How Long Do Dogs Live? How To Increase Your Dog’s Lifespan

How Long Do Dogs Live? How To Increase Your Dog’s Lifespan

How Long Do Dogs Live?

Dogs are part of out families and hold a special place in our hearts. Understanding their lifespan is an important part for responsible dog parenting. While the lifespan of dogs can vary significantly based on various factors, it’s essential to provide them with the best care throughout their lives.

Factors Affecting Dog Lifespan

Genetic factors wield considerable influence over the duration of a canine’s life. Additionally, factors such as size, breed, diet, exercise, and regular veterinary care can impact how long a dog lives. Larger breeds tend to have shorter lifespans compared to smaller breeds, and certain breeds are genetically predisposed to specific health conditions that can affect longevity.

Average Lifespan of Dogs

Typically, the lifespan of dogs ranges from approximately a decade to fifteen years.However, this can vary widely depending on factors like breed, size, and overall health. Some smaller breeds can live well into their teens, while larger breeds may have a shorter lifespan, typically around 8 to 12 years.

Longest Living Dog Breeds

Numerous breeds of dogs are recognized for their remarkable endurance over time.Breeds such as the Chihuahua, Dachshund, and Beagle are often among the longest-living dogs. These breeds tend to be small to medium-sized and are generally healthier with fewer genetic predispositions to serious health issues.

Shortest Living Dog Breeds

Conversely, some breeds have shorter lifespans due to genetic factors or health issues. Breeds such as the Great Dane, Saint Bernard, and Mastiff are examples of larger breeds that typically have shorter lifespans. Additionally, brachycephalic breeds like the Bulldog and Pug may face respiratory issues that can impact their longevity. 

If you are interested in rare breeds check this article: 7 most rare breeds

Ways to Increase Dog Lifespan

While genetics play a significant role, there are steps dog parents can take to help increase their dog’s lifespan. Providing a balanced diet, regular structured exercise, building resiliency, proper veterinary care, and preventive measures such as vaccinations and parasite control can all contribute to a longer, healthier life for dogs.

Quality of Life vs. Quantity of Life

While extending a dog’s lifespan is important, it’s equally crucial to prioritize their quality of life. Ensuring they are happy, mentally stimulated, and free from pain or discomfort is essential for their overall well-being. Quality of life should always be balanced with efforts to prolong lifespan. Well behaved dogs have access to more fun activities like  Off leash adventures where they enjoy freedom and enrichment in their lives.

Emotional Awareness and Mindfulness

Behavior Training and Emotional Training Regulation (ETR) can impact in a very positive way both the quantity and quality of your dog’s life. Dogs that are reactive, aggressive, fearful, anxious, insecure, overexcited or have obesessive breed traits leave less happy lives and usually shorter lives too. 

Signs of Aging in Dogs

As dogs age, they may exhibit various signs indicating they are entering their senior years. These can include graying hair, decreased mobility, changes in appetite, and alterations in behavior. Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify and address age-related health issues early on.

Caring for Senior Dogs

Senior dogs require special care and attention to maintain their health and comfort. This may involve adjusting their diet to accommodate changing nutritional needs, providing supplements for joint health, and ensuring they have a comfortable environment tailored to their age-related needs. You can find more info here at RSPCA caring for older dogs.

Emotional Human Aspects of Pet Lifespan

The bond between a pet and their owner is a special and deeply emotional connection. As dogs age, it’s natural for pet owners to experience feelings of sadness and grief as they confront the inevitable loss of their beloved companion. Finding ways to cope with this loss and honoring the memory of a cherished pet is an important part of the grieving process.

FAQs About Dog Lifespan

  • What constitutes the typical lifespan of a mongrel dog? Mixed-breed dogs generally live between 10 to 15 years, depending on various factors such as size and overall health.
  • Do smaller dogs live longer than larger dogs?  Generally, smaller dog breeds tend to live longer than larger breeds, although individual factors such as genetics and overall health also play a significant role.
  • What are some signs that my dog is entering old age? Signs of aging in dogs can include graying hair, decreased mobility, changes in appetite, and alterations in behavior.
  • How can I cope with the loss of a beloved pet?    Coping with the loss of a pet can be challenging, but finding support through friends, family, or pet loss support groups, and creating a lasting memorial for your pet can help in the grieving process.


