potential trigger for your reactive dog you can choose to walk the other way. You can also use things such as parked cars or bushes to create a barrier between your dog and the trigger. You can also just sit and tell your dog to stay until the other dog has passed. Not all battles are worth fighting.

Ask A Friend For Help

I’d also suggest incorporating the help of a friend. If you’re not confident in your ability to maintain control while walking your reactive dog just having another person with you can do wonders for your ability to manage stressful situations. Sometimes the other person might even help keep your dog interested, especially if they’re also carrying treats.

Consult A Dog Behaviorist

Seeking out the help of a dog behaviorist is something I’ve done. When I first got Laika I had never had to deal with leash reactivity and resource guarding, so I got help from a dog behaviorist. It’s especially nice to have someone on your side who isn’t going to pass judgment on your dog. It didn’t cure Laika, but I learned so much and gained confidence in my own ability to manage my dog, it was certainly worth it.

Use a Dog Backpack or Harness

I recommend using a backpack or harness for any dog whether they’re reactive or not. If you’ve ever had problems getting your dog to walk calmly a good backpack or harness can work wonders.

When I use a backpack on my own reactive dog her focus changes. She’s not interested in the squirrel a mile away or all those crazy car noises. She becomes attentive to me and focuses on the job at hand – walking. The same goes for a proper harness. To keep your dog from pulling buy a harness that clips in the front; when you use a back clip harness it’s actually encouraging your dog to pull more.

It Gets Better With Practice and Consistency

It’s embarrassing and frustrating to walk a reactive dog, but it can get better. With dog training as with many other things you get what you put in, and one size doesn’t fit all. Not all techniques will work for you and your dog. Find the tricks that work best to keep your dog calm and relaxed on walks. With enough quality training you’ll find that you’ve got yourself a much closer bond with your dog and not to mention a more relaxed walking buddy.

Once you start to see improvements you’ll notice that you’re able to focus more on the walk, rather than the reactive dog at your side. Eventually you might even find yourself able to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the scenery.

reactive dog walk

Look at these non reactive, happy dogs/This Year’s Love

This post is part of the Training Tips Tuesday blog hop, hosted by DOGthusiast and TiffanysDiamond Dogs
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You and your best friend don’t have to live with pain!

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Last Few Days To Take Advantage of 10% Valentine’s Discount

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Learn More About FidoActive- here

Helpful Tips Walking With Your Reactive Dog


Best Hypoallergenic Small Dog Breeds

Best small breed hypoallergenic dogs

Today we are covering the best small breed hypollargenic dogs

Do you find yourself sneezing and having running and itching eyes and nose around dogs?  Ever wanted a four legged friend but have settled for the fact that you just can not have one due to how they affect you?  No need to pass on man’s best friend, there are many small breed hypoallergenic dogs out there for you and your family to choose from.  Here are just a few!


West Highland White Terrier: Alert, friendly and active, this would be a great addition to a family with kids.  Small in size and big on personality!  They are commonly referred to as a ‘Westie’ or ‘Westy’. Westies have a lifespan of about 12-16 years. They do require grooming due to their long hair, but do not shed.

Small Breed Hypoallergenic dogs: Schnauzer

Schnauzer: Another great choice for families with children.  By nature, they are protective and energetic.  A small watchdog, they will alert your family of any intruder or danger.  The downside is to this protective nature is persistent barking.  Early training is encouraged.  Schnauzers do not shed and you have three sizes to choose from; giant, standard and miniature.

Yorkshire Small Breed Hypoallergenic dogs

Yorkshire Terrier: This is the perfect choice for those who may be lacking a yard for their new friend to run in.  These guys are perfectly content playing indoors with you and cuddling up in your lap, but don’t worry, you won’t end up covered in dog hair as these little guys do not shed and have minimal dander.  Due to their long hair, they do require lots of brushing to keep them soft and free of knots. Read our Yorkshire Terrier Breed complete feature.

Small Breed Hypoallergenic dogs: Poodle

Poodle: Poodles are great dogs and what you may not know is that, like the Schnauzer, have three sizes to choose from; standard, mini and toy.  Whatever size you choose, they do not shed, but do require lots of grooming.  Poodles are a great family choice as they are easy to train!  If you are not quite taken with a Poodle, you can try the Labradoodle; a labrador body but with the Poodle coat. Either way you will still be comfortable when it comes to your allergies.

