Owning a dog is hard. And a reactive dog? Woof.
Though there are many aspects of dog ownership that are wonderful and fulfilling, there can be days (or weeks, or months) where it’s difficult to remember those. We’re talking the days after a not-so-good walk (where it feels like you’re regressing), an unexpected reaction (when it seems like you’re taking one step forward, two steps back), or an unfortunate off-leash dog encounter (made worse by the other owner’s assertion that “they’re friendly!”).
During times like these, it can be helpful to take a step back and take care of YOU and YOUR mental health as a dog owner. After all, being a good leader for your dog is a challenge to begin with—and even more so when you’re feeling mentally, emotionally, and/or physically drained.
As such, we’re sharing a few of our favorite mantras for reactive dog owners. They’re helpful reminders that you are doing GOOD, and that you are ENOUGH. (Yes, we know that “doing good” is grammatically incorrect. Yes, we’re still going to say it. We tell our dogs GOOD, we tell ourselves GOOD. Thank you for coming to our Ted Talk.)
1. I am a good owner.
When our dogs are struggling, it can sometimes feel like it’s our fault—like we, as dog owners, have failed them. Or, as Taylor Swift says, “It’s me, hi. I’m the problem. It’s me.”
Though it can be tempting to feel this way, this could not be further from the truth. You are a good owner, you are doing your best, and your dog is lucky to have you. Just by exploring training resources, educating yourself on dog reactivity, and working on dog training each day, you are being a good leader (and thus, a good owner) for them.
2. My dog is not bad.
A reactive dog is not a bad dog. A reactive dog is not a bad dog. A reactive dog is not a bad dog. We could repeat this one over and over again.
A reactive dog is just a dog that needs additional support and leadership to live its best life. It has anxiety or fear that causes it to act as it does, and you are doing your best to provide it guidance and direction so it feels safe and comfortable in this world.
3. Progress takes time.
It can be easy to look at others’ dog training journeys and feel like you aren’t making progress. This is especially true when it comes to social media. Keep in mind, however, that you’re only seeing a tiny piece of someone’s journey with their pup—and it likely took them a long time and a lot of practice to get there.
Just like every human is different, so too is every dog. Don’t compare your training journey to other owners' experiences, and focus on celebrating the small wins along the way. Progress is progress is progress—and it takes time and consistency to happen.
Next time you’re having a ruff—erm, rough—day, try reflecting on one of these mantras (or just repeating it to yourself a few times). And remember: Dog training is difficult. You’re doing GOOD.