What I’ve Learned From My Reactive Dog

Owning a reactive dog has been hard. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I found Ellie at the shelter and instantly fell in love with her. Having her has made it harder to do a lot of things. But she’s also taught me so much about being a better dog owner and a better person. Here’s some of what she’s taught me.


I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times (years ago) when I debated if we should find her a new home. I felt horrible that some things in our life were obviously stressing her out. I was sick of her snapping (yep, she snaps even at us), sick of having to make arrangements around her needs, and wanted a friendly dog I could take places with me. I’m so glad that those breakdown moments didn’t end in me finding her a new home, though. She’s improved with lots of work, we’ve learned how to better manage her, and we’ve learned to accept some of her behaviors as they are.

How to be a better dog owner.

Ellie Reactive Dog

I wouldn’t have become a pet sitter without Ellie. I learned so much through having her. Everything from techniques to handle reactive dogs on walks, how to correctly approach dogs, and options for different harnesses and leashes. I learned all of this because I had Ellie. I don’t think I would’ve been drawn to pet sitting in the same way if I hadn’t had her. I wanted to be able to help other dogs and spend time with the dogs that have some of the same issues. I might have been scared to see that kind of behavior before, but Ellie is still one of the most reactive dogs I’ve met out of all the ones I’ve cared for. She prepared me well and gave me a much better understanding of the reactive dogs that JenLovesPets cares for.

How to look for the good things.

It’s really hard to get out of those breakdowns when you’ve just had a really tough time with your dog. When your dog is lunging, barking, and causing a huge scene at another dog that’s all the way across the street, it’s so easy to be angry! Why can’t they just be a good dog!? Why can’t they be like all those other dogs who can play together without a slow introduction!? Why can’t they enjoy strangers petting them while on walks!?

Here’s the thing: Ellie is a great dog.

She’s not destructive, she doesn’t have severe separation anxiety, she never ever goes potty inside, she’s perfectly happy to be lazy if we miss a day of playing ball outside, and she’s the sweetest angel when we wake up and cuddle in the morning. She has her problems, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a good dog. I’ve learned to see all the good in her.

I used to wish I had a better, friendlier dog that would love everyone. But I’d do anything for Ellie and I’ve had the best experience watching her progress over the past almost 5 years. Ellie has gotten me through some of my toughest times. She’s been my motivation to keep pushing.

My reactive dog is a good dog.



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