Understanding the lifespan of dogs and the factors that influence it is essential for responsible pet ownership. By providing proper care, attention, and love throughout their lives, pet owners can ensure that their canine companions live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved February 2023

Fearful Dogs “Fear and Trauma in Dogs: Causes, Signs, and Treatment”

Fearful Dogs “Fear and Trauma in Dogs: Causes, Signs, and Treatment”

When your beloved dog is scared or acting fearful, it tugs at your heartstrings. Whether it’s suddenly cowering when you pull out the leash or bolting/running away in a panic state for safety, fear and anxiety prevents fearful dogs from fully enjoying life. While some apprehension is normal, excessive or irrational fearfulness points to trauma. The good news is that with patience and the right approach, you can help your frightened pup leave the past behind.

Lets explore the causes, the importance of reading and understanding the signs early on and the the different ways we can help fearful dog overcome it!

What Are Traumatic Experiences For Fearful Dogs?

Trauma happens when dogs experience frightening or dangerous events causing intense mental stress. Even a single distressing incident can have lasting effects, especially if it happens during crucial developmental stages. Like humans, dogs can suffer from trauma. Without proper treatment, the fear, the anxiety, memories, and bad associations can persist for months or even years. 

It’s crucial to understand there are two different kinds of trauma: Soft trauma and Hard trauma.

What’s the difference between Soft Trauma and Hard Trauma in Fearful Dogs?

In simple terms soft trauma can be overcome much faster than hard trauma. I’ll give you a case study examples later. But let’s dive in.

The difference between soft trauma and hard trauma is based on three different factors: 

1.The intensity of the immediate emotional response exhibited by your dog. This factor is crucial, as each dog may react differently to traumatic events. How your dog perceives and responds to the traumatic incident will determine the intensity of the emotional reaction, rather than the event itself. For instance, if a baby gate falls and produces a loud noise, two different dogs may react in vastly different ways. Dog A, named Zoey, might startle for a moment and then quickly recover, whereas Dog B, Smokey, might flee and seek refuge in a state of panic. Although the event itself may not pose an existential threat to either dog, the emotional responses of each pup vary significantly.

2. The immediate aftermath of the trauma. Following a traumatic event, two outcomes are possible: Fear reinforcement or fear addressing. Fear reinforcement can occur in two ways: 1 through punishment or 2 excessive sympathy. Punishing fear can exacerbate the dog’s distress, while showering it with pity may inadvertently reinforce the fear. Addressing fear involves confronting the same event in a safe environment, akin to encouraging a fallen rider to get back on a horse.

3, The repetition of the traumatic event. If a traumatic event recurs frequently, what initially may have been classified as a soft trauma can escalate into hard trauma over time.

Soft Trauma.

Soft Trauma incidents typically occur infrequently, provoke low-intensity emotional responses, and result in avoidance behaviors.

Soft trauma can be misleading, as it often manifests with dramatic and intense emotional responses in dogs. However, an expert observer can discern the subtleties.

Here are some examples of Soft Trauma: 

– Accidents such as your dog falling down the stairs one or two times. 

– Getting stuck in a crate while attempting to enter or exit.

– Fear of “ghost thresholds”. Such as doorways, apartment building lobbies, specific sections of a sidewalk. The term “ghost” is used because often there’s no discernible reason for the fear.

Hard Trauma.

Hard Trauma on the other hand, involves a more intense emotional response that can become deeply ingrained in the dog’s psyche, requiring more time to overcome.

Common sources of trauma in dogs include:

  • Physical abuse like being kicked, punched, yelled at, struck with objects, etc. This type occurs in animals from puppy mills or abusive homes.

  • Accidents such as getting hit by cars, falls, work/hunting injuries, bites from wildlife or unfamiliar dogs. city dwellers face more vehicle trauma while rural pups encounter wildlife.
  • Medical trauma from painful examinations/procedures, injuries needing emergency vet care, blood draws, hospitalization. These can leave mental wounds even after physical recovery.
  • Natural disasters like fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes. Getting left behind or displaced from owners during catastrophic events is extremely disturbing.

