Holding paws with my dog
Reactive Dog

Allies: A Reactive Dog Owner’s Best Friend

As Valentine’s Day fast approaches, we can get wrapped up in making sure we have a gift for our loved ones or getting a reservation for that fancy restaurant.  Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark” holiday, but it can also serve as a great reminder to show the ones that are in our lives that we love and appreciate them.

As a reactive dog owner, I want to take this time to thank those people in our lives that have been allies.  An ally is someone that forms a connection with you.  They show kindness and understanding, but most importantly, they have your back.

Allies are key when you’ve got a pooch with reactivity and/or behavior problems.  You unknowingly or knowingly welcomed a dog into your home that has some issues and those issues have a wide range of severity.  Having a dog like that in your home can be trying and some days, it’s just really damn hard.  But you love that dog to pieces and would do anything for them. Not everyone understands that though.  Not everyone would spend hundreds of dollars on training, or go see specialists, or never entertain at their house again, or feed a special diet, or put up with the barking.

Our allies, however, understand why we care so much about the dog we asked to be part of our family.  They may not want what we have, but they get it.   They are going to hold your hand through the tough decisions, they are going to sit with you at the bar on a rough day, they aren’t judging you (though they may be concerned for you), they are going to tell you its ok, they are going to listen, and sometimes they will just simply acknowledge you exist.

Allies Come in All Types

Family: Not everyone in your family may be supportive of you and your nutty dog(s), but if you’re lucky, they do.  My dog loves my family and my in-laws and they really like him.  Our families get a front row seat to what we deal with, so they know the love and effort we put in.  They may not want to take Mo home with them, but I know that if anything ever happened to me or my husband, Mo would be ok.

Friends:  Unlike family, friends don’t have to love us.  You may find that you have friends that aren’t such good friends with a reactive dog in the picture. That’s fine because you’ll find your friends who are right by your side.  I have a friend that so bravely suggested that our dogs meet and they did so well together, but I will always be thankful for her willingness to trust me and my ability to handle my dog.  These are friends that are cool with always hosting the party because having more than a couple friends at your house could potentially be disastrous. Hang on to these people!

Pet Professionals: Pet pros are not all created equal, so finding the ones that you and your dog loves is important so you can add them to your ally bank!  We have been lucky enough to find a trainer that will answer all my questions and loves my dog even if they are disrupting class with their barking.  We go to a vet that gets down on the floor to pet my dog and showers with him treats.  We use a dog walker that is flexible and looks forward to seeing our pups.  These people make our lives easier and allow our lives to be filled with less anxiety.  If there were ever an emergency, we know these people would be comfortable and kind to our dogs, and that means the world to us.

Strangers: This is probably my favorite type of ally.  These are the people on the street that see you struggle or hear your barky dog.  I’ve been on walks with Mo and I’ve had a stranger feet away just nod and smile at me.  Not judgmental, just I get it and I see you doing a great job.  I’ve had a stranger ask to pet him as he was barking his head off and they don’t even flinch when I say just stand still and let him sniff.  Maybe that stranger has had reactive dog experience of their own or maybe they are just kind people.  Whoever they are, they have the power to heal hearts.

Thank you to everyone who has treated us or another reactive dog and owner with kindness.  Your acceptance means we aren’t isolated.  We have allies that are willing to help us, stand up for us, and care about us.  We are doing the best we can for our dogs and that can be a difficult and challenging road.  We think that it’s worth it to help our dogs have healthy, happy, and long lives. We are thankful you support us!

17 thoughts on “Allies: A Reactive Dog Owner’s Best Friend”

  1. Reactive dogs are like the one across the back from us. Not aggressive, but often soft and silly and way too excitable 🙂

    I can see a reactive dog could be a real challenge but,hs challenges are like us with our Dusty (senior cat) when he was ill, we basically had a plastic carpet! People either worked their way around it or they didn’t visit.

