How To Train Leash Reactive Dogs

Here are the fundamental techniques for teaching a dog to stop pulling on the leash.

  • begin at home: It’s important to get in the appropriate frame of mind before the walk. In general, there aren’t many surprises or diversions in your home. Use the calmer atmosphere to draw your dog’s attention to you. Treats and praise should be used to encourage calm focus (i.e., no barking or bouncing).
  • When you’re out on a walk and you detect a stimuli, like another dog approaching, don’t react; instead, act with awareness rather than anxiety. Don’t pull or choke your dog while holding onto the leash. Wait for your dog to become aware of the stimulation instead.
  • Gain their attention: Once your dog has become aware of the stimulus, stop and speak to them PRIOR to the onset of leash-reactive behavior. Use a clicker or a command to get their attention, then give them a treat to keep it. Because it is brief and simple for the dog to understand, the command word “yes” can be an excellent choice. Additionally, it serves as a reminder to the trainer to prioritize rewards over penalties.
  • Little steps: With your dog, proceed cautiously toward the stimulus, pausing after each forward motion to repeat step 3. If the dog exhibits reactive behavior, you may have approached too quickly. Instead of punishing, simply turn around and slowly make your way back to the beginning to resume the process. When they stare at you instead of the stimulus, keep rewarding them. Your hard effort will be undone if you react tensely or chastise your dog.

Also remember…

  • Avoid letting your dog meet or sniff other dogs while it is on a leash if it is reacting to other dogs. In fact, keeping dogs apart while they are on leashes is often a smart idea.
  • Avoid using corrective collars with shock, choke, or stab mechanisms. Your dog will continue to associate the stimuli negatively with the unpleasant corrections.
  • When you’re training, pay attention to your surroundings. Negative associations between your dog and the stimulus may also be caused through surprises and interruptions.

How do I get my dog to quit acting out when on a leash?

  • Before you leave, attract your dog’s attention by practicing. Identify them by name and thank them for their attention. Start in a space with few distractions, such as your living room. As you get more adept at capturing your dog’s attention regardless of the activity going on around you, gradually move to busier settings. Your dog will learn to look at you no matter the situation thanks to this.
  • Wait till your dog recognizes the approaching dog when you see it while you’re out for a stroll. When they do, acknowledge them and give them something. Don’t hold off till they respond. This will teach your dog that being around people means nice things. Go closer and repeat when they turn to face you for more information.
  • You went too far, too quickly, if they barked or lunged at the dog. Or you simply were unaware that a dog was around. Just increase the distance and repeat. The effort you’ve done will be undone if you penalize your dog for barking.
  • To ensure everyone’s safety, control your dog’s environment. Maintain a safe distance between them and other dogs. Don’t let anyone approach (at this time) or let them enter your dog’s territory. It’s best to avoid unpleasant experiences if at all feasible because they will all slow down your progress. If you live in a dog-friendly neighborhood, think about taking your friend someplace where there aren’t as many dogs.
  • Simply go around the other dog in an arc if you find yourself having to approach them head-on while maintaining your dog’s focus as previously advised. Keep your dog’s attention and provide rewards more often if the other dog starts to lunge and bark. The treats disappear as soon as the other dog leaves. This will help to reinforce the idea that having canine friends who bring treats is a good thing.

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Can a dog that is leash reactive be cured?

Any breed of dog can become reactive, although guard dogs or high-strung herding types tend to exhibit it more frequently.

Australian Shepherds, Heelers, German Shepherds, and crosses of those breeds are the canine breeds where reactivity is most prevalent.

Any age dog can begin training to reduce reactivity. It is important to keep in mind that retraining a dog will take longer the longer a behavior has been engrained.

It is impossible to foresee whether the dog will be “cured” in the sense of being entirely fine around his triggers. But with the correct training method, all dogs can significantly improve.

She began by only teaching her own Border Collies, then gradually added local workshops and seminars. Today, she travels to Europe to instruct students from all over the world on how to train their dogs in a fun, positive, game-based manner.

She is renowned for her straightforward, step-by-step instruction that enables both novice and experienced dog trainers to see tangible results very fast.

How can I teach my dog to behave aggressively when off leash?

The behaviors of leash lunging, leash reactivity, and leash aggressiveness are all brought on by a dog feeling constrained, irritated, and uneasy in a social setting while wearing a leash. An unrestrained dog would typically be able to maintain a safe distance from a cause of fear. The same dog, however, will respond or act defensively in the hopes that the cause of the anxiety would disappear if he is restrained by a leash and unable to expand that distance.

If your dog’s action is rewarded by success (i.e., the distance has been extended), he will probably act the same way in response to a comparable stimulus in the future.

