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What is the difference between selective and reactive?

Lillie May

Good Dog
Can anyone explain this to me? I'm trying to explain to my husband and others, and I'm not sure I'm explaining it correctly. It's been discussed many times here, but unfortunately the old threads no longer work.

Nat Ursula

Good Dog
I read a few articles to try to help. Now I'm confused too. I think A reactive dog needs space. They don't appreciate loud unruly dogs jumping in their faces. A selective dog will pick and choose dogs that they like. It is not necessarily based on any kind of behaviors. Is that correct?

Lillie May

Good Dog
Yes to a selective dog will pick and choose, but not necessarily based on behavior alone. At least that's how I understand it. In your link they put reactive in with selective, therein lies my confusion. Partly because I know Buddie is selective, but depending on who's walking him, he can also be reactive. He's more reactive when my husband walks him. A for instance, a random dog barking from behind a fence will cause full blown monkey noises and tantrum behavior if my husband is walking him, but not for me. He might think about it, but I'll talk to him and he walks by giving the dog the stink eye instead. That's the part that's hard to explain to others.


Reactivity and selectivity are like apples and oranges. They're both fruit and can both be in the same bowl, but they're not necessarily just variants of each other.

Reactivity has to do with how a dog reacts to certain stimuli, whereas selectivity is more of a dog's predisposition toward being tolerant or intolerant of other dogs. Often, this can have a lot to do with the environment and certain other situational variables. Reactivity has to do with response to stimuli, selectivity has to do with inherent sociability.

As an example: My dog does not care for other male dogs. He either enjoys or is neutral toward female dogs. He is selective about which dogs he likes and dislikes. He is not reactive. If we walk through a crowd of dogs at a trial, he will not necessarily react toward any of them. If one rushes up jumps on his face, he will either not care or bite depending on the sex dog invading his space. This is a dog who is selective, not reactive.