The younger the dog when the trauma happens, the deeper and longer-lasting the impact will be since their brains are still developing resiliency. However, frightened behaviors can emerge at any age after scary incidents.

What Signs Will Your Fearful Dog Exhibit?

While occasional, minor fears are perfectly normal, deeply traumatized dogs exhibit more severe, chronic signs of anxiety including:

  • Cowering, trembling, hiding. This demonstrates general feelings of fear about surroundings even without obvious triggers.
  • Escaping or destructive behaviors when left alone. They panic without their person nearby for safety and comfort.
  • Nightmares like crying, running, or biting in their sleep. This suggests terrifying flashbacks.
  • Excessive barking or whining. Traumatic overexcitement of their nervous system puts them on high alert.
  • Compulsive behaviors like tail chasing, shadow staring, floor licking. These repetitive actions self-soothe their anxiety.

The severity ranges from situational fearfulness up to completely shutting down and refusing walks, play, or human interaction. The longer bad associations go unchecked, the more ingrained they become. But no matter how long it’s been, healing is always possible!

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Afraid? Causes of Environmental Fears

Dogs normally react to loud noises, novel sights and sounds, or unfamiliar experiences with mild caution that abates once they see there’s no real danger. But when those initial startle reactions turn into longer-term phobias and seemingly irrational avoidance behaviors, trauma may be at play.

Common environmental triggers for sustained fear responses are:

Noises. Dogs have sensitive hearing, so very loud noises like fireworks, thunderstorms, construction sounds, or even applause can be physically painful and create associations between those auditory cues and danger signals sent to their amygdala about potential threats in the environment even if there are none.

Places.If something bad happened to your dog at the vet clinic, a kennel/shelter, or the grooming salon even just once, they may come to view entering those sites the same way a human would view returning to the scene of an attack – with heart-racing anxiety.

Objects. Things that shift suddenly, make unpredictable noises or block their vision like umbrellas, balloons, plastic bags rustling in the wind, bicycles, or skateboards. Even home decor like large displays or statues can be disturbing if noticed unexpectedly.

Surface Changes. Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell for feeling safe. So new carpeting, floors, furniture with different textures or appearances can stress them out until it becomes familiar.

Riding In Cars. The motions and sounds of vehicle travel can cause nausea, disorientation, even vertigo-like sensations leading to associating the car with those uncomfortable feelings.

New People. Dogs sometimes can distrust unfamiliar people. Evolutionary pressure from their wolf ancestors can trigger protective, self defense and self-preservation adaptation creating anxiety and fear against new people. Without proper socialization, those instincts can kick into overdrive around strangers, folks wearing hats, the elderly, men with deep voices, crying babies – leading to defensive aggressive reactions.

Other Animals. Even cats and smaller pets create conflict for some dogs. Territorialness, jealousy over resources, or predatory drive can amplify fearful reactivity to other animals.

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Afraid Of Me Or My Family?

While people represent safety and comfort to most pups when raised with proper bonding, some still develop debilitating fears of humans for a variety of reasons:

Poor Socialization. Like mistrust of strangers, lacking positive exposures to people during puppyhood can manifest later around kids, seniors, bearded or physically impaired humans.

Previous Abuse. Dogs abused by former owners or shelter/rescue staff may transfer expectations of cruelty onto even beloved family members later – flinching from normal reaching or hovering behaviors misconstrued as violence.

Traumatic Handling. Well-meaning restraint like nail trims, giving medication or vet examinations can instill human-directed bites and other defensive actions in the future. Force should always be an absolute last resort for any animal handling.

Dog PTSD. As with noises or objects, any upsetting event that transpires while humans are present shapes assocations between those people and panic responses so that seeing individuals who merely resemble the original person can induce cowering, hiding, freezing or furious self-protection.

Genetics & Early Life. Highly sensitive dogs bred for watchdog jobs tend towards more inherent suspicion and hyperreactivity due to artificial breed manipulation selected for those traits. And as mentioned early, disturbing exposures during the first 16 weeks when their cognition and coping mechanisms are forming can have permanent impacts.

