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A Dog Owner’s Secret Weapon

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Large dog on green grass

I am currently fostering a reactive, fearful-aggressive dog named Ivy. She really is a sweet dog, perhaps the cuddliest dog I’ve ever met, despite the fact that she’s huge.

In the day-to-day routine, Ivy is great. She does chores with me and checks on all the other animals on the farm. She comes into the house and stays politely in designated areas. She’s polite around food and great with my dog, Milo.

But, when there’s something out of the ordinary: a new cat, a stranger coming to visit, or a noise in the dark, she’s on high alert, reactive, and aggressive.

When her energy goes up, it’s easy for my energy to go up too. I automatically feel anxious that she’ll hurt the cat, attack the stranger, or lunge off into the darkness. From that place of anxiety, I automatically want to intervene with my voice, my hands, or a rope. From that place of anxiety, I can feel the impulse to shout, or “comfort her” with some petting, or pull at her leash.

I’ve gone that way. I’ve acted out of anxiety and concern. I’ve acted from that place of high energy. Spoiler alert: it never works. It never helps to bring her energy down, calm the situation, or restore her sanity.

So when a dog is reactive, or misbehaving, or barking, or jumping, or doing anything with high energy, do we just let it happen?

No. Not at all. Intervention is absolutely necessary. Prevention is even better. As dog owner’s we have to do something to deal with a high energy dog.

WHAT we do in each situation varies. Maybe distraction with a sit and treat is called for. Maybe it’s a timeout. Perhaps you can just lead the dog away. Maybe you have to stand tall and ignore the dog. Again, WHAT we do in each situation varies.

But HOW we do it stays the same.

HOW do we do the things that we have to do in order to handle the dog and the situation?


That’s it. That’s the dog owner’s secret weapon: calm.

Whatever you do with your dog, do it calmly. Whether you are taking the dog’s collar, or leading him away, putting her in timeout, ignoring her, or any other action, do it calmly.

When your dog’s energy is going up, your energy has to go down.

It makes sense when you think of it: how can you possibly lower a dog’s energy by raising yours?

Trust me, I’m not standing here preaching at you about staying calm. I’m saying this as much for me as for you. It’s easier said than done. But it’s effective.

So next time your dog’s energy is going up, take a deep breath, slow down your movements, calm yourself, and then let your actions come from a place of calm.

Here’s to You and Your Dog,


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