Reactive - Let's be More Specific, Please!


Alright folks, I think I’ll spend today talking about a popular catch phrase in the dog training community that actually doesn’t mean a darn thing to us as professional trainers on temperament assessment and evaluation of a particular dog.

I’ve heard the term “reactive” hundreds of times when people are trying to explain their dog’s behavior to us.  It’s really vague. 

I think it’s safe to say that every living creature is reactive in some way or another.  I like to get down to the details and not use this particular catch phrase or term.  I’d like to know what you mean by “reactive.”  Is your dog play bowing (yes, to us reactive can mean good things as well because the term is so very vague), dog aggressive, is it cat aggressive, is it food aggressive, is it possessive aggressive, is your dog showing inappropriate out of context aggression?  I find that reactive is a nicer, kinder, gentler way to say there may be an underlying aggression issue.  I like to get right to the point and find out what the issue is so I best know how to deal with it and fix it.

I think there’s some folks out there that are claiming to be professionals and they are because they are taking your money.  That’s the definition of professional, is someone who gets paid for a service. But in reality we have to understand canine behavior in depth and totally, why dogs do certain things.  Is it idiopathic behavior or is it learned behavior or is it something in between?  Very often all of the dog problems we see are caused by the owners.  How they interact with the dog, how they handle the dog, lack of discipline, improper timing when it comes to praise and reward. 

Bottom line is let’s call a spade a spade so that we can get to the issues that need to be dealt with so that we can effectively work our dogs through behavioral problems.