Let’s face it: not all dog behavior is good behavior. From barking to lunging and everything in between, leash reactivity in dogs is a common growing pain for both pets and owners.
That’s why this week we’re going to look at the basics of how a leash reacts and how to handle it so that you and your best four-legged friend can get back to what you do best: cuddle up to each other!
What is leash responsiveness?
Reactivity on a leash occurs when a dog on a leash reacts undesirably to a given stimulus (for example, other dogs, cars, people, loud noises). The most common types of reactive behavior on a leash include:
- Barking, Growling, Clicking
- Reactivity on a leash is isolated and refers only to the behavior shown when the dog is on a leash.
Since the behavior is inconsistent, unexpected bouts of leash reactivity can often cause the animal parent to feel embarrassed, inadequate and out of control.
Corrective training of leash reactivity
Don’t get too low in landfills if you happen to have a reactive dog on a leash. Here are some simple leash reactivity training steps that owners can follow to mitigate bad behavior:
Determine the reason for the behavior
- Frustration-as dogs get older, owners tend to limit communication. This can lead to reactive behavior that is rooted in frustration with the desire to say hello.
- Fear-Dogs who have been poorly socialized or who have had a bad experience with another dog may become reactive due to fear. Their behavior may be caused by the fact that they are on a leash and lose the ability to choose “flight” in negative situations.
- The search for conflicts-although is not so common, in some dogs, the “try me” attitude is rooted in uncertainty. Such an attitude tends to conflict, can be peril and often requires professional help as soon as possible.
Prevention of reactive behavior on a leash
- Don’t let your dog meet other dogs on a leash.
- Avoid retractable leashes-it’s always best to keep dogs a few inches away from you.
- Avoid corrective collars-studies show that reactive behavior can develop when receiving corrections in the presence of other dogs.
Practice on a leash indoors
- Start by associating a word like ”yes” with positive behavior.
- Practice being on a leash indoors and holding toys or other objects that can mimic external stimuli.
- When your dog recognizes an object or looks into his eyes, reward him with a ”yes” and a treat, teaching him that a calm positive reaction to stimuli = a happy owner and a delicious snack.
Take outdoor training
- When you see an approaching trigger or stimuli, keep a decent distance.
- When your dog notices the stimuli, reward her with the usual “yes” and treats.
- If your dog ignores you or reacts negatively, stay away from irritants and try again.
- Repeat this pattern, remaining motionless for several weeks until your dog begins to ask for your approval and does not cope on its own.
- Once you feel confident, start the process by transferring stimuli during a walk or hike.
Know when to turn to a professional
If, after several months of taking these measures, your four-legged friend still shows signs of leash reactivity, it may be time to turn to a professional. More importantly, if a dog makes you or anyone else feel that it is in peril, we recommend that you seek help from a trainer as soon as possible.
By identifying the root cause of leash reactivity and using adaptive dog training to prevent it in the future, pet parents can get rid of frustration with leash reactivity and turn it into a positive experience.