Going Leash Crazy

Going Leash Crazy

Have you ever wondered why your friendly playful pooch off leash turns into a monster on leash, or in your home or yard?  Why is it that your dog loves to play with others and gets along with everyone when they are off leash but the moment you attach the leash they turn into a beast?

LeashCrazyIf your dog is not aggressive with other dogs when they are off leash but show aggressive behaviors towards other dogs on leash or behind a barrier, your dog maybe exhibiting leash or barrier frustration.   Your dog is frustrated that they cannot get to the other dog to say hello and do their normal doggie greetings such as smell butts, ears, and mouths.  How they express this frustration to the owner is by vigorously barking and lunging on their leash or through a fence or window.

I often use the following analogy to explain this phenomenon to clients.  Pretend you haven’t seen a loved one for quite sometime.  As you see your loved one from a distance you go to say Hello but quickly you are pulled back by a rope or you are stopped by a glass wall or fence.  If you are frustrated enough you may start to yell at the person who is holding the rope while still keeping an eye on your loved one.  You may hit or yell as the glass wall or fence in hopes you can knock it down to see your loved one.

To prevent this frustration there are several things you can do.

Special note if your dog exhibits this behavior there could be many underlying circumstances.  I would highly suggest hiring a professional trainer to help you work through this.

Leash frustration:

  1. Reward your dog for calm behavior when they see another dog.  If they are calm ask the owner if your dog can say hello to their dog.
  2. Walk on the other side of the street to put more space in between you and the other dog.  Reward your dog for calm behavior.
  3. Turn and walk the other way.
  4. Train ‘look’.
  5. Participate in an obedience class where you are in a controlled environment around other dogs and a professional that can guide you.
    1. We are offering our Loose Leash Walking class which focuses on leash etiquette August 10th at 11:30

Barrier frustration:

With this behavior, or any problem behavior, we need to stop our dog from rehearsing or practicing the problem behavior. The more the behavior is allowed to happen, the stronger or more intense it will become.  For the dog that is aggressive or loud in the home or in your yard, I suggest that owners start to think about what the dogs are watching that is getting them aggravated. Sometimes, you need to think of your dog looking out the window and/or fence as if they are watching TV (watching the fun outside).  Sometimes, we need to turn off their TV.

TIPS for the home:

  1. In your house prevent your dog from going into the room that has the window that your dog can see out of or close the blinds so your dog cannot see out of the window.  Utilize your dogs crate when you are gone, put up an exercise pen to block off the room, or put your dog in another room and close the door during busy dog walking hours.
  2. In your yard block your dog from the fence such as putting up a small perimeter fence.  You can also plant bushes that will block the perimeter of the fence or weave lattice through the fence to prevent your dog from seeing outside the fence.

IMPORTANT:  Be very cautious when your dog is in a frenzied state of mind NOT to take them off leash or open the door or gate for them to say hi to the other dog.  If your dog is in a frenzied state they are more likely to run up upon the other dog in an aggressive manner or even bite another dog. Your dog needs to learn to behave in a calm manner before you allow them to greet another dog.

Recommended Reading:

Feisty Fido – Help For The Leash Reactive Dog by Patricia McConnel

Scaredy Dog! – Understanding and Rehabilitating Your Reactive Dog by Ali Brown

Ruff Love by Susan Garrett

Click To Calm by Emma Parsons