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3 Tips For Working With Reactive Dogs

If you have ever had animals, you know they all have their own personalities. Of the dogs I have had as an adult, my first one was my prince (after his first couple weeks of puppydom). My second was my clown and my velcro dog. My current one is my Wild child. He is my reactive dog. I knew he was going to be a challenge from the first moment I saw him at the shelter I was working at. I saw a glimpse of what he could be though, and adopted him the next day. In fact I named him Declan which means “full of goodness” in Irish.

It was immediately determined as soon as he got home that I took on a huge challenge. He went ballistic when the neighbors dog came out and attempted to greet him through the fence. I hired a trainer to come out to the house and help. Although that trainer gave me some good information for general training- all would be lost when Declan would see an animal of any sort. So I went searching for more information and found Danielle Basciano and her team at CNY Pet Training and Behavior. Danielle is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and among her other classes, she has one specifically for reactive dogs. Here are a few tips from her class.

On Cue

Teach your dog to look at you on cue. Use a word/phrase to encourage your dog to look at you. Give him a lot a praise or positive attention when he does it, in order that he will look at you even when there is a trigger around. If you use the dog’s name as your cue, be sure that you only use it with positive actions and not as a reprimand. The cue should always be something that the dog responds positively too.


Use this when you are walking your dog and you see a trigger coming your way. Signal your dog with a command (ie- ‘turn’, ‘this way’) and then turn in the opposite direction from the trigger. Award your dog with positive feedback/treats. If you turn the opposite way and another trigger is in that direction as well, Move to a spot where the trigger can pass safely while giving your dog lot’s of high value treats to minimize the trigger.

Keep Calm

Let’s face it, Our dogs take a lot of cues from us. If they see/feel us getting tense, they are going to be more tense themselves. So practice being a calming influence on your pet. Try to maintain a calm voice while giving direction and refrain from tightening the grip on your leash.

Managing reactive dogs in a photo session.

The tips above are for those of you that would love to get a photo with your reactive dog, but don’t know how to achieve it. Since I have a reactive dog and have utilized these tips, I can work with your dog during a photo session. When scheduling our consultation, this is one of the important to advise me of your dogs reactivity in order that I can tailor the session specifically in ways that will lessen the chances of your dog being triggered. Some things we will discuss will include:

Quiet Place

We can find a location that has little traffic and out of the way in order to lessen the chances of your dog coming upon something that triggers him.


For safety your dog will be on a leash. We might possibly even use two. Safety is my main concern for both you and your pet.

An extra handler

This will be a time that I may ask you to bring an additional handler. During a portrait session, I am busy posing and directing you and your dog. You are busy following my directions and naturally checking in with your dog. An additional handler would be able to watch the surroundings to monitor for triggers, in order to give us fair warning to ensure the safety of all.

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Canberra Pet Photographer Ina J Photography talks about how she works with reactive and anxious dogs in her pet photography session

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Capture your journey with your pet. Nancy Kieffer is a pet and nature photographer serving  Central New York, the Adirondacks and Beyond.  Capture how you share your life with your pet! It may be a vacation adventure or curled up on the couch. Travel assignments welcomed.