What is reactivity?

Posted On Jan 30, 2024 |

What is reactivity

Reactivity lacks a clear, agreed-upon definition, varying from person to person. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it's "to act in a particular way as a result of something else," but this doesn't provide much insight.

Typically, "reactivity" describes how a dog barks and lunges in certain circumstances in response to specific stimuli. However, for me, reactivity extends beyond just behaviours; it's about how the dog views the world and responds to it.

I view reactivity in terms of safety—whether the dog feels safe in their environment. A dog that is reacting may not realise they're safe, and they behave in a way that suggests they do not feel safe.

In essence, "reactive" describes a dog that feels unsafe and exhibits a variety of behaviours including barking, lunging, growling, snarling, snapping, and stiffening in response to perceived threats.

Is reactive behaviour appropriate?

Reactivity is subjective, it's our own judgment that shapes what we deem appropriate or inappropriate. With our individual differences, each of us will have our own thoughts on what constitutes inappropriate behaviour. For dogs, their behaviour is appropriate to them. The dog is not being stubborn, naughty, or intentionally difficult. They are simply responding and reacting in a way that works for them in that particular moment, likely because they feel unsafe, are struggling to cope, and have no alternative.

Let's continue to understand and support our canine companions!