It can feel like the dog world is polarized between people who "get" anxious and reactive dogs and people who don't. Worse, the people who don't get it can be dismissive and unkind, not to mention making it difficult for you to navigate the world with your dog by not respecting personal space.
Lately, however, people are coming to realize that completely calm, bomb-proof dogs are closer to an exception than a rule. Many dogs have something they're not good with, whether it's alone time, storms, cats or children. This increase in awareness means there are now more and easier ways to help an anxious dog than just walking them at 5am. Here are eight ways you can make life with your anxious or reactive dog better for both of you.
1. Better training. In recent years, modern trainers have learnt that an overwhelming majority of dogs who lunge at, bark at and fight other dogs and humans aren't doing so because they're "dominant" or because they want to be "pack leader," they're doing it because they're scared. A frightened dog, especially one who feels like he can't escape, will turn to aggression to "get him before he gets me." Now we know aggression is rooted in fear, we know to avoid trainers that "rehabilitate" aggressive dogs by dominating them; hurting the dog more just makes him shut down, it doesn't stop him being scared. Change the emotion, on the other hand, and you'll change the behavior. A dog who isn't scared of other dogs will have no need to bark or fight. Find a good trainer, ideally one certified by CCPDT, and you can work wonders together.