If you have ever spent time at a dog park, chances are you have seen a leashed dog lunge, snap and bark at other dogs that comes up to say hello. Although there is a chance that the leashed dog is simply aggressive, there is a much greater possibility that the dog is simply “leash reactive”, which means that the dog often acts out when on a leash.
There are many potential causes of leash reactivity, although many vets believe it is caused by the fact that dogs feel vulnerable while on a leash and surrounded by other dogs. Other veterinarians believe that it is caused by a lack of socialization during puppyhood or a previous bad experience with another dog. Whatever the cause, it is obvious that leash reactivity is a dangerous habit that pet parents should attempt to rectify. If your dog is reactive on a leash, here is what you can do to help him or her be friendly with off-leash dogs:
Avoidance: Some pet parents choose simply to avoid off-leash dogs and may plan their dog’s walk for times when they are unlikely to run into other dogs. While this is certainly one way to handle leash reactivity and may be the only solution for dogs with extreme leash reactivity, it is generally only a short-term solution.
Pick the Dog Up: For pet parents with small dogs, simply picking the dog up when another dog approaches can be a valid solution. Most dogs react less aggressively or not at all when in the safety of their handler’s arms and, even if the dog does react, the handler has better control when the dog is airborne.
Master the Evasive Maneuver: Rather than picking their dog up, many pet parents with large dogs may simply opt to step between parked cars or cross the street when another dog approaches. In order for this to work, it is important to communicate to the other dog’s owner that your dog is leash reactive and will become aggressive if the other dog is allowed to approach.
Consider a Head Halter: Head halters, unlike collars, provide a dog’s owner with control over the direction of the dog’s head, which can help mitigate or avoid conflict. Additionally, since the head halter loops around the dog’s nose, it may discourage dogs that want to bite.
Try Blinkers: For dogs with extreme cases of leash sensitivity, a set of blinkers or other vision-obscuring headwear may be in order. These humane devices obscure a dog’s line of vision so that he cannot see approaching dogs. Although these devices do not conclusively fix the issue, they can provide daily relief.
Seek Professional Help: Dog trainers will be able to show you techniques for dogs that react negatively towards other dogs. They will teach you how to walk your dog past other dogs and help your dog react more calmly to them. Search for a local dog trainer here on Lovepets.
The Prognosis for the Leash Reactive Dog
Although young dogs with cases of leash reactivity can generally be retrained, older dogs may be leash reactive all their lives. Because leash reactivity is borne from such a deep place of fear and vulnerability, it is often difficult to treat. Fortunately, it can often be managed by using the tips and tricks mentioned above.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian
Photo ©iStock.com/Jean Frooms