sad dog looking upwards

Do you have a reactive dog?

Read our list of frequently asked questions to find out more.

What is a reactive dog?

A reactive dog is a dog who behaves inappropriately (in human eyes) to a particular situation or trigger, whether that be other dogs, strangers or particular situations. The reactivity almost always stems from the dog feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.

What does dog reactivity look like?

There is a spectrum of reactive behaviour in dogs, from barking, lunging and even biting to whining, hiding, panting, pacing and hyperexcitability to shutting down completely.

Can I run with my reactive dog?

Yes! Many reactive dogs and their owners enjoy canicross despite reactivity. It’s all about making sure your dog, other runners and their dogs, and the general public feel safe. 

Can I bring my reactive dog to a CSE run?

Yes. We would advise contacting the club, in particular the run organiser, beforehand to let them know you are coming and advise them of what your dog is reactive to. They will help make sure the run is a positive experience for you and your dog. They may advise starting by coming to a quieter run to begin with, or pair you up with another runner who is knowledgeable about dog reactivity for your first run.

How can I make sure my dog feels safe?

Leaving your dog in your vehicle until the last minute before the run starts can often be a good plan. Or lurking around the periphery of the group of runners until the start if this is not possible. Encouraging your dog to sniff around the surrounding area can help keep them calm. Running at the back of the group, or between two other runners who are aware of your dog’s reactivity and can deliberately allow sufficient distance between you can be helpful.If you sense your dog is becoming more stressed/reactive adding some more distance between them and what they are reacting to can often help. 

How can I make sure other runners and their dogs feel safe?

Alerting others in the group to your dog’s reactivity prior to a run is a good idea. We have an active Facebook group where you are encouraged to post a picture of your dog and tell us a little bit about them. It’s great to give everyone else a heads up about what your dog is reactive to so that we can all play our part in helping to make sure they don’t become too stressed, and make sure we don’t inadvertently contribute to that stress.

How can I make sure the general public feel safe?

While running, it’s important to keep an eye out for things that your dog is likely to react to (e.g. children, off-lead dogs, wildlife) and ensure that you give your dog adequate space to navigate around these. It may involve reeling your dog into the side of the path or shouting out to someone to call their dog back. Your fellow runners can be of help here by warning you of upcoming reactivity hazards, as well as warning members of the public that you and your dog are coming and helping prepare the way for you.

What else can I do?

Tying a yellow ribbon onto your canicross line or your dog’s harness signals to other club members (as well as some members of the general public) that your dog needs space and should ensure they and their dog don’t come too close for your dog’s comfort.

It may be that your dog’s reactivity reduces over time as they learn to associate canicross runs with positive experiences. If you are having trouble managing your dog’s reactivity or would like to work towards reducing it we recommend consulting a force-free dog behaviourist/trainer who uses positive reinforcement. 

Reactive dogs with yellow ribbons Space etiquette for dogs

Do you have a reactive or what we like to call ‘wobbly’ dog? We have a gallery on our Facebook page – please post a pic of your wobbly dog here