Paul Owens and Norma Eckroate give a great example of the difference between responding and reacting in their book The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training. I think most of us who have dogs can relate to the following scenario they describe:
An owner is peacefully hanging out with his dog while at home. Suddenly, the mail carrier arrives and the dog goes berserk, barking loudly and disturbing the peace. The owner reacts by yelling at the dog, poking it or pulling on its leash.
Think of this from the dog’s perspective. The dog, already spooked by the stranger, now will associate the mailman with punishment -- coming from you. The next time the mail carrier arrives, it will likely bark even more.
An owner should instead reinforce proper training, manners and good behavior. The goal in this -- and many other training situations -- is to get the dog to stop and pay attention to you and not to the distraction, which in this case is the mail carrier.
According to Owens and Eckroate, the best response is for the owner to call out something like, “Who is that?” to the dog. When the dog pays attention to the owner, the latter rewards the proper behavior with a treat, thus ending the barking. It’s a win-win, nonviolent solution that you can apply to many different situations.