Shih Tzu Small Breed Hypoallergenic dogs

Shih Tzu: Now, not all dogs are kid-friendly, and this is one of them.  They tend to be jealous of babies and toddlers.  While they do require lots of grooming due to their long hair, they do not shed.  A smaller breed, so they do well in apartment living, or a place where you do not have access to a yard at all times.

chinese crested Small Breed Hypoallergenic dogs

Chinese Crested: This small dog can be found by your side, as they can be sort of clingy in nature.  Your family will be free of dog hair, as this little one does not shed and produces little dander.  Very good with kids, the Chinese Crested is a great addition to your family as they are playful, happy and sweet-tempered by nature. Read our Chinese Crested dog breedfeature.

This is just a short list of small breed hypoallergenic dogs that are wonderful for people with allergies.   Dogs are a great addition to any family.  They help you stay active and are wonderful companions for the kids.  Do you or a family member have allergies and have chosen a new four legged friend not listed?  Let us know in the comments section!

You and your best friend don’t have to live with pain!

Our product covers dogs of all ages and breeds, which encounter joint problems with age, need some post-op help to regain mobility or highly active dogs suffering from joint inflammation and pain after a hard day on the job or the trail. FidoActive Advanced Hip and Joint Supplement for Dogs supports joint health for dogs to get your four-legged friend back on their paws again. Get Fido active again the simple, safe way and treat your dog to a long & active life! Shop now and enjoy 10% off!!!

Last Few Days To Take Advantage of 10% Valentine’s Discount

Coupon Code : K37RCTMZ

Amazon Link – here

Learn More About FidoActive- here

Best Hypoallergenic Small Dog Breeds


Walk Your Dog Day!

Grab a leash and hit the streets, National Walk your Dog day is February 22. Whether you have a dog, a cat, or just like to get outside for a stroll, a daily walk comes with a number of benefits. It is a great excuse to go outside and get some extra exercise, and now with charitable apps like Wooftrax’s Walk for a Dog App, you can give back to your local shelter at the same time. Dr. Kerri Marshall, veterinarian and chief veterinary officer at Trupanion highlights some of the best reasons to walk with your pet.

#1 – A daily walking routine keeps both you and your pet healthy.

Dogs need exercise in order to stay healthy in the long run, and the same is true for people. Regular walks can help reduce destructive behavior, maintain a pet’s healthy weight, and help your pet stay mentally happy and healthy.

Image source: @FaceMePLS via Flickr

Image source: @FaceMePLS via Flickr

#2 – Walks are a great way to bond with your pet and get them the exercise they need.

Walking with your pet helps solidify the bond you have and allows you to experience new environments together. Dogs that are walked in new places meet new people and experience new things, which makes them a better socialized and good canine citizens.

Image source: @FaceMePLS via Flickr

Image source: @FaceMePLS via Flickr

#3 – A daily walk lets you and your pet get the social interaction you both need.

Both dogs and people are social beings that need to get out regularly. Some dogs can benefit from spending time with other dogs, and an occasional trip to a designated dog park can be a great way to socialize. Pets are also a good icebreaker when meeting new people.

Image source: @SkirtPR via Flickr

Image source: @SkirtPR via Flickr

#4 – Walking reduces stress and relieves anxiety in both people and pets.

Walking a pet has been shown to reduce blood pressure and boost the immune system. In addition, petting a dog or cat can calm frayed nerves and alleviate stress. Pets also benefit mentally and physiologically from some exercise and time spent outside.

Image source: @TonyFischer via Flickr

Image source: @TonyFischer via Flickr

#5 – Giving back is as simple as taking a walk.

Wooftrax’s Walk for a Dog app allows you to raise money for shelter pets simply by taking a stroll. Whether or not you have a pet, a simple walk around the block can help you earn much-needed funds for a local shelter of your choice. Looking to give back to a local shelter simply by taking a stroll? You can download Walk for a Dog for your Android or iPhone.

You and your best friend don’t have to live with pain!

Our product covers dogs of all ages and breeds, which encounter joint problems with age, need some post-op help to regain mobility or highly active dogs suffering from joint inflammation and pain after a hard day on the job or the trail. FidoActive Advanced Hip and Joint Supplement for Dogs supports joint health for dogs to get your four-legged friend back on their paws again. Get Fido active again the simple, safe way and treat your dog to a long & active life! Shop now and enjoy 10% off!!!

