reactive dog training

Punishing a Reactive Dog

Punishing a Reactive Dog

Picture this: you’re walking your dog on a typical day and everything is going just fine. Suddenly they spot a trigger and the explosion can be heard three blocks in every direction. The lunging, barking, snapping, thrashing about - it draws attention from passers-by who watch in horror or walk away quickly, avoiding eye contact. You feel a surge of heat as your blood starts to boil and you tighten your grip on the leash.

Our first instinct as humans, is to punish what we don’t like. Make it stop, and make it stop fast. We yank the leash, we holler at our dog to “stop it", we force them into a sitting position by pushing down on their bum and pulling up on the leash, we try to force them to look at us to see that we’re serious. It’s all about control.

How to stop your dog from barking and lunging on walks

How to stop your dog from barking and lunging on walks

Now that we know why our dog is barking at other dogs/people on walks and we have an idea of the best tools to use, let’s talk about what we actually need to DO to make it stop. Because the root of your dog’s reactivity is most likely fear (if it’s not, it’s frustration and that’s a bit of a different story), we have to get to that root, that emotion and change it before the outward behaviour can change.

This is where Pavlov comes in. It’s so simple, you might read this and smack your hand to your forehead.

What is it?

Counter conditioning is a simple, effective training technique to change a dog’s association with an object, animal, or person from a bad feeling to a good feeling.

Top 10 tools for Handling a Reactive Dog

Top 10 tools for Handling a Reactive Dog

We are in the age of social media and opinions galore, and it can be overwhelming to try to wade through the mounds of advice on various tools and products to help us “fix a problem”. Reactive dog guardians are not immune to this! It seems like every day there is a new tool or gadget that promises to have a magical effect.

While I know that no one tool is going to work for all dogs in all situations, I certainly have my favourites. As the co-founder of our Cranky Canine program (est.2011) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, I’m happy to share them with you.

Here are my top 10 tools for handling a reactive dog:

Recipe: Doggie Meatloaf / Meatballs

If you’re looking for a quick n’easy recipe for a high-value treat to use with your reactive dog, look no further!


  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (can sub milk)

  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese

  • 1/4 cup crushed saltine crackers (can sub bread crumbs, Panko)

  • 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef, turkey, chicken, or pork

  • If you want to get really fancy, shred some old cheddar and add about 1/4 cup


  • Preheat oven to 400•F

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (meatballs) or lightly grease a bread pan with canola oil (meatloaf)

  • Mix all ingredients well using hands to pinch and mix rather than knead

  • Form into small meatballs or press mixture into bread pan

  • Bake meatballs for 25min at 400•F | bake meatloaf for 40min at 400•F *

  • Cool on a rack to let the excess fat drain off

  • When cool, portion and seal in sandwich bags and freeze for up to 2mo

  • These will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days max! 

*Cooking times may vary based on the equipment you use. Watch carefully!
Beef, pork, veal, and lamb should have a minimum internal temperature of 160ºF.
Chicken and turkey should have a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF.
Please practice safe-food handling and wash hands well.