Coping with Barrier Reactivity

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June 23, 2020
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Coping with Barrier Reactivity

Barrier reactivity can be intimidating, whether you are a dog or a
human. Have you ever walked past a fence and been rushed by a
huge dog barking its head off? It can be quite unnerving. A strange
dog with an unknown agenda is scary. Some dogs are trained to react
to strangers who come to their yard, some act out of fear, some are
frustrated. Constant barking at a fence, door, or the end of a leash
can be very stressful for a dog, but there are ways to improve it.
It can be a traumatic for a dog to constantly be yearning for something
just out of reach. No matter the barrier, it is holding a dog back from
getting something it really wants. Frustration often manifests in
barking, growling, lunging, whining, and jumping. The object of a
dog’s affection is extremely important, yet no matter what it does it
cannot reach it.

Different environments require different solutions. If a dog is in a
fenced in area, it may help to build a visual barrier where your dog
cannot see what is on the other side of the fence. While it can still
hear and smell, it makes it a bit easier to focus on what is in the yard
around it. If on leash, having a stock of high value treats on board can
help distract a dog from the bicycle, car, jogger, cat, or whatever the
source of its anxiety is. The key is keeping a safe distance and catching a dog before it starts reacting to prevent and avoid the behavior
entirely. If your treats are not interesting enough over the stimulus, you
may need higher value treats like meat or cheese or need to increase
your distance from the trigger.
Rover Rescue
Lauren Kehoe
is an avid
animal lover
and dog owner.

Dogs that constantly bark from neighbors
or dogs walking near its home could
benefit from visual barriers in the form
of curtains and a closed door. Calming
music gives a dog something else to
focus on. If the doorbell is a specific
trigger, one can practice giving treats or
other adequate distraction before the bell
rings and before the dog can react.
It might be helpful to keep a dog in a
closed back room with some music and a good bone to
chew on if you know there are going to be many visitors
coming to the door.

Barrier reactivity is stressful for a dog and its owner and can
stress out humans and canines passing by. Counter conditioning, such as giving high value treats at a high rate while the
trigger passes so a dog does not have time to react, is the best
go to for modifying this behavior. Over time, instead of looking
for the bicycle, the dog will look to you for the chicken. Visual
barriers or increasing distance to start can help keep a dog’s
focus. Barrier reactivity can be improved, and you and your
dog can lower cortisol levels!

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