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It’s Just a Walk in the Park

By Veronica Rigatti, VSA-CDT, Canine Behavior Specialist

One of the many highlights of dog adoption is taking your new best friend for walks. The activity allows both of you to bond, exercise in the fresh air and explore different areas. For some though, walking a dog—especially a reactive one—may be stressful.

Dogs are considered reactive if their response to something or someone in the environment is disproportionate to the trigger—that is, they overreact. Reactivity is often confused with aggression, and the two can certainly look alike. However, reactivity is primarily motivated by fear or frustration at being restrained on a leash or tethered behind a fence, while aggression is motivated by a desire to inflict injury. We can think of reactivity as a dog’s attempt to eliminate scary or upsetting triggers.

Dogs who are in a reactive state have become so aroused by something that they have a much more difficult time processing information or managing their own behavior. At this point, we describe these dogs as being