Last Few Days To Take Advantage of 10% Valentine’s Discount

Coupon Code : K37RCTMZ

Amazon Link – here

Learn More About FidoActive- here

Walk Your Dog Day!


Spoil Your Dog On Pet Day

Love Your Pet Day is Saturday, and although you may have never heard of it, it’s not too late to celebrate. Here are nine ways to spoil your pet.

Woman holding puppy photo

Veejay Villafranca

>> Read more trending stories

Dating service for pets

Sure, your pet may love your companionship, but there is nothing like another cat or dog being there. Give your pet a chance at love or friendship byconnecting them on a dating site. You may meet a new friend or companion yourself.

Pet stroller

This may sound obnoxious, but hear us out. It’s very useful and you don’t have to spend a ton of money to go on a neighborhood walk, or stroll, with your pet. Plus, there is a stroller for everyone: some look like baby strollers, others roll like two-wheel suitcases and some have a detachable carrier so you can carry your puppy, kitty, bunny or other suitable pet around.

Cat cottage

When a standard kitty condo won’t do, you can pamper your cat or cats with an entire house. At $1,004.99, this kitty house is pricey, but isn’t spoiling your cat worth it? You have the option of adding a porch and deck, heat and heated mats and AC. A comforting getaway house for your pet doesn’t have a price.

Pet massages

Pets need some pampering too. What better way than a relaxing dog massage? If your dog doesn’t mind being held and handled, this could be a good option at $85 for a session of 50 minutes. But it doesn’t have to be something you pay for. There are simple massages you can do at home.

Doggie perfume

Freshen up your dog after a bath with a tiny spritz of vanilla musk. Don’t worry. It’s a unisex fragrance for male or female dogs. You could even do this after that dog massage.

Pet nail polish

Hear us out: painting nails can be therapeutic and relaxing for humans, why not for dogs too? If nothing else, you can dress up your pups’ paws a bit. It doesn’t have to be one solid color, either. Nail art works too.

Pet monitor

If your pet is especially close to you, keep the bond strong even when you’re away. By talking, playing with and watching your pet on a $199 monitor, you and your pet can enjoy each other’s company wherever you are.

Beer for pets

You read that right. If you can unwind with a beer, why can’t your dog or cat have a beer too? Don’t worry about the alcohol — there is none and there are no hops or carbonation. This doesn’t have to be a regular thing. Just a treat. Plus, you can get your pet on the label for $34.

A glamorous collar

Spoiling your pet doesn’t always come cheap, but if you can spare $150,000, why not indulge your beloved pooch with a once-in-a-lifetime diamond collar? With so many diamonds, you can show your pet just how much you value them.

You and your best friend don’t have to live with pain!

Our product covers dogs of all ages and breeds, which encounter joint problems with age, need some post-op help to regain mobility or highly active dogs suffering from joint inflammation and pain after a hard day on the job or the trail. FidoActive Advanced Hip and Joint Supplement for Dogs supports joint health for dogs to get your four-legged friend back on their paws again. Get Fido active again the simple, safe way and treat your dog to a long & active life! Shop now and enjoy 10% off!!!

Last Few Days To Take Advantage of 10% Valentine’s Discount

Coupon Code : K37RCTMZ

Amazon Link – here

Learn More About FidoActive- here



Things That Dog Hates On Us

dog looking sad

Dogs try to be our best friends, but boy do we ever make it difficult sometimes. Here are some of the things we do that might make dogs question whether they want to remain best buds or cut ties completely:

Using words more than body language

We’re a vocal species. We love to chatter away, even at our pets, who can’t understand the vast majority of what we’re saying. Dogs might be able to deduce what a few key words mean — walk, treat, toy, off — and maybe even learn hundreds of words as some border collies have done. But they can’t understand human language. What they rely on to figure out what we mean is our body language. Dogs have evolved to be expert readers of the human body and can figure out what you’re thinking and feeling before you even realize you’re thinking and feeling it. But we can easily send mixed signals if we are only paying attention to what our mouths are saying and not what our bodies are saying. If you go to any beginning dog training class, you’ll see plenty of people saying one thing, doing another, and a confused dog trying to figure out what in the world is wanted of them. For instance, telling a dog to “stay” while leaning forward toward the dog and holding out a hand like a traffic cop is, in body language, actually inviting the dog to come toward you. But when the dog does, she gets reprimanded for breaking her stay command. It’s all so confusing!

