Trainer shares five things you can do to help your leash reactive dog stay calm around triggers

Couple on a walk with Beagle dog in nature
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While there's a lot of information out there about reactivity, one thing that often isn't discussed is what to do if your dog gets 'trapped' by a trigger when you're out on a walk.

Getting trapped by a trigger can happen in many different ways. A great example is having another person or dog coming toward you and not having enough space or time to move your reactive pup out of the way.

That's where knowing how to calm a reactive dog in these sorts of situations can come in really handy.

Thankfully Lyz Knight, the founder of Rover Rehab Dog Training, has shared a post to Instagram in which she's revealing her top tips for dealing with getting trapped by triggers.

Knight is a highly trained specialist in the field of reactivity and has worked with many fearful and anxious pups. Read on to find out how she copes when out on a walk...

1. Treat scatters: "Tossing some snacks on the ground or the grass helps keep my dog occupied until the trigger has passed," explains Knight. "Treat scatters also encourage "nose to the ground & sniffing" instead of "staring at what is approaching and worrying about it."

2. Magnet hand: "I use a fistful of treats right at my dog's nose to move her as far from a trigger as possible and to keep her close to me if we don't have good options for moving away. Keeping a stream of tasty snacks also helps to continue pairing scary stuff with good/delicious things, even if the scenario isn't ideal."

3. Conditioned harness hold: Knight says she often pairs the magnet hand with holding onto the back of her dog's harness. "This is something we've practiced regularly so that she's comfortable with it, and it gives me a backup safety option to keep her close to me if needed."

4. Using my voice: "Talking to my dog helps her feel safe and also helps ME get through stressful moments. Saying things like "I know that was scary, you're doing great" can also help people passy understand that your dog is having a hard time!," says Knight.

5. Triage vs training: Knight reminds us in her post that not every moment is a training moment, and that's okay. "Getting trapped while on a walk is often a triage situation - we avoid it whenever possible, but if it happens we just through it as quickly and with the least amount of stress possible."

While all dogs are unique, Knight's tips above are well worth trying if you find yourself caught in a situation where your dog is trapped by a trigger. 

For more targeted, one-to-one support, we recommend working with a qualified 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.