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Old 11-21-2012, 02:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default I need some clarification on "reactive" dogs

I've been doing a lot of reading on the threads, and a common phrase / topic I see is "I have a reactive dog / puppy."

I'm a bit confused!!!

I get the "I have a reactive dog ..." something has happened in the past that sets a trigger for the dog ... something "bad" happened, the situation wasn't handled properly ... past behaviour can likely predict future behaviour.

What I'm confused about it when I see posts that say, I have a reactive 5.5. month old puppy.

In MY mind, ALL puppies are going to react somewhat to something new ... this is why we socialize them ... so they can experience as much as possible and we educate them into the human world.

For example, when Kyleigh first saw the shovel she reacted ... she barked and growled at it. I put it down, brought her over to sniff it / check it out, praised her for not barking at it, and then proceeded to pick up the shovel, and start shovelling again. A couple of leave its / praise, and we were fine.

I could go on with endless examples of Kyleigh "reacting" to something that was new to her ... and we worked through it. Consequently, I have a non-reactive dog (to non-threatening things). I have NOT tested her reaction on threatening things.

After all this rambling, my question is this: Is it really fair to say I have a reactive puppy?

Thoughts?? Or have I missed the boat completely on the definition of "reactive?"

Thanks in advance!
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Old 11-21-2012, 02:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I think it's pretty normal for a puppy to react to new things, and it's not something I'd worry about IF you can work through it, as you've described. The problem is that not all dogs will quickly recover and be okay with new things, which is where the difference lies. Dena backed away and barked the first time she noticed a fire hydrant on a walk when she was a puppy, but I laughed and encouraged her to investigate by laying a trail of treats up to it, and then having her eat a couple of treats off the hydrant. She never even looked at it again after that. That was normal puppy stuff, she didn't have a reactive bone in her body.
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:39 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I think you have a point, but the difference is that a reactive dog behaves in an extreme, unusual, or unexpected way to new stimuli. It is expected for a puppy to be unsure of or frightened by new things, because they're babies. Kyleigh's reaction to the shovel was probably well within normal puppy behavior (just throwing the "probably" in since I don't know you ). But if she'd kept growling at it for 3 hours, or reacted every time she saw it afterwards, or whatever, then I would call her a reactive puppy.

To use another example, I have two dogs of similar age and breeding, one who I would say is reactive to strangers, the other isn't. They both react to strangers, and even the friendly one is standoffish (to my eye) until he gets to know someone. But he is still friendly and relaxed in virtually any circumstance. The reactive one may snap or growl at even a very friendly stranger. So both react, both are cautious, but only one is reactive.

I also don't think "reactive" hinges on past behavior. An experienced handler can prevent a bad situation from ever occurring with a dog who is naturally reactive (due to genetics, for example), but that doesn't mean the dog is any less reactive. It's a description of temperament and response to stimuli, not the dog's history. As a real-life example of that, my very reactive dog has never snapped or growled at anyone since I've owned him. I know he did with previous owners (part of why I have him), but if I didn't know that, I would still label him as reactive because when he's uncomfortable, his body language and behavior clearly tells that something bad will happen if he's pushed further. I choose not to let it get to that level, but he's still reactive. His history isn't important, it's his reaction to current stressors that matters.

To tread on maybe controversial waters, I think it's kind of like mental illness in people. Everyone gets sad sometimes, but when it interferes with your daily life and there's no real reason for it, then you probably suffer from clinical depression. Most people daydream, but when those daydreams take over to the point you can't tell reality from fantasy, you probably have a delusional disorder. Similarly, most dogs will react to things they think might be dangerous (and puppies will react to more, because they know less), but when those reactions are beyond the normal range and interfere with socialization or training, then you probably have a reactive dog.

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Old 11-21-2012, 05:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I think it's a matter of definition. I have one "reactive" dog and two "aggressive" dogs.

Jax is reactive. I know her reaction is based in fear and it's not always consistent when she'll react to another dog with barking and lunging. Her behavior is aggressive but she is reacting to stimuli. Her intent is to be be big and scary to make the other dog go away.

Sierra is flat out dog aggressive. She never makes a sound and you can count on her attacking every time. her intent is to do damage.

Banshee is people aggressive. She's mellowed in her ancient age of 13 years old but in her younger years, no adult could walk into this house, or even stand at the door, without having an armful of snarling dog trying to kill you. Her intent is to do damage.

That is my definition of the line between reactive and aggressive.
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Old 11-21-2012, 06:29 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyleigh View Post
I've been doing a lot of reading on the threads, and a common phrase / topic I see is "I have a reactive dog / puppy."

I'm a bit confused!!!

I get the "I have a reactive dog ..." something has happened in the past that sets a trigger for the dog ... something "bad" happened, the situation wasn't handled properly ... past behaviour can likely predict future behaviour.

What I'm confused about it when I see posts that say, I have a reactive 5.5. month old puppy.

