Something I often hear from clients is how aware they are of the judgement of others when they are out with their dogs. 

If their dog is lunging, barking or otherwise seen as behaving 'badly', they feel the weight of strangers' eyes on them. Sometimes the judgment is just an eye roll or a tut....sometimes it's more explicit - being shouted or sworn at. Either way they feel shamed and often defensive.

Almost certainly I can say that those doing the shaming have never had a reactive dog themselves. They have never had to deal with not getting the dog they hoped for. Never had to walk their dog at the crack of dawn or late at night just to avoid other people. Never felt their heart sink when something unexpected happens and their best laid plans go wrong. Never felt the mixed emotions of embarrassment, sadness and frustration when their dog kicks off yet again. Never cried when they've had to abandon another walk. Never felt dread at the sound of "it's ok...he's friendly". Never felt the pressure to correct their dog because they need to be seen to be 'doing something'.

For those feeling judged remember that other people's opinions affect you only as much as you let them. Take a deep breath, shake it off and move on. Easier said than done at first but, like any skill, it gets easier with practice. Don't compare your dog to others. No two dogs are the same and, as the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. Ditch the shame. It's corrosive and toxic. Do the best you can in any situation and seek help if you need it. If you do that no one can ask more of you. And know that you're not alone. For every eye roll you receive there's probably also someone who's watching sympathetically because they've been there.

And if you've caught yourself eye rolling and tutting and rushing to judgement try to put yourself in that person's shoes. No one enjoys being the person with 'that' dog. It's never what people planned and they are generally trying their best in a bad situation. When you see a reactive dog kicking off know that, in that moment, both the dog and its owner are having a hard time and cut them a little slack.

Being the owner of a reactive dog is hard enough. Let's not make it any harder.