How To Heal Your Dog’s Trauma Response

The key to overcoming trauma is rebuilding confifdence and resiliency through Behavior Modification. Rushing the process or flooding dogs past tolerable levels often backfires. The key is break it down into smalls steps where you rehearse susscesfull exposures while your dog keeps making progress. 

Two Tailoring Solutions for two Different Responses

There are two different approaches to help with fear depending if your dog shuts down and freezes or if your dog goes into flight mode and runs for safety. 

1-Freezing and Shutting down 

When your dog shuts down and freezes you need to get her excited and encourage her to keep moving to overcome her anxiety and fear. Movement and excitement will buildi momentum and will change the state of mind of your fearful dog. This will allowed your dog to experience the previous traumatic event in a different emotional state and will change the association. 

2- Panicking and Running away. 

Dogs panic and run away because they want to bolt back home for safety . They go into flight mode. Here we need to calm them down and remove the excitement/anxiety. The goal is to slow the brain down so they learns to walk back home calmly and without stressin. Home is a place to relax not a place to hide.

Both approaches lead to the same goal: putting your dog in a calm and controlled state of mind where they are neither shutting down or running away. 

Long-term success requires:

Patience Over Punishment. Needless to say that corrections, yelling or tools like prong collars or e collars are not going to help. Instead remain calm, gently guide them to safer distances without coddling and keep trying in incremental steps successfully.

Resiliency Training. Building up resiliency by doing exercises where you expose triggers at low intensity where your dog can easily overcome fear. For example if your dog is afraid of the stairs, start with just one step and build up from there.

Confidence Building Through excitement. If your dog is shutting down, boost courage through excitement and stimulating the brain to engage in activity before presenting the trigger and before your dog shuts down. As inner resilience grows, external areas will seem less intimidating.

Confidence Building Through Calmness. If your dog goes into  “flight”, meaning running for safety, you need to slow your dog’s brain down into calmness.

Counterconditioning Triggers. Using food like peanut butter, spray cheese, hot dogs or other enticing treats to shift associations from scary to happy will help with certain mild cases of dogs and only after resiliency training and confidence building. Treats are good reinforces but they will not build resiliency or confidence on your dog.

Example of a Fearful Dog Case Study:

In the following example Lassie (I´ve changed the dog´s name for privacy) developed fear of stairs because he fell. This is an example of a Soft Trauma event that if it was left untreated would’ve easily morphed into Hard Trauma. 

In this case we were dealing with a dog freezing and shutting down. Prior to this incident we already worked on Resiliency Training and Confidence Building which are an integrated part the Pawmos Dog Training Method 

Question: (Lassie´s Mom)

¨We recently put up child gates at our stairs. This past Wednesday, after the gates had been up for about a week, Lassie ran right into the gate and then partially fell down the stairs. I wasn’t home, but my husband was and he said that Lassie then tried again to run through the gate and he feel down the stairs again. He did not have any physical injuries, but now he is terrified of the stairs. He will run downstairs, but he will not come up unless I literally carry him. He’ll be shaking as he reaches the top. I feel so awful! Things that usually trigger him to dash upstairs aren’t working (treats, his dinner. the doorbell ringing).

Do you have any advice for what we can do??¨


¨There is a couple of things you can do. The first thing to do is to know if he is afraid of the stairs or of the gate. This is very important. 

If it´s the gate: Remove the gate and walk Lassie upstairs on the leash. Do it a couple of times. If you are in the middle of the stairs and he is still a little bit unsure go down and try it again. Kind of like baby steps. Once he is comfortable doing that, do the same but with the gate. Once he can do it with the gate several times try to do it without the leash.

If it´s the stairs, make sure you put a rug or something that ´s not slippery on the stairs. Put him at  the end two steps of the stairs (carry him) and block the way down with a gate. So the only way is up. Do baby steps until he is comfortable doing it alone the whole stairs.

Use the leash communication we went over when I first saw you. Do not drag him, but don´t let him fly away. Be very calm and confident yourself. Think this way while you are helping him: you know he can do it, because this is something new. You just need to remove the fear. 

