Is your dog reactive on walks? Try this trainer’s surprising tip for a calmer stroll

Woman holding her disobedient dachshund on a leash as he lunges at another dog
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you have an anxious or reactive dog, then you may find walking them to be a challenging experience. Insecure dogs may bark or lunge at other dogs or passersby, which can make those daily walks more stress-inducing than stress-relieving.

While learning how to calm a reactive dog or how to stop a dog from jumping up are both worthwhile skills to have in your toolbox, there's a common mistake you may be making on your walk that could be escalating your dog's reactivity.

Expert trainer Andrea Isabell, who has a background in dog psychology and is the founder of Canyons Canine Training, has shared an incredibly helpful video to Instagram that really took us by surprise.

In it, she explains that letting your nervous dog mark everything when you're out walking can actually increase their insecurity and make them more reactive, nervous, or pushy. Read on to find out more...

Isabell says if you have a reactive dog, her top piece of advice would be this: "Don't allow them to dictate the walk.

"Don't allow them to mark on every bush, every tree, drag you to every little thing to sniff and pee on.

"What this does is it allows them to express this insecurity, this anxious feeling where they're kind of swirling around mentally, anxiously wanting to pee on everything," she explains.

Isabell says that for pushy dogs, it's a pushy behavior that allows them to dominate the walk. For reactive or insecure dogs, letting them mark whenever they want allows them to practice that state of mind.

"The best thing to do is to practice leadership on the walk, just by guiding them. Having them follow alongside you or slightly behind you lets you practice direction, you're practicing showing them safety and that being by you is the place to be."

Just changing that one thing on the walk can lead to huge leaps forward in your dog's confidence.

And when it comes to sniffing and eliminating, let your dog do this in a spot that you've designated for them, not in one that they've chosen.

While Isabell's tip above is well worth trying, dealing with a reactive dog is no easy feat. If you're struggling with this right now, we also recommend you reach out to a professional trainer for some extra support. 

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.