What are Reactive Behaviors?
Reactivity in dogs is a complex and, at times, complicated issue that requires patience and time to overcome. While any dog can develop reactive behavior because of developmental, environmental, and medical causes, certain breeds, like terriers and shepherding breeds, are more likely to exhibit reactive behavior. Some dogs with reactive behavior can be managed with training and behavior conditioning. However, certain dogs might require additional assistance like anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication to control their behavior and achieve their full potential.
Animals that are hyper-reactive in response to certain stimuli are often referred to as reactive. Through training, reactive dogs tend to change into calmer and more relaxed pets, but medication could be suggested in certain instances.
Reactive dogs can be challenging to manage. It can be challenging to go for walks or parks or public areas. Most likely, you do not frequently invite guests to your home in worry about how your dog will behave when they are around.
Signs of Reactive Behavior in dogs
There are a variety of behaviors that could signal that your dog is nervous or in a state of heightened anxiety. The most common of these include:
- Body Tense and forward or low
- Intense stare
- Lips that are licked or muzzle
- Looking away
- Sudden scratching
- Tail between legs
- Teeth bared
- Urination when it is approached
- The eyes’ whites are pink or red
- Eyes with whites showing
Types of Reactive Behavior in dogs
Dogs can be reactive to any object or situation. Some are more prone to being triggered more frequently than others. Fairly common reactivity types are:
Dogs may be reactive to the breed they belong to. In some instances, canines are reactive to all other dogs. However, they might react to a particular type of dog in other cases, like dogs with long hair and short hair or even small and large dogs.
Leash reactivity is one of the most frequent of all types of Reactivity. It can be quite a source of anxiety for the dog and you. Because the usual response to fear is either fight or flee, and the dog cannot escape because of the leash, it could cause the animal to engage in fighting instead.
It is not responsive to both men and Children.
While Reactivity to males or children can be caused through abuse or neglect, it is far more likely to result from an absence of exposure to socialization for animals.
Reasons for Reactive Behaviors in Dogs
Triggers that can cause reactive behavior for dogs are generally the result of nurture and nature. The possible causes of triggering reactive behavior could include:
- Developmental aspects : If incidents of trauma or abuse occur during a puppy’s growth stage or if socialization didn’t happen earlier in the process, this could make a dog more scared
- Environmental factors : If raised in a protected environment or exposed to a violent environment, violence, anxiety, and Reactivity in dogs In certain situations, the factors mentioned above could result in the formation of anxiety disorders or PTSD, which may increase the chance of experiencing an occurrence of reactive.
- Genetic predisposition: Certain breeds or breeds of dogs have some inclination to develop an aggressive personality. Terrier breeds are more reactive to other dogs, and shepherding breeds are typically more sensitive to movement in the forward direction, especially forward motion.
- Physical disorders: Certain physical ailments, specifically those that result in chronic pain, may trigger reactions. Also, thyroid issues could cause your dog to become more stressed, increasing the likelihood of Reactivity.
Diagnostics Of Reactive Behaviors In dogs
When you visit your veterinarian about problems with your dog’s behavior, like Reactivity, the information is collected to provide a complete behavior history. The information required to complete an entire behavioral account usually includes information on the patient’s gender, age, sex, and other related to the breed of canines and their medical background. The details of the events before the occurrence of reactive episodes can aid in determining the root of any issues and information on your dog’s behavior once the incident has passed.
Because some Reactivity cases could include a medical or physical component. An extensive physical exam will be conducted with the standard diagnostic tests, such as the complete test for blood counts, biochemistry profiles, and urinalysis. The diet and habits of the patient will be necessary, as will any information about any new medication that has been recently introduced. The doctor will also know which treatment methods have been tested and the plans’ results.
Therapy of reactive behavior in dogs
The treatment of reactions will depend on the severity of the issue and the root cause of the behavior. Chronic reactivity problems could be dangerous and must be dealt with by a veterinarian expert. The treatment of dogs suffering from Reactivity disorders must be collaborative between a trained professional or behaviorist and the pet’s owner. It is essential not to discipline or scold the dog for his reactive behaviors. Scolding your dog when he exhibits behaviors driven by fear can make them feel more anxious and increase the chance that fearful behavior can become more aggressive. The most commonly used method of training to deal with Reactivity and fear is called desensitization. The way wherein praise and treats are employed along with the feared object to make the fearful thing more positive and familiar, thereby decreasing any reactivity associated with it.
Behavior therapy and education will not be enough to soothe the patient in extreme cases. Anti-anxiety or antidepressant medicines can be prescribed to calm your loved one. Obedience training may also be employed to mitigate fear and anxiety, which will reduce the likelihood of a reactive response and be used as a distraction from negative stimuli in a technique known as counter-conditioning.
5 Strategies to calm Your Overactive Dog
Instead of attempting to live with a reactive dog, discover new ways to keep your dog calm and focused on you.
1. Create a Schedule
It’s not something dog owners often think about or even know about. However, dogs love routine. Dogs are aware of our practices. They are aware of when we get early in the day, and they know that putting on shoes will cause them to be excited for the walk they are going to take in the morning. They can make sense of all the happenings in their environment, whether good or not. Routines are what make life predictable. The more anxious your dog is, the more they want to exercise. The simple yet effective practice will help to keep them calm, at ease, focused, and secure even in stressful situations. When your dog eventually is comfortable with the routine, you’ll be able to apply your practice outside in the real world, for example, in the park, during walks, or even in public areas.