It is unpleasant to walk a dog that lunges and snaps at the leash. Human tension often results from anticipating a problem, and this tension is sent along the leash to the dog, worsening the dog’s tendency to lunge. The vicious cycle of stress and leash lunging between dog and owner is then hard to break.

How Can I Train My Dog Who Is Leash Reactive? Finding the source of your dog’s distress and taking steps to desensitize him to the stimuli are the first steps towards stopping him from lunging. You will also train him to realize that the stimulus is no longer alarming at the same moment.

If you have a social dog that, when on a lead, lunges out of frustration and just wants to get to the stimulus, you must teach him that, while calm conduct results in him being able to greet, lunging achieves nothing. Simply turn and walk away from the source until your social but agitated dog is quiet, and then only permit him to greet while the leash is loose if you have one.

Never discipline a dog that lunges when on the leash, especially if the action is motivated by insecurity, which is the situation for the majority of dogs.

Instead of punishing your dog at that time, focus on providing him with something else to do, which will make him feel more at ease.

Modify your dog’s reaction to the danger You can truly alter your dog’s feelings about a situation for the better by employing positive reinforcement tactics, which will then alter his emotional and behavioral response.

  • Bring out your dog’s favorite toy or food and play with him or feed him, for instance, if he notices another dog in the distance and acts intrigued but not yet uneasy. When practicing this training among other dogs, you must only use the highest quality toys or food.
  • When your dog is around another dog, playing or feeding him will not only allow him to divert his attention, but the joy he experiences will also alter how he views the consequences of that dog’s existence.
  • He is now associating wonderful things happening to him that make him feel good with seeing another dog. This is the secret to changing your dog’s feelings.

Remember that employing these positive tactics will have more enduring success than applying punishment, which only works to inhibit behavior at the time it occurs.

Your dog may get desensitized to a perceived threat, such an oncoming dog, relatively fast or it may take some time. Because each dog is unique, it’s crucial to move at your dog’s pace.

Start by asking a friend or trainer to bring their calm, non-reactive dog to help you train your dog to be at ease among other dogs.

  • Start the training by having them stand at a distance from your dog where they are both at ease and able to pay attention to other things.
  • Play your dog’s favorite game, offer him his preferred toy, or serve him some delectable food.
  • Ask your assistant to bring their dog a little closer if your dog doesn’t exhibit any signs of discomfort.
  • Give your dog plenty of praise while continuing to play or feed him.
  • If your dog ever exhibits a negative reaction, just move away from him until he settles down enough to resume play or take food.
  • You’ve cut the distance too close if your dog is reacting badly. Repeat the process while moving the assistance dog back to a place where your dog can unwind.

What Is the Duration of Training? Depending on how uncomfortable your dog is, training may take some time. However, don’t give up; this training method has a remarkable rate of success. Maintain your composure and serenity throughout the procedure and gradually go to the point where the other dog can pass while your dog concentrates on you or remains calmly by your side.

  • Your dog might be prepared for his first welcome when you reach the stage when you can pass other dogs without any reaction at all.
  • Allowing nervous dogs to approach one another face-to-face can be too stressful as first. Instead, practice going parallel to the other dog or following them until both dogs feel at ease.
  • If your dog is calm, you can both walk in an arc in the direction of one another, have your dogs come face to face for a brief greeting, and then joyfully draw them apart, rewarding them for taking this important step.
  • When it is appropriate, consider taking your dog’s new companion along on regular walks. As you add other dogs to the mix, gradually form a regular walking group.
  • Your dog will become more at ease among other dogs simply by enjoying a walk with them.

To sum up Leash aggressiveness typically stems from a dog’s fear of a person, place, or object, like the majority of aggressive reactions. To control the behavior, you must first determine what is causing the dog’s fear. Then, by employing positive training techniques, you must strive to desensitize the dog to that fear. Never use physical or leash jerk punishment on a dog that is acting aggressively while on a leash; doing so will just make the dog feel more frightened and uneasy. It may take some time to manage leash aggression effectively, but if you are consistent and offer constructive alternatives to the dog’s current experiences, you can actually transform how the dog feels about being on a leash.

How long does leash reactivity last?

The most frequent dog behavior issue for which we are called upon is leash reactivity.

If your dog ever barked or lunged at you while you were out for a walk, you would be well aware of the extreme frustration this behavior can bring.

We’ve developed a thorough manual for determining the following because we’ve discovered leash reactivity to be an epidemic issue that’s frequently misdiagnosed and misunderstood:

  • Whether or not your dog is reactive when on a leash
  • Identifying the reasons of leash reactivity
  • presenting a plan for fixing the issue

Determining If You Have a Leash Reactive Dog

It’s critical to realize that sensitivity isn’t always a sign of violence. Reactivity is fundamentally defined as “responsiveness to stimulation.”

