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To be able to bring your dog with you on a walk, it needs to be trained so that it can cope with other people and their animals.
In addition to training, it’s important to keep in mind some of the causes of leash aggression. Of course, there are many factors that could be at play including pain, fear, excitement, confusion, competition, and attachment.
In any case, in order to understand the cause of your dog’s leash aggression, you must learn not only what your dog is feeling and thinking, but also what is and is not normal canine behavior. This way, you can avoid confusing its natural behaviors with abnormal ones.
The most common cause of leash aggression in dogs is a lack of socialization.
When a dog comes into contact with something new, it will naturally be a little apprehensive about it. This is an innate adaptation that keeps us from getting into trouble and helps us to survive. It’s also referred to as the “fight or flight response“.
If this is never overcome, the dog may become afraid of everyone and everything.
While most dogs will become comfortable with new things given adequate socialization, there are those that remain wary. For various reasons, they may not have had the amount of time, life experiences or whatever it takes to overcome the fear.
Many dog owners believe that fearful dogs need very little social interaction in order to be happy and well-adjusted. Some do not even realize that the dog is fearful. The owner may think that the dog is merely aloof or independent.
Moreover, many owners don’t take it seriously when their dogs growl at people and other animals, even if they have never done this before.
However, there are others who do see signs of fear in dogs yet fail to act on them promptly enough.
When a dog growls at someone, for instance, it is not something that should be ignored. The owner must find out what happened and how to prevent further incidents from occurring. This may involve keeping the dog on leash or having an underlying medical condition treated.
In order for your dog to feel comfortable walking beside you and in public places, it is imperative that you socialize it at an early age, ideally as a puppy.
Your dog should be exposed to as many new things and people as possible in order for its brain to develop properly. Your dog will not only grow up more confident, but it will also become a better-behaved adult that does not have the motivation to bite anyone or anything when feeling threatened.
Facilitating Good Leash Behaviour
You can use the following steps to acclimate your dog when taking it outdoors:
1. Ease Into It
Do not take your dog for a walk where it will suddenly be surrounded by large numbers of people and animals.
Instead, move through a crowd slowly, stopping frequently in order to give your dog time to sniff and interact with new things.
2. Wait Until Later In The Day
Rather than taking your dog out in the morning, it’s better to wait until later in the day when there are more crowds around.
This way, your dog can get used to new stimuli and noise at a time when most people are at work or school. This is a good way to get a dog used to the bustle of everyday life.
3. Take Longer In Busy Areas
If your dog is aggressive toward people and other animals, give yourself lots of time when going for walks along busy city streets and sidewalks with heavy pedestrian traffic.
While your dog may not like this at first, it will eventually learn how to cooperate more easily in high-stress crowds.
4. Have An “Escape” Option
Make sure your dog always has a safe place to go if it feels overwhelmed by the situation.
If you’re at a party or another type of social gathering, take it to an area with fewer people and/or animals but still within sight so that it can feel more comfortable. Even though you may not be near it, it will get used to seeing you in the crowd and know that it can always find its way back over to you.
5. Maintain Distance
If your dog has already developed fear of human contact, you must continue to take it out in situations where it will be surrounded by crowds, but with enough room between people so that everyone feels safe.
It may never stop being afraid of people, but at least it won’t feel threatened if you’re always there to protect it.
6. Check For Health Problems
Ensure that your dog does not have any underlying medical or physical problems which may be contributing to the aggressive outbursts.
It should see a vet and get complete check-ups in order for its health issues to be identified and treated.
7. Use A Harness
To prevent further instances of aggression, you might consider keeping your dog in a harness when out and about in public places.
Harnesses have many benefits. They discourage your dog from pulling, they reduce strain on the neck and back, they give you more control, and they help other people around you feel safer.
If it does start growling or barking at someone, immediately tighten the leash and tell it “no” in a firm voice. As long as you’re there to supervise, it will eventually learn that growling at people is not acceptable.
8. Know When To Back Off
It’s important not to force your dog into situations which make it feel uncomfortable or upset.
If your dog is having a bad day when it comes to meeting new people and animals, try again another time when its mood is more relaxed.
9. Address Item Possession
If your dog guards food, toys and/or other items, you can use the following steps to help it drop this behavior:
1. Start by putting a leash on your dog and letting it drag on the floor. When it goes over to grab an item of interest, make the leash taut and stop it. Tell it “no” in a firm voice before taking it away from it, praising it when it releases the object without your help, and then giving the object back to it. Repeat these steps until your dog is able to let go of an item with no pressure at all.
2. After your dog is comfortable letting go of an item quickly, you can add on the step where it sits in front of you and looks at you while it’s holding something. If it tries to drop it or move away, immediately tighten the leash and tell it “no.”
3. Before long, your dog will be able to sit still with a desired object for a short amount of time. At this point, you can begin to add on more time.
4. When your dog is comfortable holding an object for a long period of time and understands that it will be punished if it tries to drop it or move away, you can allow it to hold onto the item while you walk around with it in public. It’s still important to keep a close eye on it, though.
10. Increase The Exposure
If your dog is already comfortable holding onto an item in public places, you can begin by increasing the presence of people and animals while your dog holds it tightly.
Keep in mind that at this point, the leash will be more for reassurance than anything else.
There are many possible reasons that that a dog would be aggressive on the leash. But whether your dog is in pain, excited, exhibiting territorial or defensive behaviour, or something else, it will need to be socialized properly unless there is an underlying medical issue that requires treatment.
Leash training a dog can take a lot of time and consistency. Always keep in mind that your dog is not to blame for its leash aggression and that it is only reacting based on its natural instincts.
Of course, there’s a chance that the information in this article won’t be enough for you to properly address your dog’s aggressive leash behaviour. You may need to seek professional help.
But professional dog trainers can be extremely expensive – over $600 for four hours, or even more. Most people can’t afford this amount for just four hours of help.
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Thanks for reading this guide. Does your dog have aggression issues when on the leash? What has been your experience? Feel free to share in the comment section below!