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A great experiment (and something that will probably have your dog sighing with relief) is to try to spend a whole day not saying a word to your dog, but communicating only with your body. You’ll realize just how much you “talk” with your body without realizing it, how to use your movements and body position to get theresponse you need from your dog during training, and how involved a conversation can be without emitting a single sound.

Hugging your dog

While you might love wrapping your arms around a furry canine friend, most dogs hate hugs. We as primates think hugs are awesome and express support, love, joy and other emotions through hugs. It’s totally normal to us to wrap our arms around something and squeeze, and it only means good things. But dogs did not evolve this way. Canids don’t have arms and they don’t hug. Rather than camaraderie, if a dog places a foreleg or paw on the back of another dog, this is considered an act of dominance. No matter your intentions with hugging, a dog is hardwired to view the act of hugging as you exerting your dominance. Many dogs will tolerate it with grace — the smiling face of the family golden retriever with a child’s arms wrapped around it comes to mind. But some dogs will feel threatened, fearful, or just flat out loathe the feeling — and in fact, a child grabbing a dog for a hug is why many dog bites occur. Also, the same dog that enjoys one person’s hug might react entirely differently with another family member who tries the same thing. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that actually enjoys or seeks out hugs.

girl hugging dog

This dog is barely tolerating a hug from the little girl. Everything about the tense mouth, eyes and ears say that this is not something the dog is enjoying, and this is a potential safety issue for the little girl. (Photo:Dwight Smith/Shutterstock)

If you’re wondering if your dog hates your hugs, just pay attention to her body language when you go in for a cuddle. Does she tense up? Lean her head away from you? Avoid even a hint of eye contact? Lick her lips? Keep her mouth closed? Pull her ears back against her head? All of these are signs that a dog is uncomfortable. Yes, even the dog licking her lips while someone snuggles her is not showing that she is overcome with love, it is showing submissive, even nervous behavior. So next time you want to go in for a hug, pay very close attention to whether or not the dog is okay with it. After all, you’re putting your face right next to a set of sharp teeth.

Petting a dog’s face or patting her head

Do you like to be patted on the head? My guess is no. Having someone reach out and tap us on the head, no matter how lovingly, is not something most of us enjoy. It’s annoying at best and painful at worst. And we really don’t want the hands of strangers reaching toward our face. If someone were to reach their hand toward your face, I’m guessing your reaction would be to pull your head back and lean away, and get a little tense about the invasion of personal space. Yet most humans think that dogs like being patted on the head. The reality is that while many dogs will put up with this if it’s someone they know and trust, most dogs don’t enjoy it. You may notice that even the loving family dog might lean away slightly when you reach for her face to pet her. She’ll let you because you’re the boss, but she doesn’t like it. It’s a personal space issue for dogs just as much as it is for us. This is why responsible parents teach their children to gently pet a dog’s back or rear, but don’t pat, and definitely don’t go for the dog’s face. If you really want to reward your dog for being awesome, don’t bang on their head, but give them a rub on their rear end right by the tail. They’ll thank you for it!

Walking up to a strange dog while looking her in the eye

We all know how powerful eye contact is. While we view steady eye contact as important, as a sign of trustworthiness or focus, we have to also be aware that eye contact can feel unnerving, uncomfortable and domineering. It’s creepy when a stranger looks us in the eye without breaking contact, especially as they’re approaching. It’s clear their attention is zeroed in, but what is their intention? We have to read the rest of their face for the cues. Eye contact is part of establishing dominance for many species, and in humans, we can use the tiniest of details about the rest of the face — the softness or hardness of the muscles around the eyes and mouth — to determine if the stare is friendly or not. And even then, it’s still creepy to have a stranger stare at us! It feels the same way for dogs. When you look a strange dog right in the eye, unblinking, you might be smiling and trying to warm up to them but the dog is probably reading it as an act of dominance or even aggression. They might display a submissive response — looking away, doing a little wiggle for pets, rolling over onto their backs — or they might start backing up and barking. Either way, for most dogs, a stranger looking it right in the eye while approaching is not a comfortable situation.

QUIZ BREAK: How fluent are you in dog-speak?