Let me know how it goes. I´m confident you can figure it out! – Have a great day!¨

Lassie´s Mom – :

“IT WORKED! The minute we did the stairs with the leash, he was then able to do them on his own. Thank you so much!”

The reason why it worked so fast is because Lassie´s Mom already knew the VML method, know how to communicate with the leash and with her body language and energy. What’s funny is that she first tried with external tools like treats, dinner or even the door bell and didn’t think about what she already learnt with us.

This is just one example of the importance of mastering the VML Method ,leash communication and the walk. Your body language and energy is much more powerful than what you think when you know what you are doing.

Overcoming a dog’s fears and anxieties requires knowledge, persistence, and a tailored action plan. Understanding whether your dog is experiencing soft or hard trauma will guide the best techniques. Building resilience through gradual, strategic exposures and maintaining a calm demeanor are key.

With a thorough grasp of the root causes, early recognition of warning signs, and implementation of the right solutions, you can transform your dog’s life. Proper behavior modification training will help overcome even deep-seated trauma. A happier, more relaxed dog awaits when trauma is addressed through an empathetic, knowledgeable approach that enriches their quality of life.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved Feb 2024

(2024 update) What is Dog Reactivity? 6 Deadly Mistakes When Training Your Reactive Dog

(2024 update) What is Dog Reactivity? 6 Deadly Mistakes When Training Your Reactive Dog

What Is Dog Reactivity?


Dog reactivity is a common behavioral problem that many dog parents have to deal with. It can be a challenging experience because it’s a behavior that is not well understood by many dog trainers. 

In this article I’ll explain what exactly dog reactivity is, what are 7 common mistakes you don’t want to make, what to do do when your dog shows reactive behaviors and how to overcome it. I’ll explore the nuances of dog reactivity, providing insights into its causes, signs, and effective training methods. With the right understanding and training, you can help your pup overcome reactive behavior.

Understanding the basics of dog reactivity is the first step towards addressing this issue. Dog reactivity refers to an exaggerated response to certain stimuli, often leading to aggressive behavior. An example of a stimuli could be an encounter with other dogs, people, or  specific objects like bikes, scooters etc. Reactive behavior may include barking, lunging, growling, or other signs of distress.


Dog Reactivity vs Dog Aggression

Understanding the nuances between reactivity and aggression in dogs is crucial for effective training and appropriate management. While these two words are often used interchangeably, they represent distinct behavioral responses with different underlying motivations.

While reactive behavior involves an exaggerated response to a stimuli or trigger, aggression is a deliberate attempt to cause harm. 

Reactive Behavior:

Reactivity in dogs refers to an exaggerated response to specific stimuli, such as other dogs, strangers, or loud noises. Reactive behavior is often rooted in overstimulation, fear or anxiety. It is a defensive reaction with the purpose of creating distance from the perceived threat. Common signs of reactive behavior include barking, lunging, growling, or other signs of distress.

Characteristics of Reactive Behavior:

  • Triggered Response: Reactive behavior is a response to a specific trigger, and the intensity of the reaction varies based on the dog’s perception of the threat. This triggers can be other dogs, strangers, loud noises, moving objects or stationary objects.

  • Intent to Avoid or Remove the Trigger: The primary goal of reactive dogs is to create distance from the trigger rather than causing harm. The behavior is driven by a desire to escape or remove the perceived threat or stimuli.

  • Emotional Response: Reactive behavior is often driven by an automatic emotional response to a perceived threat, and it may not involve a deliberate attempt to harm.

Reactive dogs are only activated by specific triggers in specific situations. Very commonly in urban areas is caused by a restrainer not by the stimuli. An example of this is leash Rectivity. Which caused by the lack of leash communication skills on the human.

Another example of a restrainer is a window or a fence: two dogs barking and lunging at each other on different sides of the fence. When you remove the fence they are perfectly fine with each other. The combination of the fence with a stimuli, in this case the other dog, triggers the reactivity. What happens here is that the fence is physically restraining the interaction. One of the dogs starts getting frustrated to the point where it gets over threshold or red zone and triggers the reactivity. 

I want to point out that a reactive dog that gets over threshold or into red zone can become aggressive and create harm and bite. But the intention was never to create harm. The reason why it becomes aggressive is because they get out of control and over threshold. 

