Reactive Dog Training 101: Help, My Dog is a Psycho!

By Max Turner 8 Min Read

Reactive Dog Training 101: Help, My Dog is a Psycho!

If you have ever had the misfortune of owning a reactive dog, you know the struggles of trying to control and train such a challenging pet. Reactivity can take many forms, from barking at strangers, to jumping on people, to lunging and snapping at other dogs on walks. No matter what the issue is, it is a difficult and stressful problem to manage. But fear not, as it is possible to train a reactive dog, with consistent effort and commitment.

What is Reactive Dog Training?

Reactive dog training is a process of teaching your pet skills and behaviors to help them better handle stress, fear, and excitement in everyday situations. In a nutshell, to train a reactive dog is to teach them to be disciplined and obedient even when feeling overwhelmed and anxious. This Process takes patience and positive reinforcement, but over time it will help your pup become a well-behaved, emotionally balanced member of your family.

The Five Steps of Reactive Dog Training:

  • Step 1: Desensitization and Counterconditioning- This is the most important step of the reactive dog training process. Desensitization is the process of gradually introducing your pup to their trigger (whatever frightens or overwhelms them, like other animals or loud noises) in a low stress environment, until they no longer react. Counterconditioning is teaching your dog something new and positive to do when they are reacting, such as sitting or laying down. This can help them learn to stay calm even when they’re feeling scared or overwhelmed.
  • Step 2: Management- This is the process of setting up your environment and making behavior choices to help prevent your pup from having an emotional meltdown. This Step is all about making your reactive pup as comfortable as possible, like setting up a safe space, avoiding triggers, etc.
  • Step 3: Training- Training a reactive dog means teaching them how to be better in situations that set them off (e.g. meeting strangers, going to the vet, etc.). This requires introducing the pup to the situation in small steps and rewarding them for good behavior.
  • Step 4: Prevention- Prevention is all about reducing the possibility of your pup having future emotional outbursts. This includes teaching your pup to anticipate expectations, as well as teaching them how to deal with moments of stress.
  • Step 5: Maintenance- Maintenance is about establishing consistency and keeping up with the your pup’s progress. A well behaved pup requires consistency and dedication, so it’s important to keep up the routine of reward when they do the right thing.

How to Handle an Emotional Outburst

When it comes to dealing with reactive dogs, one of the most important things to remember is that it’s better to prevent than to react. That being said, an emotional outburst can happen to any pup, and it’s important to know how to handle it in a calm, assertive way. Here are a few tips for managing a pet that’s feeling overwhelmed by their surroundings:

  • Stay calm. It’s important to remain calm in these situations as your pup will pick up on your energy and feed off of it.
  • Get away from the source of the trigger. Move your pup away from whatever is scaring them and give them some space.
  • Engage your pup’s attention. Distract them from the trigger with treats or toys.
  • Reward good behavior. When your pup is calm, be sure to reward them for their good behavior.
  • Stay consistent with your training. Make sure to stay consistent with your training and reward your pup for good behavior.

Common Reactive Dog Triggers

When it comes to training a reactive pup, there are several common triggers that will set them off. Some of these triggers include other animals, strangers, loud noises, and unfamiliar environments. It’s important to identify what’s triggering your pup and begin training them accordingly.

  • Other animals. Many pups are reactive around other animals, including other dogs and cats. This can be caused by fear or a lack of socialization, but it’s important to identify what’s causing the issues and train accordingly.
  • Strangers. For many pups, being around people they don’t know can cause an emotional reaction. Whether they’re trying to protect their owner, or just overwhelmed by all the new faces, it’s important to help them gain confidence in these scenarios.
  • Loud noises. Thunder, fireworks, and traffic can be intimidating to pups, so it’s important to train them on ways to remain calm during these moments.
  • Unfamiliar environments. Whether it’s a new home or something as simple as a new room, it’s important to help your pup develop trust in new environments.

The Benefits of Reactive Dog Training

Reactive dog training is a process that involves patience and a lot of commitment, but the rewards are incredible. Not only will training your pup help them become better behaved, but it will also help them build trust and emotional balance. Here are a few of the many benefits of reactive dog training:

  • Your pup will become more confident and less anxious.
  • Your pup will be better behaved in social situations.
  • You and your pup will be better able to connect and bond with each other.
  • Your pup will be less likely to encounter incidents of aggression.
  • You and your pup will be able to enjoy more activities and outings together.

In Conclusion

Training a reactive dog can be a daunting task but with patience, dedication and effort you can help your pup become better behaved in no time. It’s important to understand the five steps of reactive dog training, as well as how to handle an emotional outburst if one occurs. With the right training and management, you can help your pup become a well-behaved and emotionally balanced member of the family. Having a dog is an incredible experience, so don’t be discouraged when things get tough. Dedicate yourself to helping your pup become the best version of themselves, and you’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of unconditional love and companionship.

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Max Turner is a passionate American dog lover and writer, dedicated to sharing his knowledge and experiences through his blog, With a lifelong fascination for dogs and a strong bond with his own furry friends, Max offers valuable insights and practical tips to dog owners and enthusiasts worldwide. His blog covers a wide range of topics, including training techniques, health and wellness, breed profiles, responsible ownership, and fun activities. Max's engaging writing style, combined with his expertise and genuine love for dogs, make an invaluable resource for anyone looking to enhance their relationship with their canine companions. Max Turner's blog,, is a go-to destination for dog enthusiasts seeking expert advice and valuable insights. Max's deep-rooted passion for dogs, coupled with his extensive knowledge of dog behavior, training, health care, and breeds, enables him to provide practical tips and guidance. From training techniques and health tips to breed spotlights and responsible ownership, Max covers it all. With engaging content and a commitment to promoting a fulfilling and joyous life with dogs, is a trusted resource for dog owners looking to strengthen their bond with their furry friends.
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