Keep a close watch on the bubble.
Your dog has a personal bubble. It varies in sizes depending on where he is, how he feels, and what he is facing.
As your dog's leader, you need to be very in tune with how big your dog needs that bubble to be at all time.
If your dog sees a trigger and needs a bigger bubble (i.e. more personal space), you can creat that by staying further away from the trigger. Distance is the key. You can just walk around, turn 90 degree, or make a u turn, to increase distance.
Lots of dogs need space from other dogs, especially one which is reactive or aggressive.
Sometimes, a dog may need more space from human, too, such as your guest, a child, a stranger...etc.
Human can put pressure on a dog by being too close and too upfront. An uncomfortable dog may not growl right off the bet. Usually there are little subtle cues such as looking away, sniffing the ground, licking the lips, yawning...etc.
A lot of owners miss these signs and do nothing. When their dogs growl at someone they then say, "l have no idea why, my dog has never done it before. He has been very friendly...".
Truth is the dog has been tolerating the pressure for a while. He has been asking you for help repeatedly by sending you lots of cut off cues. When nothing is done, the dog finally takes it in his hand. Enough is enough. So, he snaps.
If we pay close attention we can see these signs early on. When we do, we need to step up and advocate for our dogs. If we catch it soon enough we can prevent the dog from becoming reactive.
The way to advocate for our dogs is very simple. If it is a person the dog is not comfortable with, we can politely ask the person not to get any closer and then proceed to give the dog more space by increasing the distance between the dog and the person. We can walk around that person or turn around and go the opposite direction.
Many people have problem doing this because they think saying no to someone who wants to pet their dogs is rude and odd.
Truth is you are doing the most responsible thing for your dog, that person, and the public.
If you don't, your dog can become reactive. He will not get to go out as often. There are places he cannot be taken to. And there is always the risk he may scare or even hurt a child one day. He will lose his freedom and may end up living in his yard forever. None of these outcomes is good for the dog. If we want what is best for our dog, we definitely should do the right thing by saying no.
Sometimes, pressure can come from how a human stands or how he approaches a dog. Approaching a dog from the front with one's hand reaching toward the dog's nose can be intimidating to an anxious dog. A dog can smell you just fine, there is no need to shove your hand in his face.
A better approach is adapt a sideway and lower posture and let the dog come to you. Instead of reaching out to the dog, give the dog space, act aloof and non-threatening, and let the dog come to you when he is ready.
Usually, l will take a step away and ignore the dog after the first couple sniff.
Some dogs are not ready for any intimate interaction eventhough they have come to sniff you. By taking a step away, l let him know l will not force myself on him just because he has sniffed me, l show him respect by listening to him to see if he really wants anything more than a sniff. If he backs away l will leave it; if he still keeps coming then l may response, but only in a calm manner.
It is our job to help our dogs feel calm, relaxed, and content. Anxiety is not comfortable for our dogs. If we allow our dogs to feel invaded, they will feel anxious. By keeping a close watch on the bubble we can reduce this anxiety and give our dogs a happier life.