If you want to say hello to a new dog in a way that is comfortable for both of you, approach with your body angled slightly (not with your shoulders squared toward the dog), your eyes slightly averted, and speak quietly with a gentle voice. All these body language cues of friendship will help a dog understand you mean no harm. The dog might still want nothing to do with you, but at least you didn’t approach in a scary way that could cause a defensive or aggressive reaction.

Not providing structure and rules

Dogs want, need and love rules. You might think having strict rules makes life boring or unhappy for your dog. But dogs really want to know what’s what according to their leader. And really, it’s not so hard to relate as humans. Children thrive when they have a consistent set of rules to follow, and they do less well in environments that provide them a free-for-all. Think about polite, well-balanced kids you know, and the spoiled kids who lack social skills or throw temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Which set of kids are the ones with consistently enforced rules and boundaries? And which set tends to be most consistently happy? With dogs, it’s pretty much the same thing. Rules make life a lot more predictable, a lot less confusing and a lot less stressful.

And speaking of confusing, dogs don’t understand exceptions to rules. They don’t understand that they’re allowed to jump on you when you have leisure clothes on but not when you have work clothes on. They don’t understand that they’re allowed on the couch after a bath but not after coming in from a romp in the mud. Additionally, saying “No” for breaking a rule but not actually doing something to help the dog stop the behavior and learn the rule doesn’t count as enforcement. Dogs thrive when they know where the boundaries are, and when you spend time enforcing consistent boundaries with positive rewards, you also are building up their trust in you as a leader. You’re setting up conditions for a very happy dog!

Forcing your dog to interact with dogs or people she clearly doesn’t like

Just like so many other social species, dogs have their favorite friends and their enemies. It is easy to see what other dogs — and people, for that matter — that a dog wants to hang out with and those with whom she’d rather not associate. Yet, there are a lot of dog owners who go into denial about this or simply fail to read the cues their dog is giving them. It is common for overly enthusiastic owners to push their dog (sometimes literally) into social situations at dog parks when their dog would rather just go home. Or they allow strangers to pet their dog even when she is showing clear signs of wanting to be left alone.It is important to note that there is a difference between positive encouragement with shy, fearful, or reactive dogs. Taking small steps to encourage them out of their comfort zone and giving them rewards for any amount of calm, happy social behavior is important to helping them live a balanced life. But knowing the difference between gentle, rewards-based boundary pushing and forcing an interaction is vital to your dog’s safety and sanity. When dogs are pushed too far in social situations, they’re more likely to lash out with a bite or a fight. They’ve given cue after cue — ignoring, avoiding, maybe even growling — and finally they’ve had enough and give the clearest message of all with their teeth. What is possibly even worse, is that their trust in you as a protective leader is eroded, and they have an even more negative association with a park, a certain dog or person, or a general social setting. So do your dog a favor: read the body language she gives you when she doesn’t want to be around certain other individuals and don’t force it.

Going for walks without opportunity to explore and smell

There are walks, and there are walks. It’s definitely important to have a dog that knows how to walk obediently on a leash. However, it’s also important to allow a dog to have some time to explore her surroundings while walking obediently on a leash. Dogs see with their noses, and they place as much importance on their sense of smell as we humans place on our sense of vision for interpreting the world around us. It’s probably safe to say that dogs appreciate the smell of a tree trunk the way we appreciate a beautiful sunset. Dogs loathe not being able to take in their world for at least a few minutes a day, and too often we humans are focused on going on walks for the sole purpose of exercise or potty breaks. We trudge along the same old route, often without any variety or sense of leisure, and in too much of a hurry to get back home again.

dog smelling grass

The sense of smell is how a dog takes in the world, and sometimes they’re simply desperate for a chance to take a good sniff. (Photo:Csehak Szabolcs /Shutterstock)

Do your dog a favor and dedicate one of your daily walks to having a “smell walk” — going slow and letting your dog take in the world with her nose. Go somewhere entirely new, explore a different neighborhood or trail, let your dog sniff at a spot until she gets her fill, even if it’s for minutes at a time before moving forward. For helping your dog know the difference between a walk where she should be obedient and stay beside you, and a walk where she is free to explore, you can have a special backpack or harness that you use only for smell walks. Just make sure it is something very different from your usual collar and leash set-up so the different purpose for the walk is obvious to your dog. These walks are a wonderful opportunity for your dog to get some of the mental and sensory stimulation that keeps life interesting for her.

