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A Completely New Look at 'Reactivity'

'Reactivity', as it's now commonly called, is a well-known term for dog parents. It often refers to dogs who have some measure of a behavioral outburst or breakdown frequently triggered by something external in the environment. These ‘triggers’ can be innumerable. Things like other dogs, cats, people, trash trucks, doorbells, loud sounds, the mailman, skateboarders, bicycles etc.  - you get the point.  

But 'reactivity' is really a VERY general term that has no clear definition. The methods and ways to ‘deal’ with reactivity can vary just as widely as the ways in which you can potentially ‘trigger’ a dog. In traditional training models, the conversation about how to deal with ‘reactivity’ is almost always centered on the trigger. 

What we mean, is that under traditional training models the solution always begins with the problem in mind, which is often defined as the trigger itself. This is taking a look at the problem from the wrong way around!

The real issue is this: if your dog is having meltdowns because of a specific trigger, it is very likely that they simply don’t have the skills to handle it any other way and that whatever intensity their ‘outburst’ presents as is merely a reflection of this simple observation. 

Let's peel back the onion a little deeper and get away from the tunnel vision focus on ‘behavior’ or what the dog is DOING - this can be a costly misconception developed under a traditional training mindset. If we do this, we can see something else emerge that not only makes far more sense but offers us a much clearer path into truly healing the dog rather than just simply ‘modifying’ or ‘adjusting’ behavior or what the dog DOES. A focus that I've seen do far more harm than good.

I find that putting this in human terms can be helpful as an illustration. What level of anxiety, fear, or stress would it take for you to, almost instantly, come unglued behaviorally? What emotional state would you need to be in for this to happen on a repeated and consistent basis? What effect would this have on your nervous system? And over a prolonged period of time?

Would you look at someone who exhibited this behavior and think that they needed some behavior adjustment? Or would you more naturally assume that they may be dealing with some deeper emotional issues? Of course!


We feel the real resolution to this super common issue lies in taking a more compassionate and considerate approach to our dogs, just like we all would with a human with the same problems. What I mean by this is that behavior, or what your dog DOES, is a result of something that’s already taken place internally. The outward behavior is merely the SYMPTOM of the problem. 

A nervous system that is shot, or highly adrenalized, NEEDS attention! We cannot simply ‘tell’ the dog to do something else when their nervous system is hot and stuck in fight or flight mode and expect that we can get anywhere truly meaningful.

If you’re looking to simply stop the behavior so that you don’t have to deal with it anymore, that’s certainly one way to look at it and you may achieve some results with this approach. But what you won’t get is a dog that feels safer, less stressed, optimistic instead of pessimistic, who’s emotionally well, flexible, and resilient.

The issue with a traditional training mindset is that it often focuses on fixing a specific problem with the dog with the desired outcome being only that the owner will no longer have to deal with that problem. As passionate pet parents with animals that are such integral and important parts of our lives, we know that simply making ourselves feel better is far from the best possible resolution and doesn't lead to lasting, impactful results. 

The good news is this: if we focus all our attention on supporting the development of new ideas, attitudes, and emotional states, then our dogs will no longer have a ‘problem’. If they no longer have a problem, guess who else doesn’t? That’s right! You!


So let’s give your dogs all of the support they need in order to be successful. And that support comes in the form of following a very simple process that any dog owner can EASILY learn. It doesn’t matter how severe the behavior is, how long it’s been present, or how many or how few ‘triggers’ the dog reacts to. It’s so intuitive and so simple it's actually a breath of fresh air - especially if you’ve labored with all of the cumbersome and time-consuming methods in traditional training.

Traditional training will often offer different methods for different issues; different techniques for each different trigger, and oh my god, bless you if you have dogs with different personalities because that means you need to learn a completely new approach for that one too!

In fact, let's go ahead and forget the word trigger altogether. This isn’t an external issue. This is internal. This is about your dog's nervous system, this is about their emotional states, and it’s about your dog’s ideas of what things mean to them. 

When we address these underlying issues with ONE system, no matter the individual dog or issue, we end up seeing a dog who handles their whole world differently. Why? Because we’ve healed the dog from the inside. They have a different governing emotional life, a healthy nervous system, and a strong core belief of optimism rather than pessimism.

Send us a message to find out more about how you can use a targeted training program utilizing Training Between the Ears (TBTE) and Dog Savvy's own A.B.I.D.E. System™ to say goodbye to the term 'reactivity' for good. 

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