Aggressive Behavior:

Aggression, on the other hand, involves a deliberate attempt to cause harm, whether to a person, another animal, or an object. Aggressive behavior is not always linked to a specific trigger, and it may occur without apparent provocation. Understanding the motivations behind aggression is essential for developing an appropriate training and management plan.

Characteristics of Aggressive Behavior:

  • Intent to Cause Harm: Aggressive behavior is characterized by a deliberate attempt to harm, either defensively or territorially.
  • No Specific Trigger: Aggression may occur without a specific trigger, and the behavior is not necessarily linked to a specific stimulus.
  • Different Body Language: Aggressive body language may include stiff posture, raised hackles, exposed teeth, and a direct stare. The dog may display a more offensive response compared to reactive behavior.

Aggressive behavior may require more extensive behavior modification training and professional guidance.I t’s important to note that a dog may exhibit both reactive and aggressive behaviors depending on the context and the specific trigger. Seeking the guidance of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can help accurately assess your dog’s behavior and develop a tailored training plan to address any underlying issues.

Figuring Out Your Dog’s Reactivity Triggers

When dealing with reactivity Identifying the specific triggers that set off your dog’s reactive behavior is crucial for effective training. Observing your dog in different situations and environments can help pinpoint these triggers. Common triggers include:

  • Other Dogs: Many dogs display reactivity towards other dogs, whether on walks, at the dog park, or through windows at home.
  • Strangers: Some dogs may react aggressively to unfamiliar people, particularly if they approach too quickly or make direct eye contact.
  • Loud Noises: Thunderstorms, fireworks, loud bikes or other loud noises can trigger reactive behavior in some dogs.
  • Specific Objects: Dogs might react to certain objects, such as bicycles, skateboards, hats or even specific colors.

6 Deadly Mistakes When Training Your Reactive Dog

Training a reactive dog requires a savy and nuanced strategy. Avoiding common mistakes is crucial for successful training. Here are six deadly mistakes to steer clear of:

#1 Thinking It Will Go Away By Itself

One of the biggest mistakes is thinking that your dog’s reactivity will naturally go away. Reactive behavior tends to get worse because it’s self reinforced. Proactive and consistent successful training is necessary.

#2 Not Having a Game Plan

Failing to plan ahead can put you and your dog on situations where you can’t scape. Sometimes this can be dangerous and the very least your dog will get worse since he keep rehearsing those reactive behaviors.Planning ahead involves identifying potential triggers in different environments and having a strategy in place to navigate these situations. 

#3 Not Regulating Trigger Intensity

Exposing your dog to triggers at an intensity that exceeds their threshold will worsen reactivity. Gradual exposure, a controlled sate of mind, and calm reinforcement are crucial components of effective training. Pushing your dog too far too quickly may result in setbacks and increased stress levels.

#4 Not Being Consistent in Your Training

Consistency and success is the cornerstone of dog training, especially when dealing with reactivity. Inconsistencies in your approach and skills can confuse your dog and will delay progress.  You will also loose your dogs trust.

#5 Being Stationary or Making Your Dog Sit Down

Reactive dogs close to their threshold rarely find comfort in being stationary or sitting down while staring directly at their trigger. Forcing your dog into a stationary position can increase anxiety and exacerbate reactive behavior. Instead, focus on creating distance, de-escalating techniques, and desensitization to encourage calm behavior.

#6 Punishing Reactivity

Punishing reactive behavior is a common mistake that can have detrimental effects on your dog’s well-being and exacerbate the issue. Punishing is based on fear of consequence, so even you manage to suppress it you are not solving the underlying issue. Behavior Training is based on teaching your dog to cope and and self regulate their emotional responses to triggers which actually solves the underlying issue short term and long term.

Remember that patience, understanding, and a deep bond between you and your dog are key components of a successful training journey.

Counterconditioning and Desensitization

Counterconditioning and desensitization are powerful training techniques to modify your dog’s reactive behavior. These methods focus on changing your dog’s emotional response to the triggers by associating positive experiences with them.


