Trainer reveals the one thing you can do to help your reactive dog feel calmer and more relaxed

Dog barking on leash while being taken for a walk
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Does your dog bark or lunge at other dogs when you're out on your daily walk? If so, you might be dealing with a nervous or reactive pup.

A common and frustrating issue faced by a lot of pet parents, reactivity can be challenging to deal with and sometimes, using frequently cited methods such as dishing out the best dog treats as a distraction technique, prove ineffective. 

Thankfully, expert dog trainer Miles Hamilton says there is something we can do to help our dog's feel calmer and more relaxed, and it's all about reducing their exposure to highly stimulating situations. 


♬ original sound - Hamilton Dog Training

"The first thing that I tell my clients who have reactive dogs is to stop all unproductive social interactions," Hamilton explains in a video shared to TikTok.

"This includes dog parks, it includes daycare, it includes random dogs and strangers that you see out on walks."

While this may sound a little extreme, Hamilton says there's a good reason he advises his clients to do this.

"If your dog is allowed to engage with dogs in that way, one of two things is going to happen. They're either going to have a positive experience or a negative experience. Either of which is counterproductive to training."

If you're anything like us, you're probably wondering why your dog having positive experiences is so bad when it comes to putting a stop to their reactivity, but according to Hamilton, neutral encounters and environments are what produce a calm dog.

"When we're training reactive dogs, our goal is always to create a neutral association towards other dogs. Other dogs are not good or bad, they're just dogs." 

Training your pup to view other dogs in a neutral way will help them to feel more comfortable and relaxed when you're out and about which will in turn help your walks feel happier and less stressful. 

As with training any new skill or behavior, working with reactivity takes time, patience, and consistency. If you feel like your pup would benefit from some extra support in this area, we recommend reaching out to a professional trainer.

For more great training tips, check out our guides to how to crate train a dog and how to reduce separation anxiety in dogs.

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.