Recently while out walking Snug I have been a little embarrassed as Snug has suddenly started barking at other dogs while on the leash. She is also trying to lunge to get across the road to the other dogs. This doesn’t look good and Snug will usually scream so it actually looks like I’m abusing her. If you have ever had this happen then you can understand how it’s a little embarrassing and it can also put a lot of pressure on your dogs neck.
Now this is what people call leash aggression but after doing numerous researching and trying to tackle the problem with success it appears that the problem is actually known as leash reactivity.
Leash Reactivity in Dogs
There could be a number of reasons why your dog barks and lunges at other dogs while on leash; maybe they fear other dogs due to not being socialized at an early age. However with Snug the shug we have given her tons of socialization from such an early age that she is friendly with all dogs, people and even children so I learned that the reason she is doing this is due to her being frustrated at not being able to go and see the dogs.
Because snug is mostly off lead she will happily play with most dogs so when on lead she gets really frustrated and this is what becomes known as leash reactive.
There are a few dogs in our neighborhood and the owners constantly jerk their dog’s neck to try to get them to stop and nothing seems to work. You can see them literally dragging them off and sometimes even hitting them. This is a lot of stress caused to the dogs and is unnecessary and can be cured but does take time and patients.
Reasons why leash aggression in DOGS occurs
If you have ever seen dogs greet each other when at the dog park or off leash then you will have seen them taking their time, sometimes one will lay down and they will normally approach in an arch with tails wagging or they will be bowing which are signs they want to play and meet.
However when your dogs are on leash and other dogs are walking towards you then your dog has no choice but to meet the other dog head on and give eye contact which is normally seen as threatening in the dog world.
This is what causes dogs to bark on leash and with Snug I have managed to find a way to tackle the problem.
Its only recently started but below are the steps I took and how we are seeing huge improvements even after 1-2 times. It definitely seems to be working as the last dog we came across on the lead Snug didn’t even bark, she still wanted to say hello but she looked at me first which is a sign that she is learning good things come to her when she sees other dogs.
How to stop dogs barking and lunging at other dogs when on leash.
There are some initial steps you can take in the beginning to help your dog and not stress your dog out. If you see a dog walking towards you then you can either turn around or walk the other way or you can try crossing the street. You need to be able to see all around before you dog spots the other dogs.
However if you live in an area where there are lots of other dogs and you keep turning around or crossing the roads, it may mean you aren’t actually enjoying the walk as your probably too worried and stressed about seeing the next dog. Your dog will sense this too and is likely to get stressed as well.
This isn’t a fun way to walk your dog so if you try the following steps below and see how you get on with it.
Snug Steps For Leash Reactivity
We taught Snug to play find it. Basically you toss a treat on the floor and say “find it” once your dog finds it then you give praise. You can use a clicker and reward but we just say “yes”. Keep it simple in the beginning and show them the treats with your foot if they can’t find it, then you can make it harder for them.
That’s basically it but you can keep throwing treats and say find it and then keep dropping them throughout the day and on walks. Eventually when your dog knows “find it” they will look around the area for the treats.
Putting it in practice
So now your dog knows “find it” you can advance to walking with your dog, but you will need to still keep your distance in the beginning from dogs. If you see a dog then take your treats like chicken, turkey or use a ball and say, “find it” usually while your dog is trying to get the food it distracts them so once they have the treat and the other dog is still near just keep dropping and say “find it”.
This really does distract your dog from the other dog and it helps your dog to associate that when another dog approaches then they get some food. Eventually with time and patient your dog will just happily walk past the other dogs without lunging or even barking.
The 1st time I used this method we came across a dog and the owners of the other dog was pulling theirs back, which made our dog start barking at theirs. I dropped a treat and said, “find it” which snug started to do and this occasion, she only barked twice at the dog.
The 2nd time we came across a dog and again I did the “find it” and snug barked once. So I thought wow this really does work but the 3rd time I think she wasn’t too bothered with the treats (which is why you should use real meat like turkey, chicken or liver) I had to stand in front to distract her and turn her around.
The 4th time was amazing as we were walking down the street and a dog came out of a garden and wanted to get to Snug, no barking from Snug as she looked at me which I then took a treat and gave her with lots of praise. I then said “heel” and we walked pass without any problems. The other dog was really trying to get to Snug and their owner pulled them back while we happily walked past.
There have been numerous occasions now where Snug either barks once or doesn’t bark but this is a massive improvement and in just a few weeks.
Additional Tips for Leash Reactivity In Dogs
• Sit – sometimes I find just asking the dog to sit and wait, works while they can calm down.
• Treats – good treats works wonders for distracting your dog and keeps their attention on you.
• Ask for eye contact – teach your dog the look at me dog trick so that they will look at you and not other dogs.
• Be patient – take your time in the training and don’t expect it to work straight away, sometimes it can take week or months.
• Never get them to meet head on if they aren’t comfortable.
• Squeaky toys – I find these are very quick in distracting your dog from the situation.