Desensitization involves gradually exposing your dog to the trigger at a level that doesn’t provoke a reactive response. Start at a distance where your dog remains calm and gradually decrease the distance over time. This helps your dog become desensitized to the trigger.


Counterconditioning involves pairing the presence of the trigger with something positive. For example, if your dog is reactive to other dogs, you can reward calm behavior in the presence of another dog with treats, gradually creating a positive association. Many times this can be counterproductive since the treats can create more stimulus and you can break your dogs calm behavior. Sometimes less is more. 

Combining these techniques in a controlled and systematic manner is essential for success. Consistency, progress and Timing are key!

What To Do When Your Dog Shows Reactive Behavior

When your dog exhibits reactive behavior, it’s essential to respond appropriately to manage the situation and prevent escalation. Here are some tips for handling reactive episodes:

1. Stay Calm:

Dogs can pick up on their owner’s emotions. Stay calm and composed to help prevent your dog from becoming more agitated.

2. Use De-escalation Techniques:

Redirect your dog’s attention and eye contact away from the trigger.  This helps break the focus on the trigger and will start calming your dog down de-escalting the situation.

3. Create Distance:

Increase the distance between your dog and the trigger to a level where your dog calms down. This can help avoid a full-blown reactive episode.

5. Remove the Trigger:

If possible, remove your dog from the situation causing reactivity. This may involve changing your walking route, crossing the street, or creating a physical barrier.

Remember that punishment is not an effective solution for reactive behavior. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and training techniques to address the underlying causes.

How to Reduce Reactive Behavior

Reducing reactive behavior in dogs requires a multifaceted approach. Here are some effective strategies:

1. Early Intervention:

Addressing reactive behavior as early as possible increases the likelihood of successful intervention. Puppies, in particular, can benefit from early socialization and behavior training.

2. Behavior Training:

Implementing Behavior Training is key. Reactivity is not something you want to correct, is some thing you don’t want to occur in first place. You need to help your dog before the behavior happens not after. Self control training techniques will help mold your dog’s behavior. Reinforcing controlled emotional responses and self control by providing good guidance will create a stronger bond between you and your dog.

3. Consistent Training Routine:

Dogs thrive on routine, and consistency is key when training a reactive dog. Establish a daily training routine that includes successful focused sessions to maintain well mannered behavior consistently. Success is not how much you can push it until you get a reaction. Success is how much you can push it without getting any reaction. 

4. Identifying and Managing Triggers:

Understanding and managing your dog’s triggers is essential. This gives a chance to to proactive training instead of reactive training Avoidance of triggers and gradual exposure under threshold is key.

5. Professional Training Help:

Seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist with field experience can speed the process considerably. They can assess your dog’s behavior, identify triggers, and create a custom  training plan.

6. Use of Desensitization and Counterconditioning:

Desensitization involves gradually exposing your dog to their triggers in a controlled state of mind. Once your archived that you can use counterconditioning to focuses on changing your dog’s emotional response to those triggers. Combining these methods can be highly effective in reducing reactivity.

7. Provide Structured Mental Activities :

Provide structured activities and exercise where your dog does some mental self control work. Mental structured activities usually involve slower pace and more thinking, where your dog can learn coping skills and social skills. This is not to be confused with more mental stimulation (since stimlus is the problem) or obedience training. You can read here more about what is the difference between Behavior Training and Obedience Training.

Can Dog Reactivity Get Better?

Dog reactivity is very often something that can be overcome at a high success rate. The outcome for improving dog reactivity largely depends on two factors, the dog’s intensity of the behavior and the consistency of successful training. In some rare cases a complete fade out of reactive behavior may not always be achievable, but even in those cases significant improvement is possible with dedicated training and management strategies.

      As we’ve discussed, a more informed approach to understanding and addressing dog reactivity can yield faster, more effective, and meaningful results, all while strengthening the bond with your dog. By distinguishing between dog reactivity and aggression, learning about common mistakes to avoid, understanding what to do when your dog exhibits reactive behaviors, and discovering ways to overcome it, you are now equipped with better tools to tackle this challenge.

Success is measured by achieving controlled emotional responses and self-control, emphasizing a proactive approach to behavior training.

         © Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved Feb 2024