You have a reactive dog. Reactive meaning your dog has a visible and audible reaction to a trigger (another dog, humans, cars, bikes, other animals etc.). The way you carry yourself before and in that situation is part of it.
Most of the time when we have a reactive dog, we get tense the second we walk outside. We dread the walk. We say a little prayer that hopefully we won’t see said trigger while were outside. If we do see it, we become even tenser, start sweating, wrap the leash around our hands so tight that we almost cut off our blood flow, and try to distract our dog (maybe he won’t see it, right?)…. And then the reaction happens. We get embarrassed, frustrated, drag our dog away from the situation, maybe apologize to the other person, and think, “why does my dog always do this?!”
If this sound familiar! All techniques and tools aside, we have to learn how to handle ourselves and our emotions as well when it comes to working through reactivity. Our dogs need the confidence and calmness from us to understand that they are going to be okay in the situation and that there’s no need to react. They need to know that we’ve got their back. That’s why, a lot of times the second a trainer takes the leash, the dog doesn’t react anymore. There’s no emotional baggage anymore. Even though the dog doesn’t know the trainer, they can sense the confidence coming from the other side of the leash and know they don’t have to take the lead.
How do we get there? By practicing this over and over and over in a safe environment with someone to guide us through it, so we can create both a new story and new muscle memory. We need to learn to relax instead of envisioning horror scenarios. We need to see it to believe it. We need successful moments to understand that it’s possible.