Do you have a reactive dog? Trainer shares simple piece of advice you may not have thought of — and it's so important

Man relaxing with dog in hammock
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Do you have a reactive dog? If you do, you’re not alone. Many dog parents have or have had a dog that’s reactive, for whatever reason.

Dealing with reactivity in dogs can be difficult, and you might find yourself spending a whole lot of time trying to balance and regulate your dog’s feelings. That’s why it’s important to remember to take breaks and look after yourself, too. Sure, you might have the best dog treats for your pup, but don’t forget something nice for yourself at the same time!

Award-winning trainer Lisa Burton of Listen Dog Training has offered some key pieces of advice for parents of reactive dogs, and it’s all worth remembering.

“Dedicate time to self-development away from your dog, to work on your own mindset/beliefs/self-opinion,” begins Burton, “If the voice in your head berates you every time your dog has a reaction, you need a new inner voice.”

It’s important to go easy on yourself. Don’t let self-criticism dominate the journey you’re on with your dog, as it can easily begin to set the tone for what you come to believe is possible. As Burton puts it, “Whether you believe things can get better, or you believe they can’t, you’re right.”

Similarly, be careful not to become too hyper-fixated on one issue, because it can stop you from noticing everything that’s going right! It can help to take breaks from working on issues to spend some time having fun with your dog. During these times, try your best not to dwell on the negatives – instead, enjoy having a good time with your pup. Try one of these eight fun games to play with dogs, or reach for your pup’s favorite toy.

Breaks can also help you to avoid burning out, or sacrificing your own health and wellbeing in a bid to get the ‘perfect’ dog. Burton stresses, “Remember that to be the best owner you can be, you need rest, regulation, and self-care. Fill up your cup so that you can fill your dog’s too.”

If you’re struggling with your reactive dog, you might find the following article useful: Owning a reactive dog is hard. Here's how I navigated the social challenges with my pooch. If your dog is a little younger, you might find this article handy, too: Five mistakes I made with my reactive dog that you'll want to avoid.

Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats$16.89 from Chewy

Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
$16.89 from Chewy
We gave these to our tester Isaiah for his dog Hayes to try. He reports back that they're his new favorite treat and are a suitable size for training. "He could and would eat the whole bag if allowed!"

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.