Many dog owners have issues with walking their dogs on a leash. Lunging at strangers, excessive barking, and growling are all types of behaviors that indicate leash aggression or leash reactivity. If you have a dog with leash aggression, walking your dog around the block can become an unpleasant experience for both owner and pet.
To get some answers on what leash aggression is and how to prevent it, we consulted our trainer, Rhonda Feinberg, CPDT-KA, for her expertise on the subject. According to Rhonda, there are two primary motivations that cause leash aggression or leash reactivity: frustration and fear.
Frustration occurs when the dog is restrained in some way, whether it is a leash or a barrier such as a fence. Perhaps the dog wants to sniff or see/meet whatever it is and when they can’t, they lose control. They express their frustration by barking, growling, and lunging. This type of leash reactivity is easier to address than the other, fear.
Fear can happen both on and off the leash. However, it does tend to escalate when the dog is restrained. Barking, growling, and lunging are all behaviors dogs do to scare things away. When faced with something scary, the dog will either fight or runway. As you get to know your dog, you will notice which one is their “go-to”. Fear-based is more difficult to resolve, but a positive outcome is achievable.
Tips for Preventing Leash Aggression
A simple first step to preventing leash aggression is to create distance from the trigger or avoid the trigger BEFORE the dog starts to react. The long-term solution is committing to helping your dog change the way they feel about the triggers. That process takes time and commitment with a good trainer.
The worst thing you can do is punish your dog for exhibiting leash aggressive behavior. Punishment actually is counterproductive as it will make your dog insecure and increase leash lunging behavior. This is because the dog will begin to associate the punishment (yelling, restraining) with the stimulus that he already fears.
Rhonda is the trainer for our Loose Leash Walking program that focuses on improving walking skills. She uses positive reinforcement to stop pulling and lunging behavior. Dogs go to different locations where they are exposed to a variety of distractions in order to progress their skills. In the first 3 sessions, dogs work one-on-one with Rhonda. For the final lesson, she works with both you and your dog to teach you how to maintain the new style of walking. Contact us today with any questions or to schedule a behavioral assessment.
Post updated Jan 15 2020