Leash Reactivity

Written on August 3, 2020

Identifying Leash Reactivity In Your Dog And What To Do Next

Leash reactivity, leash lunging, leash barking, leash aggression and leash tension are caused by many factors ranging from genetics, early accidental reinforcement, a tight leash, mimicked behavior, or a traumatic event. Mostly commonly, leash reactivity is caused by a dog being or feeling restrained when around other dogs. This behavior can often times be directed at people, or the dog’s handler. Restriction and leash restraint can create tension, frustration, miscommunication and can ultimately work your dog into a response that results in barking, leash lunging, leash reactivity and often leash aggression. Like any behavior that is “practiced” regularly, it can become a learned pattern and therefore will be difficult to break the cycle or gain access to consistent, positive outcomes.

Addressing the root cause of the behavior is the first step. What may have caused this reaction?

Understanding what your dog’s triggers and his/her threshold is important.

  • Is this a learned behavior stemming from leash tension/leash pulling or watching another dog with the same behavior?
  • Did it begin following a traumatic event where your dog was made to be highly uncomfortable or maybe even physically injured?
  • Was your dog’s poor leash behavior evident from day one (not uncommon when bringing an adult dog into the home) or did your dog gradually become dog aggressive off leash and then it transferred to on leash?
  • Does your dog re-direct and attempt to nip/bite at his leash? Does he try to nip you or his dog housemate on walks when in this state of leash reactivity? Displaced or re-directed aggression is another common behavior that is seen in dog reactive, leash reactive and leash aggressive dogs.

Leash aggression can be very challenging. It can make walks unpleasant, which typically results in less exercise. We get it, it’s dangerous. We all know that exercise is a key ingredient to having a happy, healthy dog both mentally and physically. Our team understands that in moderate to severe cases of leash reactivity, walks are not a reality and “working through it” can cause other issues that otherwise would likely not be present.

Now that we have identified what leash reactivity is, let’s touch on the common causes, other behaviors that can stem from it, and why it isn’t appropriate or safe. It’s a lot to digest, especially when you’re working through this at home and you really just want a solution. Well, here’s the good news. Our team of certified dog trainers has helped thousands of dogs and dog owners work through leash pulling, leash reactivity, leash barking and leash aggression. We utilize our knowledge gained from schooling, many years of combined experience and the unique environment available to us thanks to our special training facility that has been designed to assist dogs with these behavioral challenges.

Our strategy:

With a combination of proper assessment to understanding what type of reactivity or aggression is being presented, followed by a balanced approach to heavily decrease or extinguish the leash pulling, increase your dog’s focus and his/her ability to listen to commands while distracted, we can modify or eliminate these behaviors. Teaching impulse control, which ultimately teaches your dog to stop and think before acting, as well as controlled and safe social engagement, desensitization and advanced obedience control are very important in addressing this complex behavior. In the vast majority of cases of leash aggression and leash reactivity, we will suggest a behavioral boot camp program. These intensive dog board and train programs allow our team to work with your dog every day in a controlled environment, gaining access to consistency and repetition which are two big keys in any successful dog training process. We remove your dog from an environment that he/she isn’t succeeding in, introduce new positive behaviors, condition these behaviors and then transfer training to you. You can then take a huge step in the right direction, accessing success rather than failure, and you can build on the positive moments rather than continue failing and building up the negative behaviors.

To learn more about our boot camp programs and specifically our behavioral board and train options, please fill out the short form below and one of our team members will connect with you to schedule a complimentary phone consultation with a trainer. We understand this is a big decision and it involves time away from your beloved pet as well as a financial investment. To ease your mind and help you further understand our process, please reach out to us for a complimentary phone consultation. You can also read our incredible testimonials on Yelp or Google by searching “Specialty Dog Training”. Specialty Dog Training™ also offers financing options to create affordable monthly payments and help you work with the pros without having to stress about the full balance up front.


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A few of our Leash Reactivity Clients:

Like most people, our dog is a huge part of our family and we have always enjoyed taking him for long walks and adventures. Unfortunately, about a year ago he started developing leash aggression and protective behaviors such as barking, growling, and lunging at other dogs and people. Our pup, Cruz, is a 5 year old Bouvier Des Flandres and we learned that this is common for the breed. Being a large dog, it was very difficult for us to control him and we started dreading the walks that we used to love so much! We are so thankful that we found Specialty Dog Training™ and especially thankful for our wonderful trainer, Perry. We opted for the 6 week bootcamp and are proud to say that Cruz was released a week early on good behavior. We can’t believe the changes in Cruz’s demeanor! It has beyond exceeded our expectations. Cruz’s aggression has drastically subsided and we now have tools to maintain this. We can easily take him for walks without having to worry about him lunging at someone or pulling us around town. The training that Perry provided for Cruz also seems to have given him structure and he’s all around a happier, less anxious dog. This was truly money well spent! It turns out that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Thank you Perry and Specialty Dog Training!

by Jessica Ottemiller

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