Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is Reactivity?

Reactivity is a strong reaction demonstrated by a dog in response to a relatively mild trigger. This trigger can be another dog, a person, a specific object, or a sudden change in the environment. Each dog's reactive behavior will look different, however it usually involves some element of barking, growling, or lunging towards the trigger, and occurs on a regular and somewhat predictable basis.

Reactivity cannot be determined based on a single event, nor is it based on a dog's reaction to an overwhelming event or item. Barking, growling, and lunging are normal behaviors, and should be expected in response to truly intense situations.

Reactivity is typically the result of anxiety or fear, although some dogs will behave in a reactive manner for other reasons; frustration or over-excitement often results in a dog that cannot control itself. This is often seen when on leash or behind fences or other barriers.

Reactivity should not be confused with aggression because the reactive dog is not intending to cause harm. It is generally assumed that the reactive dog is “all bark and no bite,” and that his behavior is used to scare away whatever is worrying him or causing him concern. Despite this, one should use care when working with a reactive dog as the heightened arousal and out-of-control nature of his behavior increases the risk accidental harm.

Reactivity can be reduced, and many reactive dogs will improve with the use of a well-developed, well-implemented behavior modification program. If you think your dog might be reactive, I encourage you to consult with a trainer experienced in working with behavior problems.


Ashley said...

What a great, succinct explanation of reactivity! I find so many people end up with convoluted explanations that leave many people more confused than they were before.

Well done.

Crystal (Thompson) Barrera said...

Thanks, Ashley. I actually wrote this because my previous take on the matter was kind of convoluted, and I wanted something I could link to.

Joanna said...

Off topic -- are you going to Clicker Expo 2012?

Crystal (Thompson) Barrera said...

No :(

BUT! I'm going to do a working seminar with Denise Fenzi AND with Kathy Sdao!

Amy @ True Dog Blog said...

Great description of reactivity! It's actually a quite difficult subject to describe to people who don't know the definition to reactivity. Before owning a reactive dog, I had no idea what reactivity was. Another way I describe reactivity to people who don't fully understand it is by using the description of a panic attack. Reactivity is very much like a human version of a panic attack. People can wrap their mind around that. It's easier for people to understand that you wouldn't yell, grab, shake or punish someone who was having a panic attack. Just like you shouldn't do that do that to a reactive dog. The one thing people don't get with reactivity is, the dog is not being a jerk or naughty they are simply freaking out.


Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck said...

Wait, when is Denise Fenzi coming back and where?

Crystal (Thompson) Barrera said...

Laura- I've heard rumors that a few different clubs (including Sara in Rochester) are thinking about bringing her back. I'm hoping one of those pan out. If not, I'm going to haul poor Maisy out to Illinois in July because I am a junkie/stalker like that.

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck said...

aww, I was hoping that it was official already