Reactive dogs and private fields – a view…

I am prompted to talk, a little, about how we deal with dogs who have experienced some traumatic event. There is an increasing trend to ‘help’ dogs who are maybe fearful or ‘reactive’ (a much-overused term in my opinion) to keep them away from situations that cause them problems. There are many people that only exercise their dogs in private fields, away from other dogs.

I commented, recently, on an article from a national newspaper, that extolled the virtues of this type of approach. As usual, I received somewhat passive-aggressive responses from dog owners who adopt this approach. Most were along the lines of ‘how dare I offer a view that disagrees with the practice.’

Being a fully qualified canine behaviourist allows me to offer an informed view, I think. I, like many, dog owners have experienced dog attacks and some very difficult encounters over the years. Of course, I could have reacted to these events by ‘protecting’ my dog from any potential, future problems. By doing this, I would be denying my dog a full life. That means running free with other dogs and socialising fully. Dogs do not experience this by being restricted to a field, even with a few other dogs or by doing group walks where the dogs are always on the lead.

I have helped many dogs over the years with the problems cited by many of the owners who choose to keep their dogs away from others. My response is always finding ways to help a dog with its problems and, to get them to a point where they can experience a ‘full’ dog’s life.

In my experience, by working with dogs who are fearful of, or unhappy with various situations, the majority can be helped to lead a full, happy life. Of course, there will always be some exceptions.

I understand the responses of some dog owners to traumatic events. However, I know that through positively working with affected dogs that they can be helped to overcome their problems and return to a full dog’s life. That is, simply, my experience and my view.