Do you have a reactive dog? Try this trainer’s clever tip to reduce their anxiety

Dog pulling on leash
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated, any expert comments quoted in this news piece have been taken directly from the video cited below.

Being a pet parent to a reactive dog can feel like a tough gig some days. Whether it's incessant barking when the doorbell goes or leash pulling on walks when they spot another dog, reactivity is one of the most challenging issues dog owners face.

Thankfully, learning how to calm a reactive dog can go a long way in helping your canine companion feel relaxed around common triggers. 

And according to expert trainer Adam Spivey, founder of Southend Dog Training, one of the easiest ways you can do this is to teach your dog to use their nose.

Turning your walk into a sniffari isn't just beneficial when it comes to tiring your dog out, it can also help them to feel less anxious. 

Check out Spivey's Instagram video below where he explains how you can use sniffing to lessen your dog's reactivity, or read on for a summary...

"One thing that reactive dogs struggle to do is sniff when they're in the vicinity of something that makes them uncomfortable," Spivey explains. "They just fixate on what makes them uncomfortable and they react."

In order to help your reactive dog relax, Spivey says it's vital that they learn to use their nose.

"One of the things we do with these dogs is we teach what's called the sniff command. 

"What we do is we say 'sniff' and we throw some of their treats on the floor. We do this in the garden, we do this on walks when there's no dogs around, so that the dog starts to understand that 'sniff' means they need to start to search for something."

Spivey explains that you can then use the 'sniff' command to your advantage when you see other dogs approaching.

"Before the dog gets to the stage of reacting we can say 'sniff' and we can throw some treats on the floor.

But what about dogs that aren't food or treat motivated we hear you ask? Well, according to Spivey this is a myth.

"All dogs are food motivated, most dogs are simply full because you feed them from a bowl twice a day. Stop using a bowl, put that food in a treat pouch and make them work for that," he advises. "Very quickly their food drive will come out."

While every dog is unique, if your pup tends to struggle with reactivity, Spivey's sniffing tip is well worth trying out.

And as always, if you feel your dog would benefit from some extra support, we recommend reaching out to a professional trainer. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.