Helping Your Leash Reactive Dog

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Some dogs growl, bark, or lunge when they see other dogs while on a leash. Dogs may do this because they are fearful of the other dog, or they may be overly excited by other dogs and frustrated that they cannot approach. This behavior can be modified and is often best done with the support of a certified positive reinforcement trainer.

What To Do

 

  • Prevent the behavior - Walk your dog in quiet areas where you are unlikely to see other dogs. Be proactive and put distance between you and any dogs that you see approaching. You want to prevent your dog from practicing this behavior while on a leash. 

  • Supervise your dog outside so that he does not practice barking at the fence. Be ready to redirect his attention with treats or toys.

  • Monitor your dog’s body language - If your dog begins to show discomfort (tense body, ears alert, a hard stare, etc.), you are too close to the other dog and should move further away. 

  • Be prepared - with extra tasty high-value treats to reward calm behavior. When your dog can see another dog in the distance, give treats and lots of praise. Be sure to maintain a distance where your dog feels comfortable. If your dog is not taking treats he normally loves, then he is too close to the other dog. 

  • Use appropriate equipment - Fit him with an appropriately-fitted harness and collar. There are many safe and humane harness and collar options. The most important thing to consider when choosing walking equipment is to make sure that your dog is comfortable and that he is not able to slip out of his harness. 

  • Consult with a professional - Contact a certified positive reinforcement trainer. An experienced trainer can help you start the process of more relaxed leash walking. Adopters are encouraged to contact the behavior@utahhumane.org for tips or to set up a consultation appointment after adoption. 

 

What to Avoid

  • Do not punish your dog- Yelling or giving corrections with tools like a prong or e-collar will only convince your dog to temporarily suppress his behavior. He will still feel afraid or frustrated by other dogs. The aggression will reappear later and may even be worse. Your dog may also begin to associate the punishment with other things that happen to be in the environment and develop new behavior issues.

  • Do not leave your dog unattended outside or at windows to bark at dogs passing by. The more he has the chance to practice this behavior, the stronger it will be.