I have been walking two reactive dogs - German Shepherds - for some weeks now and although progress has been slow and steady there is definite improvement in both of them. The first time I walked them together was the silliest I have ever felt trying to exercise animals - all hope of dignity is lost when all yo can do is hold on tight and hope they get tired before you do!
We now enjoy walks in far more calm and casual way - albeit they are for now exercised separately. However, as I have been pounding the streets and fields of their neighbourhood a thought has occurred to me which might help other who are battling with similarly reactive dogs.
The "secret" (if there is such a thing) to our progress to date has been to repeat the same walk, at the same pace at the same time of day - in essence I have tried to be boring! It is a well known fact that it takes many months if not years to truly rehabilitate a reactive dog but it is obvious that small steps along that path can be made by following a few key messages.
Once it is clear what exactly stimulates the reactive dog - whether that be cars, people in hats, pushchairs, bicycles, other dogs.. it is essential that you must time and plan the walk to avoid all sight of these triggers. Now I walk around a newly constructed housing estate and so the possibility of seeing dogs and pushchairs (2 definite triggers) is reasonably high. But because we try to time the walk to avoid going to school time, coffee break, lunch time, et al we minimise the chances at best we can. It seems that dogs can and do build up new memories of calm walks when they are not constantly stressed that they might stumble across their nemesis and once these before strong enough - through daily repetition - this can help to erase the original source of anxiety.
The rehabilitation continues - I will let you know how we get on...