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Why Reactive Dogs Do Better Without Their Owners.

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

“Why does my reactive dog behave better when being handled by someone else?” We get this question often! This very thing sparks fear and discomfort into many dog owners. You see, when we witness our dogs behaving poorly for just us, but then when we hand off the leash to someone else, the dog seems to be perfect, we get that feeling deep down in our gut. You know what I am talking about. You have felt it too.

“I’m the problem.”

Conventional reasoning would state that if the dog does better with someone else and worse when they are with you, that you must be the very thing making your dog reactive.

Wrong. All wrong.

Dogs don't follow human reasoning. Dogs are dogs after all, and they do things unique to their species. I am here to decode that for you. But first, let's let that negative thought go. Shake off those feelings that you are the problem, that you are the reason your dog is reactive, that you must have done something wrong and you know why? Because you didn't! You are the very thing your dog needs, you are the one behind the scenes cheering on your dog and telling him when he is a good boy. That negative thought will only hold you back and by doing so, will hold your dog back from becoming the great dog we all know is in there! So let’s agree to say “BUH BYE” to that, and move into something that will help you and your dog make huge strides.

Beginner's Guide to Dog Reactivity.

Before I tell you why that thought is all wrong, let me give you an example. Whenever a new dog gets adopted there is this phase called the "honeymoon period." During this time new dogs tend to behave quite well. They bond with their new people, adjust to their new surroundings, and get used to routines. Once that honeymoon period is over, you’ll meet your real dog. It takes time for a dog to feel safe with you and once they feel safe, they also feel comfortable to say how they feel and what they think. Many of us have experienced this very thing first hand! Your new dog comes home and does super well and then all of a sudden they are stealing food off the counter when before they wouldn't even think of entering the kitchen. Or, your newest addition was fine with delivery people coming and going and then one day they suddenly had very strong feelings about that man in khaki. Your honeymoon is officially over and it's time to get to work! Within those first few months the dog doesn’t feel entirely comfortable to say they want those snacks on the counter or the UPS man to go away but once they feel like they can trust their family, they feel safe in their surroundings, and they know you’ll take care of them. That’s when they can speak up.

Dogs will only display their true feelings with people and at places where they feel safe.

Now read that out loud this time.

Dogs will only display their true feelings with people and at places where they feel safe.

So when a friend takes your leash, or the vet, or anyone else, and your dog doesn't react it is not because they behave better with someone else. It is because they do not feel safe with that person. They feel safer with you!

YOU are the solution to your dog's problem.

YOU are the very coach your dog needs to live their best life.

Because your dog feels most safe with you they will be able to make the most progress when they are with you. It is still important to avoid common mistakes when working with a reactive dog,

More on that here,

But know that you are not the problem, you are the solution. So go hug your dog and know that while this behavior problem sucks and it’s frustrating, you will both get through it together.

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