Leash Aggression: Why it’s Happening and What we do to Make It Worse

Leash aggression is an embarrassing problem for dog owners, but one that can be easily modified

In today’s urban world, we are seeing more and more cases of leash aggression develop in dogs. Leash aggression used to be more often seen in dogs that were fearful of and/or had very little exposure to other dogs. However, it is now more common to see social dogs that are great off leash, but turn into barking, lunging and snarling dogs when they see dogs while they are on leash. So why is this? Why does it appear like we have Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with our dogs and what are we usually doing that makes it worse?

Being on leash is not natural for a dog. Think about if you weren’t allowed to go anywhere without being restrained. Being restricted can create frustration in our dogs and we limit their ability to effectively communicate. Or, if the dog is not confident and has fears about other dogs, being on leash prevents them from being able to remove themselves from the situation, so puts them into fight mode.

Dog owners typically make the problem worse by how we handle our end of the leash. We may begin tightening up on the leash as another dog or person approaches. And if the dog reacts, we tend to jerk on the leash and get mad at the dog, which in turn just makes the situation even more negative so they are likely to continue this reactive behaviour in the future. As the behaviour worsens, so does the nervousness and anxiety of the owner, which goes straight down the leash to the dog who reacts out of concern to this as well.

Or perhaps we react by pulling the dog away and removing them from the situation. Or the other person removes themselves and their dog and leaves. All this does is either increase the frustration in our dogs, or reinforces their reactive response. If your dog is fearful, their reactivity caused the other dog to leave, so they learn this behaviour works. The behaviour then starts to run its course as a vicious circle that does not stop without the proper training.

Don’t wait for the behaviour to go away! Follow the Reactive urbanK9 program to learn how to effectively modify leash aggression and teach your dog to pass other dogs on leash while watching you instead of swearing at them.