Leash aggression is a syndrome that can affect dogs of any gender regardless of age, size, breed, or lifestyle. It is a combative attitude that usually occurs during walks when a dog is on a leash. It happens that the same individual does not show aggression when running loose – without a leash. What affects it, and how to deal with it? We are explaining it now!
Leash reactivity can occur when:
The dog is not accustomed to the harness/collar and leash.
If your dog is not comfortable walking on a leash, they may become stressed. Stress reduces your pet’s comfort and sense of security, so in new and exciting situations, your pet may feel threatened. In this case, they will use aggression to defend themselves.
The leash is too short, therefore restraining and limiting the dog.
In this situation, the canine does not feel at ease, especially when they have to pass another dog or human at a close distance – without the ability to walk away when fear or stress arises. Dogs need to have the space to make their own decisions: “If I want to, I will approach. I don’t want to, so I’ll take my space and walk away.”If you don’t give your pet this opportunity, you will make them uncomfortable. What happens if you put your dog “against the wall” and don’t allow them to make their own decision? Your pet will likely become stressed, perhaps even frightened, and decide to attack.
What happens when your pet, through aggressive behavior, scares away a potential threat and does it several times? Then, they will realise that their way of doing things works. Therefore, a few aggressive displays will develop into a pattern of action that will be readily replicated in stressful situations. In this manner, you will, in a way, drive leash aggression.
You unknowingly provoke your dog to attack.
It is a well-known fact that dogs perfectly sense our emotions and replicate them. The leash is a connection between the pet parent and their dog – it is a form of communication, a transmitter of information. The way you hold and operate the leash unconsciously sends many messages to your pet.
Too nervous flexing and pulling the leash in the presence of another dog or people shows your pet that the situation is stressful. For a dog, it is a clear signal that a threatening object has appeared nearby. The feeling of danger and fear, push your pet to defend themselves by an attack.
The dog’s overconfidence that comes from the parent’s presence.
The dog is well aware that they are on a leash. They are also aware that there is a human at its end who usually gives them support. By going for a walk, they form a team together. It can have quite an impact on a dog’s confidence. With having this awareness, your pet may be more open towards interactions with others.
A change in a dog’s body position that disrupts communication with other pets.
Occasionally, a dog walking on a leash will hold their head much higher and their chest more forward. It usually happens when the leash is tight and pulls the dog, shifting their body weight to their back legs.
This posture can be a threatening signal to other animals. It often results in aggression from encountered dogs. If the dogs see it as an attack, they may want to defend themselves. Your pet will likely push back the attack. So there is a good chance of provoking a fight.
How to Reduce the Risk of Leash Aggression?
1. Get your dog accustomed to wearing a leash and walking on it.
Make it a positive experience. It should not cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. Not sure how to go about it? Check out the Dogo app! In the “Good manners” section, you will find two exercises that will help you in this process (“Put on the leash” and “Walking on the leash”).
The total minimum length is 3m, but some dogs need a much longer rope. For some, a length of 5 to 10 meters will work.
3. Control your reaction when another dog or human comes across your path.
Do not tighten the leash. Be calm and relaxed. Try to encourage your dog to go in another direction. Use your pet’s favorite treats or a toy. Enthusiastically praise them when they give up the confrontation. If you need more guidance in this area, please visit the DOGO app. We have included a tutorial under the “Impulse Control” program to show you how to behave in a similar situation. You will find it under “Preventing reactivity.”
4. Never pull your dog on a leash!
If you have a problem with it, practice it. Our app has an exercise for you called. “Loose leash.” Train the exercise if you want to prevent pulling on walks.
5. Avoid walking your dog frontally toward another dog/human.
In dog communication, a direct approach means initiating an attack. A better solution is to pass the other individual in an arc. The length of the arc depends on the reactivity of the dog.
6. If your pet wants to walk away from another pet/human, allow them to do so.
It is their conscious decision. Therefore, try to respect it and offer them space and freedom.
7. Never reward your dog when they attack another pet or human.
Try not to speak too much to them at that time. Show with your body language that you do not approve of their action. Turn your back and start walking away. If your dog follows you, reinforce this behavior with praise and rewards.
Remember that leash aggression is quite a complex problem that will not disappear overnight. Eliminating it depends on the dog’s personality, systematic approach, and the parent’s consistency. Repeating new behavior patterns allows you to build a different, better way of action. Be understanding, patient, and give your dog time to adjust. Good luck!