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Reactive Dog Management – The Hereditary Factor

The Handler’s personal agenda is the most frustrating things I encounter when working with clients whose dogs are either fear reactive, or aggressive towards people or dogs. When we have a dog that has reactive problems we need to realize it is no longer about:

  • We want to go for a walk
  • We want to go to the dog park
  • We want our dog to make friends
  • We want our dog to be polite when people visit

When we make these demands our focus is no longer on what is best for our dog. Here are a few things that keep people from reaching their goals.

Your Dog Was Bred To React

Most of the people who come to our training center have working and herding dogs. They were designed to have ‘high drive’. This means that they were bred to run faster, chase strange animals and people away, and stop any type of intruder.

Many people have the misconception that this means ’50 years ago’ or somewhere in the distant past. Many of today’s working dogs still have jobs.

Herding Dogs

Border collies are a perfect example. The breed description makes them look like the perfect dog. But today’s border collies are made to give 110% in the agility ring. They will continue to run even if they have hurt themselves.

Working Dogs

We see the same thing when people buy a Dutch Shepherd, Working German Shepherd, or Malinois puppy. Within 2 or 3 weeks their puppy is out of control, destructive, and biting everything that moves. These dogs are not being bad. They are doing what they were bred to do.  They were bred to react quicker to anything that moves.  Working dogs are bred to hit harder, hold longer, and fight back when pushed.

What Do I Do Now?

The first thing to do is to put your own wants and needs aside. You can have the perfect dog that you envisioned. The awesome obedient dog who is ‘on the job’ to protect your family. You can have the calm running companion who ignores the neighborhood squirrels. It just takes time and patience.

  1. Understand your breed. What are your breed’s quirks? Join a breed club.
  2. Do not use force. Working dogs escalate. The more force you use, the more they will react.
  3. Exercise your dog. Every dog on this page is a 2 hour dog. That means that a walk won’t do it. They need to chase balls, run, play, and stretch out their muslces.
  4. Never let them off leash, or have run of the house. These are not breeds to ‘run wild’ and then magically know when it is time to be obedient.  Letting them run wild as puppies will teach them to make their own decisions and respond to stimuli any way they want. Teach them impulse control (self-control).
  5. Working dogs need a job.  Join a local dog club. It doesn’t matter whether you want to do Trieball, sport scent detection, rally, dock diving, or other sports. Pick a sport and get involved.  This will give your dog a place to practice self-control, good manners, and to exercise its mind.




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