In MY mind, ALL puppies are going to react somewhat to something new ... this is why we socialize them ... so they can experience as much as possible and we educate them into the human world.

For example, when Kyleigh first saw the shovel she reacted ... she barked and growled at it. I put it down, brought her over to sniff it / check it out, praised her for not barking at it, and then proceeded to pick up the shovel, and start shovelling again. A couple of leave its / praise, and we were fine.

I could go on with endless examples of Kyleigh "reacting" to something that was new to her ... and we worked through it. Consequently, I have a non-reactive dog (to non-threatening things). I have NOT tested her reaction on threatening things.

After all this rambling, my question is this: Is it really fair to say I have a reactive puppy?

Thoughts?? Or have I missed the boat completely on the definition of "reactive?"

Thanks in advance!

Good point! "Reactive" to me implies some fear or aggression behavior beyound what might be considered "normal".

Of course all dogs and more so puppies might react to an unusual stimuli - either people or animals or things. I.E. some one new showing up suddenly, or something dropping and making a loud noice or a water sprinkler coming on or a lawn mower starting up or ...

The key is to see how quick your dog gets used to it and/or recovers from it. Like a loud noise - a startled reaction is fine AS LONG as they recover and walk over to it, sniff and then ignore it or maybe try to play with it. Startled reaction, hide behind owner and refuse to go up to it - NOT ok (to me!).
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Old 11-22-2012, 08:21 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Good to know I didn't miss the boat, just forgot an oar or two! LOL

Rowdydog wrote: I also don't think "reactive" hinges on past behavior. An experienced handler can prevent a bad situation from ever occurring with a dog who is naturally reactive (due to genetics, for example), but that doesn't mean the dog is any less reactive. It's a description of temperament and response to stimuli, not the dog's history.I also don't think "reactive" hinges on past behavior. An experienced handler can prevent a bad situation from ever occurring with a dog who is naturally reactive (due to genetics, for example), but that doesn't mean the dog is any less reactive. It's a description of temperament and response to stimuli, not the dog's history.

This is one of the "oars" I missed ... I hadn't thought of that at all, and I should have, because it is so obvious (hang head in shame lol)

Thanks everyone!
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Old 11-22-2012, 11:32 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Jax08 View Post
I think it's a matter of definition. I have one "reactive" dog and two "aggressive" dogs.

Jax is reactive. I know her reaction is based in fear and it's not always consistent when she'll react to another dog with barking and lunging. Her behavior is aggressive but she is reacting to stimuli. Her intent is to be be big and scary to make the other dog go away.

Sierra is flat out dog aggressive. She never makes a sound and you can count on her attacking every time. her intent is to do damage.

Banshee is people aggressive. She's mellowed in her ancient age of 13 years old but in her younger years, no adult could walk into this house, or even stand at the door, without having an armful of snarling dog trying to kill you. Her intent is to do damage.


That is my definition of the line between reactive and aggressive.
With utmost respect..... There was nothing you could do to alter the behavior of two of those dogs?
One wants to kill dogs, the other people.

I only ask because of my ongoing interest in the behavioral pattern of my dog, and her personality.
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Old 11-22-2012, 11:40 AM   #8 (permalink)
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With utmost respect..... There was nothing you could do to alter the behavior of two of those dogs?
One wants to kill dogs, the other people.

I only ask because of my ongoing interest in the behavioral pattern of my dog, and her personality.
I don't know Jax's case with the two dogs, but I think most dogs that have serious aggression issues don't get over it. It can improve with work and the owners learn how to manage it at best. My girl Bunny used to be very dog aggressive. I think I'm very fortunate to have gotten her to a point where you would never know it. I do take her to the dog park and she's off leash and we haven't had any issues in years. I put a lot of work into her and I know what situations could cause her to be reactive so I eliminate those situations before they can occur. She used to be aggressive but I would now call her reactive.
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Old 11-22-2012, 12:45 PM   #9 (permalink)
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With utmost respect..... There was nothing you could do to alter the behavior of two of those dogs?
One wants to kill dogs, the other people.

I only ask because of my ongoing interest in the behavioral pattern of my dog, and her personality.
Where did I say they want to "kill"?

IMO, true aggression is managed by monitoring surroundings. Not by behavior modification. Maybe it could be but I think it would take years.

From what I've read, your dog has fear and confidence issues and shouldn't be compared to the Boxers.
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Old 11-22-2012, 06:06 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax08 View Post
Where did I say they want to "kill"?

IMO, true aggression is managed by monitoring surroundings. Not by behavior modification. Maybe it could be but I think it would take years.

From what I've read, your dog has fear and confidence issues and shouldn't be compared to the Boxers.
In your original post.
You said Sierra intends to do damage and Sierra would give an armful of snarl and try to kill you.

You did write that.
Maybe I read it wrong, but I didn't get the impression that meeting either dog would've been a pleasant experience.

I'm just wondering why all your dogs were so different, and if there was any way to correct the aggression?




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