As a trainer in New York City, I am constantly getting calls from clients to
help them solve their dog’s aggression toward other dogs while out walking.
Since the city is heavily populated and the sidewalks are pretty small, it
can be very dangerous to have a dog go ballistic when they see other dogs on
their daily walks. However, pick any day to observe a neighborhood with lots
of dogs and you’ll notice, on more than one occasion, outbursts of seismic
proportions. And yet, many (not all) of these dogs when they are taken off leash are
perfectly fine around other dogs…how can that be?!?!?
It’s actually quite simple. Most dogs that develop what we’ll refer to as
“leash aggression” have been taught inadvertently by their owners to act that
way. When a dog pulls away from their handler during the walk, the handler
usually pulls in the opposite direction causing the leash to be tight. Walking this way
doesn’t teach the dog to THINK about his/her walk or his/her handler, it just
makes the dog work harder at pulling. Now, throw in the site of another dog.
In a dog’s early stages of life, they want to pull towards other dogs as soon as they see one..there probably aren’t any ill intentions at this point. But every time the dog pulls harder to get somewhere he wants to go, the owner pulls back with equal or more pressure. This builds frustration in a dog and after doing this over and over, the dog
starts to associate other dogs with a hard pull on the leash. Of course owners start to anticipate this and start to tighten up on the leash at the sight of other dogs just to keep the dog in control. What they don’t know is that the slightest movement they make while holding that leash is sending communication signals to their dog, so with such a pronounced movement it sends an even bolder message (albeit, the wrong message).
This is where we teach Loose Leash Walking. It’s not the cure for aggression,
but it certainly does alleviate a lot of problems. Once we teach the dog how
to walk next to us on a loose leash, and teach them to pay attention to US (the handler), the site of another dog won’t be such a trigger for the dog any more. I don’t necessarily want to ignore all dogs while out walking since it’s important to keep a dog socialized, but I don’t want a dog to think the site of another dog is his/her cue to pull. Instead, I like to put the greeting of another dog on cue by teaching “SAY HELLO”. This gives the dog permission to go to the other dog and check them out. The handler must remember when the dog is going to approach another dog, they should keep the leash loose offering no stress or tension. Many are amazed at the difference it makes in their dogs when they practice this loose leash walking. It’s simple, not easy so if you do need help with this, try to contact a canine professional in your area www.dogpro.org