    A reactive pup can be a challenge too I am sure but with patient care like yours they can thrive. Your pet is family and the people who realise this are the people go with it as an ally. Allies are good to have 🙂

    1. Great point about Dusty. I don’t know much about cats, but I’m sure their behavior and habits and even any animals age (and all that comes with) can turn some people off. It’s not for everyone and that’s ok!

  2. We try to be allies. Monte is really good around reactive dogs. We have been helping this super over excited little black poodle learn to not lunge and yap at every dog she sees. Her name is Dula. She lives a few blocks from us. When we see her in the distance; her owner and ourselves … we’ve worked out a proper approach. It’s working well.

    1. Yay! Thank you for helping! Dogs can be great at helping too! My dog can flourish with the right play partner.

  3. “Love me, love my cats,” is what my peeps say. They know who their really good friends are… Their “allies.” They’re the ones who don’t get their noses all out of joint when a kitty jumps up onto the dining room table in the midst of dinner, or rubs up against their pant legs, leavin’ a layer of cat hair. Instead, they laugh it off and take it in stride. And they’re the ones who the peeps can call in an emergency if they need to, like that time way back when, when Nissy and his fur-sibs were spotted crawling up under the hood of the car and Peep #1 couldn’t get ’em out but HAD to pick Jacob up at the vets and couldn’t dare risk starting the car up to use it or even move it. A ride to the vets was needed and luckily for my peeps, they had a good friend. PURRS.

  4. Such a sweet post! It is so wonderful when a stranger gives an understanding nod. When we can depend on others to lend a hand and be there for us. I have a reactive dog as well. The thing is, once you acknowledge her she calms down a LOT! It is when she feels ignored she keeps barking and shaking. She is the princess of the household so of course she expects to be noticed when someone comes into HER domain! She is also reactive to small children and does not like them at all.

  5. Fantastic post and Layla rules the house, loves having guests here plus the kids that I tutor and is a very laid back dog. I love hearing from people in the dog park when they say how well mannered she is.

  6. Awesome post! I totally “get it” as I have a reactive little one myself. It can be such a struggle sometimes, but at the end of the day I love my dog and will continue to do everything I can for him. Finding allies always helps and I think it’s awesome to acknowledge them.

  7. I love this! Allies are so important. Strangers have probably helped me the most, as that’s who my dog was afraid of for the longest tim. (still is but no longer reactive, just uneasy). I started feeding him his meals on walks around my neighborhood, offering him food whenever we saw a person down the block, to help him make positive associations with strangers. After a couple of weeks, I was asking strangers to let him eat at their feet, while they ignored him. Sounds crazy but it worked and I met a lot of my neighbors that I didn’t know before. Without the help of strangers, Ringo would not be where he is today. Happy Valentines day to you and your reactive pup. Give em some love for us!

  8. I don’t really feel judged a whole lot as most people seem to think his reactivity is funny because he’s tiny. I’m glad they’re not afraid but it also means that people can be terrible about giving him space.

  9. We have a reactive dog – she was supposed to be a foster, but we kept her – primarily because of her reactivity. We knew we were the right house for her because we had the patience and “right” home for her. We are still working with her on trying to make her less reactive and a happier dog — progress is slow but it is happening! It is not easy — but SOOOOO worth it. I love her to death!

  10. Our dog is reactive. We too have spent many hours and $ trying to help him. We can now attend events with him and have dinner parties again and as long as he meets everyone his way and no one tries to take food from him, he is adorable. He still wants to eat any delivery person and he only tolerates one or two other dogs well (they ignore him)- he is cared but puts on a feisty front.

  11. Thank you for your heartfelt post. I don’t think I ever realized what a reactive dog was until reading different blogs. I hope I am an ally, but I’m sure there are times in the past that maybe I wasn’t. I try to be aware of how a dog is reacting and respect their space. I guess I become more frustrated with owners than I do dogs. Bless you for taking the time and care to your special pup.

  12. My husband is my best ally. He has learned to love and tolerate all my dog’s behavior and their funky personalities. He wasn’t always like that. Having allies on your side can really make a difference.

  13. It’s good when you get can people to understand and cooperate. Some people simply feel they know better and have strong [wrong] notions about what is going on.

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