Is Your Dog Leash Reactive?
Not certain what that means? If your dog pulls, lunges, barks and/or snarls at dogs or people while on leash, your dog is leash reactive. This is one of the most common complaints about dog companions, and potentially one of the most dangerous. Leash reactivity is becoming a serious problem because someone typically gets hurt. And these are not isolated incidences, but repeated problems. Often times, each incident involves multiple people and/or dogs in one fell swoop. Reported human and dog injuries include sprained, torn and broken arms, legs, wrists, ankles, fingers, tendons, ligaments along with the all too frequent and yet completely avoidable dog bites.
What Causes Leash Reactivity?
Leashed dogs are reactive to other dogs and humans for a combination of reasons, including inadequate training techniques and improper training equipment. Harnesses, no matter the style, are inappropriate obedience training gear. To control your harnessed dog, brute force is mandatory. And if you have ever been on the other end of a focused, incensed and determined dog on a harness who is pulling on a leash, you are well aware that the end result is not positive by any stretch of the imagination. Small, four-legged animals are much stronger than their larger, two-legged companions are and can easily pull a human who is twice their size.
In addition, many training approaches do not teach skills the dog can learn and repeat in future situations. Instead, many trainers choose avoidance techniques. Rather than allow dogs to see and acclimate to human-perceived stressful situations, trainers remove dogs from challenging situations without teaching any behavioral skills. Why? They run out of training options to solve leash reactive problems.
Can Leash Reactivity be Cured?
Yes, leash reactivity is curable with the proper training approach and equipment. In fact, leash reactivity is a manifestation of improper dog gear and subsequent lack of coping skills of both dogs and their human companions. Humans need to learn training skills that teach dogs to master controlled walks without any leash reactivity. These skills include “look” and “stay-in”, which engage dogs to pay attention to their humans. Look means to look at you and stay-in means to stay by your side. Both of these training skills are essential for all training levels, from the basics to off-leash training. In addition, dogs should adapt to be in the same vicinity of other humans and dogs without reactivity.
What Can You Do?
Learn to control your dog under any situation. Dogs and humans have been companions for tens of thousands of years. Dogs integrated into our lives as our partners and assistants for a very long time. Leash reactivity is a relatively recent phenomenon, so one must question the source of this problem. If you want to learn more, please contact us. We will be happy to help you adapt your dog to any perceived stressful situations so your dog can go anywhere with you. Do not avoid challenging situations. Embrace these situations as learning opportunities and teach your dog reliable coping skills. Both you and your dog will be grateful and you will enjoy the freedom to go anywhere with your beloved companion.
Kathryn R. Gubista, PhD is an evolutionary biologist, college biology instructor, former zookeeper, author, certified professional dog trainer with Lucky Dog Training Asheville and has over 30 years of dog training and human teaching experience. The Dog’s Perspective is a training philosophy based on how dogs think, the title of the book series and our blog.