Reactive Rovers helps pets remain calm in the presence of other dogs

We’ve all seen dogs that bark and lunge when they see another dog, so the Animal Humane Society is offering to help reactive dogs to get them some peace of mind.

Margaret Rambo says her 2-year-old lab is usually a sweetheart, but when Daniel gets around other dogs out for a walk, it can turn into a rough experience.

“When I first started fostering him, it’s a lot of upper body strength and the anxiety is provoked because you aren’t sure if he is going to get out of the leash,” Rambo said.

So, Rambo brings him to a behavior modification class at the Animal Humane Society called Reactive Rovers.

There, instructors teach dog owners how to keep their pets calm around other animals.

“It can be very isolating. I’ve owned a reactive rover myself. Avoiding other dogs can be very stressful around other dogs. Having to cross the street or not going on walks at all. Walking at strange times or not walking the dog,” said Elise Penham Probasco, an animal training and behavioral specialist.

In the class, each dog is kept behind a partition so they don’t see the other dogs in the room. Then, for short periods of time, they are exposed to a so-called neutral dog that ignores other dogs to desensitize the reactive rovers to other canines.

“In class, we use pieces of hot dog and pieces of cheese to build positive associations when they see another dog,” Probasco said. “You get an amazing treat like a piece of hot dog instead of thinking they are going to attack you.”

Rambo hopes Daniel will eventually be able to go anywhere and be around any do, so getting some exercise will no longer be a walk on the wild side.

"That's in his nature. He's a sweet dog and really smart. If we can just get him from getting anxious and excited around other dogs, he can go more places,” Rambo added.

Reactive Rovers classes are offered Thursday nights, but the classes are so popular there’s a 12-week waiting list.