Managing your dog's reactive behaviour

7 February 2023 - 2 min read
Dog Barking

Often confused with aggression, reactive dogs tend to over respond either excitedly or negatively to certain triggers or situations. And because there’s no quick or simple fix, it can be a really tricky issue for a lot of pet parents. 

Watch our video to learn how to recognise the signs of reactivity, and the best way to manage it, from dog behaviourist and trainer Adem Fehmi.

What does reactive behaviour look like?

The initial signs your dog is becoming reactive can often go unnoticed at first. “It might start with small things,” says Adem, “But without the proper management and rehabilitation, these behaviours can quickly get out of hand and become a danger.”

Reactive behaviours can include (but aren’t limited to): 

Many of the signs of reactivity are also the same or similar to those of dog anxiety.

What causes reactive behaviour?

Everything about reactivity, from its root causes, to its triggers, to the best ways of handling it, are completely personal to each individual dog.

For example, a dog that barks at other dogs may be doing it because of:

  • Their genetics

  • Their environment

  • Past traumas

  • Their daily routine

  • Lack of adequate exercise

  • Something else completely!

Adem says, “A great first step is to figure out what’s triggering your dog. Is it other dogs? Certain noises? Particular environments? Then, you can start considering your dog's history and figure out why it’s causing them to react.”

It’s also possible that an underlying medical issue or pain could be contributing to your dog’s reactivity. Take your pet for a vet check-up before considering your next steps.

How to manage reactive behaviour

Because reactivity can be such a complex and personal issue, the best course of action is usually to consult a professional dog trainer or behaviour expert like Adem. 

Not only will they help you determine your dog’s triggers, but they’ll personally assess your pup in their own environment to build a bespoke training plan and equip you with the right tools.

Any training should be positive in its approach and reward confident, non-reactive behaviour with plenty of treats, toys and affection. Patience, distance to triggers and lots of structure over time will be key to unlocking your dog’s confidence.

And remember, your pet insurance may be able to help with the cost. At ManyPets we include cover for behavioural treatment on all our policies, as long as you’ve been referred by a vet. Find out more information here.

Scarlett White
Senior Copywriter

Scarlett is an experienced copywriter who’s worked within a variety of industries, including health, beauty and interiors. Before joining ManyPets as Senior Copywriter in 2022 to focus on pet health, she held in-house copywriting roles at MADE.COM and Liz Earle Beauty Co. She has a penchant for puns, a love of dogs and a degree in English Literature.