Reactive Dog And Joggers

With spring fast approaching and joggers multiplying by the day maybe it’s time to stop your reactive dog from chasing joggers and to a lesser extent cyclists and horse riders.

The fact is many dogs can’t resist a jogger who suddenly and unexpectedly appears from nowhere and startles you and your dog. Of course the fit joggers are the worst. After all you don’t hear them coming! On the other hand you can hear the unfit joggers a mile away. Because they sound a bit like a steam train as they gasp for breath and create a mini earthquake with their pounding feet as they approach you and your reactive dog.

Unfortunately most of the joggers I encounter whilst walking my clients’ dogs are the most dangerous – the fit variety! This is probably because of the challenging nature of where I most often encounter joggers – the Crags at Sandygate. Endcliffe Park though is a different kettle of fish and attracts a wide variety of fitness levels!

Why Does Your Good Dog Become A Reactive Dog?

There are several reasons for this as follows:

Dogs Prey Drive

Bearing in mind that all our dog breeds were derived from the wolf then it’s hardly surprising that their prey instinct is immediately switched on when someone or even something moves away from them quickly. With the recent strong winds blowing leaves all over the place I received a reminder of this whilst walking a beautiful black Labrador down Fulwood Road. He just couldn’t resist trying to chase every leaf that blew before him! And you can see this prey instinct demonstrated if you have a dog that likes to play fetch.

Dogs Territorial Instincts

Another legacy from the Wolf is the need to protect a dog’s territorial boundaries so that they don’t have their space invaded by another dog or human being. How many time has your dog on a lead had its space invaded by another exuberant dog off the lead that has resulted in a rebuke from your dog or worst still – a fight?

This reminds me of a woman who was so fed up of her dog having to endure this that one day she tried to teach the offending dog’s owner a lesson by hugging her! I’m not suggesting you try this as a technique though since it could get you arrested!

Dogs On Guard

Dogs were bred to protect their human companions too although the protective nature is stronger in some breeds than others. For your information here are the top ten guard dogs according to Cesar Milan:

And even if your dog’s breed isn’t on this list most dogs instinctively protect their human companions. This means that any perceived threat to you could result in your dog chasing or even biting another person or dog.

The Problem With Joggers And Others

Freddie, the long haired German Shepherd Dog

Of course any moving object can trigger a reactive dog especially on bridleways where as well as joggers you may be sharing your walk with horse riders or cyclists.

You would think that an enormous long-haired German Shepherd wouldn’t bat an eyelid if he encountered a horse rider. Not a bit of it! Freddie, the long haired German Shepherd I walk every day hid behind me the first time he met one! Perhaps he thought the horse was an extremely large dog breed!

Some Things You Can Do To Prevent Your Dog Reacting

Do not wear earphones

Wearing earphones means you will not hear anyone approaching from in front or behind you! This might seem obvious. Unfortunately for the many earphone-wearing dog walkers I see each day it definitely isn’t!

Keep your mobile in your pocket.

A mobile is a major distraction that can easily take your attention away from your dog and joggers and others approaching your dog.

Put a lead on your dog

When you see a jogger, horse rider or cyclist approaching stop, put the lead on your dog and move to the side to allow them to pass at a safe distance from you and your dog. Remember if your lead is of the extendable variety check that it is locked in the fixed position!!!!

Manage your dog’s behavior

If your dog starts to react, keep calm, pull your lead and say “No” firmly i.e. he has to know you mean it and try not to get angry since your dog will pick up on this and react even more. You may have to repeat this a few times before he settles down then you can say “good boy” and give him a treat.

Make sure the perceived threat whether that be jogger, horse rider or cyclist is out of sight before removing the lead although I suggest that in any public places it’s safer to keep your dog on a lead at all times!!

Some Things Joggers, Horse Riders and Cyclists Can Do

Let dog walkers know you are approaching

I’ve lost count of the number of times joggers in particular have been running towards me from behind resulting in them startling me and the dog I was walking. This is especially so when I have my hood up on a cold or wet day. Joggers approaching silently from behind are probably the biggest cause of a dog reacting resulting in the dog trying to chase or even bite the “dangerous” jogger they see as either a threat or are simply following their prey instincts.

So always warn of your approach by saying something like “I’m coming though” or such like before you reach the dog walker and make sure you pitch it right since shouting a warning may cause the dog to react too. Alternatively use a whistle audible to both the dog and it’s owner. Cyclists can alert dog walkers by simply ringing their bell and you can usually hear horses approaching from behind.

Stop jogging

And start walking as you approach and pass someone walking a dog. Your speed will excite a dog and since they are prey animals in his eyes he will see you as prey – something you should avoid at all cost!

Cyclists ideally should dismount and walk past and at the very least slow down to a walking pace.

Horse riders would be advised to walk past , NOT trot or gallop!

Put as much space as you can between you and the dog walker when passing

Remember both humans and dogs do not like to have their personal space invaded so respect this and keep your distance.

Public spaces such as parks and the countryside in general are for us all to enjoy. Follow the guidelines in this article and you can make sure that your next outing and those of others sharing the outdoors will be a pleasure.