2. Get Essential Equipment
To reduce the tendency to be reactive, there are several helpful pieces of equipment you can outfit your dog with to minimize the tendency to be reactive. The first is a Gentle Leader. Gentle Leaders are highly beneficial for dogs with a lot of pull and tend to be sensitive when walking. They can be helpful when you have to direct your dog’s head in a different direction when your cues aren’t working. The Gentle Leader rests on the side of the dog’s neck, which relieves the delicate throat’s pressure.
The next is the Easy Walk Harness. In contrast to other harnesses, this one attaches to the top of the dog. This can deter the dog’s pulling the leash. Your dog will be directed towards the side when attempting to remove, which can draw focus to you. This Easy Walk Harness rests across the dog’s chest, so there’s no chance of choking, vomiting, or harm to their throat.
A crate can also help lessen reaction time. Containers can be essential to protect the dog and assist in introducing your dog to a new environment that they might not feel comfortable with. Dogs who have the proper crate training will think of their crate as their den. It’s a safe place to keep them safe. Containers help transport your pet. A box can reduce their Reactivity when they are in the car or taken to the vet.
3. Counter Conditioning
Counter-Coaching alters the mood or behavior that a dog displays when confronted with a specific pre-existing antecedent or “trigger” (dog or animal, human-like vacuum cleaners or cars, bikes, etc.). It involves working with the antecedents and consequences to alter the behavior. For conditioning to happen, two essential steps must be completed. 1. The pre-cursor or “trigger” must be recognized (seen or heard, smelled, etc.). Step 2: Reward is required immediately (food or a toy). The reward must occur promptly and before the dog can start exhibiting undesirable behavior. The initial signs showing they are not comfortable are the perfect opportunity to modify their behavior. Your dog might not be able to focus on the trigger you’ve been training them on.
4. Household Changes
To stop the cycle of Reactivity in your home, you might have to change your household habits. One common type of home reactivity is window activity. The issue with window Reactivity is that it’s advantageous. The dog believes that their barking has made the other dog leave which is a healthy behavior to repeat. The best method to stop this is using a tie-down whenever you’re in your home. This will train your dog to remain in a specific area and not go to the window. It is also possible to use infant gates that keep your dog from windows.
Another type of Reactivity found in the home can be backyard Reactivity in the backyard. Backyard reactivity is similar to window reaction. It’s a delightful experience and can be a source of enjoyment in other aspects of the dog’s lifestyle. Suppose your dog is a fence-fighter or even a fence runner. One option while the home is to walk your dog around the yard on a leash. Be sure to establish a good recall so that if they get angry, you can draw their attention and help them calm down. If you’re not there to guide your dog in the right direction from the wrong, you need to keep them from the hot spot within your backyard. This could be as simple as closing your doggie door, relocating them inside your home, or creating your own dog’s run in the backyard, where they won’t access the fencing.
5. Body Language
Dogs communicate primarily through body language. The ability to recognize dog body language can assist you in communicating with your pet. Knowing how to say “dog” is essential since it will allow you to tell the signs that your dog is uneasy or afraid, or even threatened. It is crucial to understand that most dogs’ body language is a matter of context. For example, tail-wagging could mean anything from “I’m pleased to meet your face!” to “Please don’t move any further!” You will need to examine the complete image of your dog and the surrounding area to get a sense.
Happy dogs are playful and hairy! These dogs usually have wide mouths with open or forward-looking ears and soft, sluggish eyes. Please note them to your dog’s eyes, as relaxed pets can quickly become uncomfortable in the presence of something or someone.
The anxious dogs have a tight overall body posture. They may employ calming signals and display movements that calm them down, demonstrate non-aggressive intent, or calm situations. The calming signals inform the dogs around them that they intend to do nothing to harm. Displacement behaviors occur when a dog tries to perform two competing things simultaneously.
Alert dogs have an edgy or forward body posture. They are curious about something but aren’t sure what to do. This posture generally lasts a few seconds before the dog can react with the form of fear, playfulness, or aggression.
Dogs who exhibit aggression in their body language will be extremely stiff and tense and may even be frozen. They will likely have their teeth bared and their hackles raised. If you encounter dogs and begin to display an aggressive posture, slow down your approach, stroll and remain calm. Additionally, stay clear of eye contact, turn away and stay relaxed and calm. DO NOT run away!
Reactive Behavior Recovery in dogs
Treatments for behavioral issues that use drugs to treat the problems with behavior typically require several weeks before they begin to be effective. Therefore, it is crucial to inform your veterinarian of any other medications that the person administers. The way canines process medications may differ from how human metabolism of the medication, and dosages may vary depending on your dog’s particular reaction to the drug. Certain antidepressants, as well as anti-anxiety medications, are incompatible with certain pain medications such as antihistamines as well as herbal remedies. They are not efficient in stopping challenging behavior, and a continuance of behavior training can help your pet be a more relaxed and healthy person.