As a dog can be reactive toward other dogs for various reasons, it can happen the same towards humans. Often those kinds of dogs are labeled as a hopeless monster, but also the owner is labeled as “not able to handle his dog”.
This is the case of Argos. And of course, I was that incapable.
I certainly made mistakes, but I also tried to solve the problems, keeping the commitment I had made. Above all, I have always acted in good faith, trying to put the well-being of the “monster” in the first place.
Dog reactive toward people, why?
A dog can be reactive toward people for many different reasons. In the case of Argos, for example, everything is caused by the fear. He is afraid of everything, but he does not want to show it. Instead of hiding himself with his tail between his legs, he decides to attack before being attacked. This makes sense: if I attack you first, you cannot hurt me.
Argos is also selective: he’s more afraid of tall and big men, which then become his favorite targets, while he’s less afraid of girls. Over the years, I have learned to recognize people who could cause him problems, to be ready to solve the situation and above all to prevent it.
How to manage a dog reactive toward people
Here are some tips you could follow if your dog is reactive toward people he doesn’t know:
- Change direction: it may seem too simple, but if you are sure that the dog will have a negative reaction, it is useless to make him feel like this. It is better to avoid it, taking a different path or otherwise pass quite far from the source of his discomfort.
- Distract it with something else: with some dogs it works, with others, it doesn’t. I’m not talking about asking the dog to seat and demanding his attention with a food reward: the threat he’s feared of will always have a greater weight and you will just be a foolish in his eyes. It’s better to do something like changing your walk rhythm, proposing a game (moving away from the source of discomfort), attracting its attention with a sound and keeping it. In short, to defocus.
- Anticipate fear: I noticed that it is very useful to anticipate fear by “introducing” the person to the dog. For example, I say “look who is here!” referring to the person who is about to pass and that Argos does not know. This trigs in him a positive reaction: he starts wagging happily. Of course, I worked tying those words to people he loves, giving it a positive mark. I can use the same word and the same cheerful tone if a man, a dragon or an elephant passes by. You can say what you want, what matters is that your voice transmits tranquility and joy to the dog.
And then, last but perhaps most important of all, work on socializing the dog with humans. Let a behaviorist or instructor guide you, depending on the age and characteristics of your dog.
If you need some advice, don’t hesitate to comment below!