I’ve had a fair share of owners who are confused by their dogs on leash behavior. They often begin by telling me how much their dog likes other dogs and does great at the park playing with many strange dogs of all breeds, ages and personalities. Then they mention that their perfect pup turns into a murderous demon when the leash is on.
Alright so what’s actually going on here?
Let’s start off with what leashes do. They restrict our dogs from normal, social body language and put up a barrier to interaction. This is often for their own safety and compliance with leash laws but there are side effects. Just adding a barrier for some dogs creates a frustration response (barking, lunging, lying down) which can escalate into aggression over time.
For some dogs they are fine on leash with other dogs until their owner tries to pull them away. The feeling of their collar tightening is enough to trigger an “attack”. A dog’s response to this can be anywhere from barking, growling, stiffening to an actual bite with injury.
So now what? While this problem can be prevented through focus, heeling and a good leave it cue you’re probably not reading this because you have the perfect puppy.
1. A good rule for most dogs is to restrict dog greetings to off leash only where your dog can have freedom of communication and movement. I expect my dogs to be working for me when they are on leash and when they are off leash I’ll tell them “Go Play” which signals they can do as they wish. This also makes handling them at busy dog shows and expos easier as they don’t think it’s play time whenever they see a dog.
2. Walk on your dog on a harness like the Easywalk harness by Premier or Sensation harness. Even a good step in harness will improve things from a collar.
3. Keep on leash greetings to less than 5 seconds and teach your dog to keep walking when you call his/her name which will allow you to get your dog to come when called without a tight leash.
4. Keep your leash loose during any and all dog interactions. Tightness in the leash will increase the chances of a problem.
5. Participate in a group dog training class where dog social skills are worked on or an activity like rally obedience where your dog will learn to focus on you and not pull on leash around other dogs.