If your dog exhibits leash reactivity towards other dogs, prey, or people while you take them on a walk, know that this is a common reaction from dogs and that many fur parents experience this. However, this is also something that can be properly addressed.
Understanding Leash Reactivity
For starters, leash reactivity and aggression are different, and that difference primarily lies in your dog’s behavior without a leash. Many pet owners have opened up about how their dogs play with other dogs at the park or with friends’ dogs, but their behaviors change once they’re on a leash. That is the main example of frustration-related reactivity.
On the other hand, when your dog seeks to cause physical harm or attack another dog both on and off-leash, that is a sign of aggression. While you might take a similar approach to both situations, how you can address leash reactivity is different, so you can understand why your dog is frustrated and how to fix it moving forward.
When you pull your dog when another dog nears you both, you’re giving your dog a clear-cut sign that they should focus on it. As your dog pulls toward another dog, the leash puts physical tension on them. Moreover, if the only time in a walk that you try to get your dog’s attention is when another dog is around, that could be a sign of trouble.
From your dog’s perspective, they’ll become very interested as soon as they see another dog. Their ears will perk up, their heads will lift high, their chest will puff out, and their tail will begin to wag. In just a moment, your dog’s behavior instantly changes. Then, your dog begins to pull towards the other dog, and you’ll feel the tension on the leash.
An average owner will take either of the two routes below:
If you know the dog owner, you’d probably let your dog come near the other dog. You’ll think of it as nothing, seeing that the two dogs are friends. However, when you let your dog meet other dogs as they pull towards them, you’re only supporting the pulling.
When you don’t know the dog owner, you don’t want your dog to approach. Then, your dog won’t understand why you pull their leash harder, making them want to go near the other dog even more. That makes it harder for you to pull back.
You immediately tense up when you see another dog and wrap the leash stronger around your hand to pull your dog closer to you for more control. You try to put as much distance between your dog and the other dog as much as you can, all the while telling your dog not to go near the other dog. You might end up physically dragging them for a few more meters to assert your control. That’s where the problem truly lies.
Your dog’s state of mind is an important factor to consider to stop their leash reactivity. Your primary focus should not be on control and obedience but on understanding how it would be from your dog’s perspective or their state of mind.
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