Have you happened to notice more and more dogs are reactive these days when you're walking your dog around the neigborhood? To a large extent one could argue the reason we're seeing more reactivity in dogs in the city is because of our environment. Dogs are not getting enough exercise.
Sure, the reactive dog you see around could have been adopted through a rescue and never trained, had a bad experience, be recovering from a recent operation and on and on. The fact of the matter is Dogs need to exercise. They need physical and mental exercise every day. They NEED to expend energy and when they can't (because they are cooped up in a small condo all day) they end up channeling their energy into a rude greeting or overly excited greeting that is not well received.
Essentially there are limited spaces for our dogs to run around and get their ya yas out here in the city. Sue Sternberg talked about this a few months ago at one of her workshops on Dog Dog Aggression I attended. She's ABSOLUTELY right. So what to do? Well there are options. You could move out to the burbs, take a Class offered in a safe and controlled environment where your pet can think and get exercise or yes, take your dog to the dog park.
Take your dog to the Park:
Yes if you must, take your dog to a local dog park BUT be smart about it. Supervise your pet when you take them to the dog park. Please don't be on your phone talking or texting. Don't use the time to catch up with your friend and sip your latte. Play with your dog. Watch your dog AND more important learn when to INTERRUPT your dog if they are being bad. Or, help your dog when and if they are being bullied. Bullied you question? Yes bullied. When dogs are running after each other it's not always cute. Often times whate we primates perceive as cute play is BULLYING! And, depending on your pets age if you're not careful the experience could instill fear and worse create behavioral problems where your pet then becomes a bully or fearful of all dogs and REACTIVE. Oy vey! So yes, essentially we create these reactive dogs by either not taking them out to exercise or taking them out to the wrong places to exercise.
So whats a dog owner to do? Take time to learn more about how dogs communicate, what a predetory sequence is, what their actions mean. Sue Sternberg developed an iTunes application called Dog Park Assistant which you can find on iTunes for ONLY 99 cents. It is absolutely brilliant. It describes what dog behaviors there are, what they look like through pictures and there are videos that show you exactly what it looks like. I am NOT a fan of Dog Parks but I do recognize they are a neccessity especially living in the city where we have limited space for Rover to run free. Check out DOG PARK ASSISTANT iTunes application here
Take your dog to a local Agility or Competition Class:
If you need a place that offers a safe, controlled and fun place to exercise your dog, one of my favorite places to join for classes is the New England Dog Training Club (NEDTC.org, full disclosure I am a trainer at and member of the club). They offer AKC Canine Good Citizen exercises taught in Step classes 1-4, Rally, Novice and Utility/Open. For more information check out the www.nedtc.org site here.
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