Keeping a tight leash, literally

Just as dogs are amazing at reading our body language, they’re amazing at reading our tension levels even through the leash. By keeping a tight leash on a dog, you’re raising the level of stress, frustration, and excitement for your dog, and conversely, for you. I know what you might be thinking: “I don’t want to hold a tight leash, but I have to. My dog is the one pulling, not me!” But this is why it is so important to teach a dog how to walk on a slack leash.

An amazing amount of energy is transferred between you and your dog through that little strip of canvas or leather. By keeping a loose leash, you’re letting your dog know that everything is fine and dandy, that there’s no reason to be worried or tense. With a slack leash you’re saying to your dog that you are calm and have everything under control so your dog is free to be calm as well. On the other hand, by keeping a tight leash you’re sending a message to your dog that you’re tense, nervous, on alert, ready to fight or fly, and your dog responds in kind. Just as you don’t like your dog pulling you around, it doesn’t feel good to your dog to constantly be pulled and thus cued to be on alert. They’re also well-aware that they can’t get away from you even if they think they need to. A dog that walks on a tight leash is more apt to bark or be reactive in even the most mild of social situations. But a dog that can walk on a slack leash is more likely to be calm. This is a difficult thing to master, and something the majority of dog owners can commiserate about, but it is so important to having pleasant walks with a relaxed dog.

Being tense

Tension on the leash isn’t the only way a dog can pick up how you’re feeling. You can tell when a person you’re around is feeling tense, even if you don’t realize it. Dogs have the same ability. The more stressed and wound-up you are, the more stressed and wound-up your dog is. And dogs, just like us, don’t like that feeling. You might roll your eyes, but the next time your dog is acting frustrated and tense, check in with yourself — have you been feeling that way for the last few minutes, for the last few hours, or the last few days? Your dog might just be acting as your mirror. If you need a reason to meditate, helping your dog calm down is a great one.

Being boring

You know that feeling of being stuck hanging around someone who is totally boring? Think back: remember having to be with your parents while they ran grown-up errands? None of which revolved around a toy store or park, of course. Remember that feeling of barely being able to contain yourself, of wanting to squirm and groan and complain. You couldn’t take part in the adult conversation, which was boring anyway, and you were told to sit still and hush. But oh boy did you ever want to just moooove! Just run around the block or something to break the monotony. That’s how your dog feels when you’re busy being that boring grown-up. Dogs abhor it when we’re boring. And it’s hard not to be! We get home from work and we want to unwind, to get a few chores done, to make dinner and sack out on the couch and relax. But that’s about the most annoying thing we could do to our dogs who have been waiting around all day for us to finally play with them.

If your dog is making trouble — getting into boxes or closets, eating shoes or chewing on table legs — she’s basically showing you just how incredibly bored she is. Luckily, there is a quick and easy solution to this: training games. Teaching your dog a new trick, working on old tricks, playing a game of “find it” with a favorite toy, or going out and using a walk as a chance to work on urban agility, are all ways to stimulate both your dog’s mind and body. An hour of training is worth a couple hours playing a repetitive game of fetch in terms of wearing a dog out. While of course exercise and walks are important, adding in some brain work will make your dog happy-tired. Even just 15-30 minutes of trick training a day will make a big difference.


This should be obvious, and we won’t spend too much time on it. But it’s worth pointing out because too many people still think it’s funny. Don’t bark at a dog as you pass it on the street. Don’t wave or talk to a dog that is barking at you from behind a window or door. Don’t pull on a dog’s tail. The list can go on and on, but in short, don’t do something you know makes a dog mad just because you think it’s funny. It’s not funny to the dog and can lead to some serious behavioral problems — and, perhaps deservedly, you getting to sport some new dog-shaped teeth marks.

Further reading

If you’d like to learn more about how to be a better friend to your dog, try thesegreat book recommendations. For example, in “The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs” professional behaviorist and trainer Patricia B. McConnell goes into excellent detail about the species differences between primates and canids and why dogs don’t appreciate our hugs, as well as many other great ways of understanding a dog’s perspective about the world. Meanwhile, in “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know” by Alexandra Horowitz, you’ll get a chance to see the world through a dog’s eyes and learn so much about body language, the importance of scent, and other things that will help you know more about what your dog wants out of life. And for understanding more about how clicker training and training games can help you and your dog get along better, try “Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About All Animals” by Karen Pryor. Follow the link for these and more great reads.

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