Leash Reactive Dogs

     So you have yourself a reactive dog.  That can make things a little tricky for your outdoor adventures.  Understanding that every dog is not comfortable making friends with other dogs, you have resigned to keep him away from dog parks, etc.   All you want to do is enjoy a walk with your dog around the neighborhood, at the park or the beach without being accosted by other dogs.   But then, that overly enthusiastic, crazy dog comes rushing up to meet your dog, and all hell breaks loose!  And the owner, instead of calling their dog off, will tell you “it’s ok, he’s friendly.”   Prompting you to say, “sorry but my dog isn’t,” or “my dog is aggressive” or “my dog doesn’t want to meet your dog” or “JUST CALL YOUR DOG!!”
     And now you are forced into the awkward position of making excuses, apologizing, or giving warnings about your “aggressive” dog. There are some successful strategies you can learn to help manage and take control of these situations.
     The biggest challenge you may face with your reactive dog is other dog owners.  Not having lived with a reactive dog, they may not realize what it’s like.  Always being on alert for what might be around the corner, or coming up from behind.  Never quite able to relax.  And even though it is rarely a reflection on you or your training skills, you feel responsible, embarrassed, even guilty.  And of course others may pass judgment as well. 
     You might want to consider this.  The dog who comes rushing up to your dog without being properly introduced, or even welcome, is not a dog with appropriate social skills.   Although the dog might seem friendly, he is bulldozing forward with disregard for any signals your dog may be giving, warning him not to come any closer.  Particularly if the “friendly” dog is running free, and your dog is restrained by a leash and has limited options to come forward, to investigate, or even walk away.  But he is saying “no.”
     There might be an instance when the owner of the “friendly” dog does call their dog away, but the dog refuses to come.  There is a leash law in San Luis Obispo County that states it is unlawful for any person to have their dog out in public without being securely leashed in the hand of someone who can control him…unless the dog is in an enclosed area designated for dogs.  Note, that there is no stipulation for “friendly” vs. “unfriendly” but only that everyone is responsible to control their own dog.
If you don’t have a reactive dog, then you are indeed fortunate.  But remember, there are some of us that do.   We love our dogs too, and we want to enjoy our time outdoors with them.   We will always keep them on a leash and under control.
     …But we can’t control our dogs and your dogs too.    Please teach your dog to respect our space.

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