Reactive Dog

Natural Disasters and the Reactive Dog

We’ve lived in Kansas for three years now and we are familiar with the tornado siren.  Luckily, we’ve never been directly effected by one, but there is always that potential, especially with tornado season around the corner.


Watching the news really brings home the fact that natural disasters can happen anywhere. From the wildfires in California to the hurricanes that hit Texas and the Caribbean. There are earthquakes, blizzards up north, and major flooding all over the world.

As the dog mom to a reactive dog, this scares the crap out of me.  The various scenarios that could happen to my dog in a natural disaster worry me deeply.  Mo doesn’t really enjoy being touched and can be wary of strangers approaching.  He’s also a scaredy cat and can communicate that in a scary way: think big dog bark and lunging.  If we were put into a situation where we had to be assisted in an evacuation or be taken to a shelter, things would not go well for us.  Even scarier is if Mo were alone when disaster strikes and someone tried to help him, I don’t know what would happen.

For us dog parents with reactive or challenging dogs, we need to be prepared for different situations.  In all seriousness, being ready for emergency situations can be the difference of life or death for your dog.   

Here are a few things to do that can help in all emergency/natural disaster situations:

  • Have a list of people that your dog is comfortable with 

This list can include friends, family, neighbors, dog walkers, etc. This will be helpful if you are in a car accident and you need someone to feed your dog. Or your house is in a flood zone, but you’re out of town.  You can call a friend that your is familiar and comfortable with and they can pick up your dog. There are so many useful applications. Let your friend know that you consider them part of an emergency plan for your dog.

  • Have a few boarding facilities that would be able to take your dog

Be comfortable with a few kennels because natural disasters could affect one or the other.  One facility might flood, while another one stays dry.  Having a name for a kennel out of town is smart just in case the ones in town book up.  Finding business ahead of time is important so they are knowledgeable and willing to take on your dog’s quirks.

  • Have an emergency dog kit 

We have an emergency kit for ourselves that has a solar powered charger, a water filter, flashlights, non-perishable snacks, a  first aid kit, and a few other gadgets. Just in case of the Apocalypse.  With that bag, we also keep a backpack for our dogs right by it. Pack some food, treats, poop bags, an extra leash, a towel, first aid supplies, a water bowl, water, vet numbers, a copy of vaccine records, and a chew and/or toy.  This way you’ll be ready to go if anything happens. 

  • Muzzle train your dog

This could be a matter of life or death for your dog.  If you are evacuating and your dog is lunging and trying to bite, you may not get the help you need.  Teach your dog that muzzles are great and fun, so that in an emergency situation, they may freak out, but at least everyone around you is protected and he can be transported.  You absolutely do not want the first time they wear a muzzle to be emergency time.  That will make the situation that much more uncomfortable and strange for them.  

  • Train your dog to be approached by strangers

If your dog loves people, this won’t be a problem.  They’ll wiggle over happily to any stranger.  As a reactive dog owner, this is probably our biggest struggle.  Some dogs are nervous with new people or have to be approached a certain way.  I know we’re still working on seeing a person across the street and not reacting!

But, at least work on it. Start somewhere. You work at home by clicking and treating every time you grab their collar.  Next, have a friend do grab their collar.  Try working on giving them a treat every time they see a stranger to build the association that strangers make treats appear.  If you’re struggling with this, contact a trainer, behaviorist, and/or vet.  This could make a difference in an emergency situation.

  • Have a plan

Do you know what you are going to do in different scenarios?  What happens in a fire, severe storms, earthquakes, etc.?  What happens if you are out of town?  Take a second to think about these things. Write your plan down.  You should have a meeting place, a list of important phone numbers, what everyone’s responsibilities are, and what actions should be taken. Share it with your family members.  It could save your life and the life of your dog.


There are a few steps you can take to be ready for an emergency situations that come your way.  Having a few basic things ready and incorporating some disaster readiness into your training, will help you feel a little bit more confident if something ever happens.  I don’t think anyone is truly ready for the bad, but at least you can minimize the effects.

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