I have a reactive dog named Delilah. By reactive, I mean she is very nervous and scared on walks and in a few other situations. She expresses this by barking and lunging or whining and running away. I am unsure why she is so scared or what she is scared of, but I do know how she reacts to this and I am aware that it can make some people nervous. Overall, Delilah is a very friendly dog and when I have guests in my house they are very surprised to hear of the problems we have on walks.
When Delilah and I go on walks I see it as a video game. I am always dodging the thing (people, other dogs, noises etc.) that makes her nervous and reward her for staying calm when such things are present. This can be difficult because, well, I live in a city. When Delilah is working with me and holding it together we look like any other person walking with their nice dog, and most people have no problem coming close to a normal person walking their normal dog. But Delilah has a threshold (a point at which she can no longer hold it together) and my job is to keep her under that threshold. The best strategy to achieve this is to keep her triggers (people, dogs, cars, etc.) at the right distance so she can keep her mind on me. This presents a problem when people see her as a well-behaved dog from afar and continue to approach us.
And it turns out there is a project that has answered my wishes: The Yellow Dog Project. Basically, people with dogs like Delilah use the color yellow to warn others that they need space. You can tie a yellow ribbon to your leash or collar, or even put a yellow vest on your dog. It’s a simple way to communicate with other people and set your dog up for success!
The only problem with this is that only works if people know about it. So please share this information with friends and family!