For those of us holding the other end of the leash, your dog’s “responsiveness” is less than ideal.

If: Your dog is likely a leash-reactive dog;

  • While on a leash, your dog whines or barks at other dogs, people, cars, etc.
  • Your dog lunges or pulls aggressively on the leash in response to stimuli.
  • Your dog bites, nips, or shakes to divert attention to the leash or to you.
  • Similar actions are taken by your dog when he is enclosed by a window, fence, or gate.

Determining the Cause of Your Dog’s Leash Reactivity

  • Frustration. When they are young, we encourage our puppies to say hello to everyone they see on the street. For the majority of sociable and friendly dogs, this is tremendously reinforcing. When we stop saying hello to them as they get older, your dog develops unmet expectations and you end up with a disappointed, agitated dog who is desperate to say hello. These reactive canines would eagerly welcome the person or other dog if given the chance, even though their greeting might not be exactly polite.

Usually very sociable, these dogs get along well with people and other dogs off-leash.

  • Fear or uncertainty Our timid, insecure pets are the antithesis of irritated dogs. These canines could have experienced a traumatic dog encounter or had poor socialization. Usually, this terrifying sensation entails being unable to flee.

A leash prevents your dog from choosing to “fly,” which most dogs will gladly do when given the chance. Therefore, when an off-leash dog bites your on-leash dog, it may prompt an immediate impulse to use frightening body language, such as lunging and barking, to stop other dogs from doing the same. When encountering other dogs off-leash, these dogs are often wary or on guard, however they may gradually become friendly.

  • the desire to look for confrontation There are highly confident canines with a “let me at ’em” attitude toward other dogs that is not based in fear or insecurity, albeit cases like this are quite uncommon. They may nip or even bite to refocus attention to their leash or their owner. We advise seeking quick professional advice in order to guarantee the safety of both you and your dog because these dogs typically start fighting the instant they encounter another dog, leashed or not.

Preventing Leash Reactivity

Preventative care is simpler than curative care, as with most tough things in life. Here are some suggestions for reducing your dog or puppy’s reactivity on the leash:

  • Never allow your dog interact with other dogs when it is on a leash. Trust us
  • When meeting new people with a leash, make sure your dog sits next to you and use food rewards to praise good behavior. Your dog should find you more fascinating than anything else!
  • Don’t use retractable leashes.
  • Having a dog walk several feet in front of you does no good.
  • Avoid using corrective collars; many of the dogs we work with become reactive when they are corrected in the presence of other dogs, creating a bad relationship with them.

Stopping Leash Reactivity

You must deal with the root reason if you want to permanently stop leash reactivity. It is at most a bandaid to punish away the symptoms (lunging, barking, etc.). For an illustration in visual form, see the movie below!

Whatever the underlying cause of your dog’s reactivity, they need to acquire better coping mechanisms when faced with a trigger and the impulse control to employ those coping mechanisms rather than acting out in a reactive manner.

Your timing and technical proficiency are key in this, thus we advise working with a specialist. Through CCPDT, IAABC, and VSPDT, you can locate a highly qualified specialist in your neighborhood.

Understanding the Protocol We Recommend:

We prefer to train a reactive dog to become aware of a trigger and voluntarily turn to look at its handler. Engage, then without retaliation, disengage. Simply put, we are instructing your dog to respond in a more suitable manner!

  • You must first teach your dog a marker word before you can do this. Although a clicker is an option, we have found that verbal markers are more convenient and powerful.
  • We enjoy hearing “yes.”
  • We must first teach your dog that the word “yes” refers to them and denotes positive outcomes. Practice having a helper lift up a toy or other object close to your dog while it is on a leash. Say “Yes” and give your dog a treat as soon as they focus on the toy.
  • High-value foods like string cheese, hot dogs, or shredded chicken should be used as your incentive.
  • It’s time to apply this in the actual world once you feel confident with your timing.
  • Add distance when you sense a trigger coming. The trigger should be visible to you before your dog is. Remember that you probably require more space than you think!
  • Simply yell “yes!” to your dog when they do detect the trigger. Your dog should come back to you, and you will then praise them. No barking, lunging, or other defensive actions should ever occur.
  • You are just too close to the trigger if your dog ignores you or starts to bark or lunge. Extend your distance and try one more.
  • Your dog ought to be able to see the trigger and turn to face you on his own after doing this frequently enough. Then you will reward and mark “Yes.”
  • For a few weeks, we advise practicing this while still, then passing in motion.
  • Your dog will gradually require less and less space to reach their trigger, and many owners report that their dog’s reactivity has completely disappeared.

Need More Help?

We provide a thorough leash reactivity online training program that will guide you and your dog through our leash reactivity protocol and include coaching from one of our professional trainers. Open enrolment means that you can enroll at any time and proceed at your own speed through the course.