We deal with leash aggression in dogs weekly at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia.
An important study to first reference is one which was recently done on 2000 dogs at Mendel University in the Czech Republic. In 2000 dogs of varying breed, age, and size; researchers noted that dogs who were ON a leash were twice as likely to become aggressive with dogs as dogs who were off leash were.
Now, we must decipher the burning question, “WHY?”
-The on leash dogs were restricted by the confines of the leash, which inhibited their ability to circle around the other dog, get a “feel for them,” and give them a proper greeting in order to determine if they were friendly or not. When the dog is not able to determine this, they often times gave a defensive posture since they could not establish the other dog’s intentions.
-Flight or fight. When a dog isn’t sure how to react in a certain situation (just like with people), flight or fight kicks in. By being on a leash, you are restricting your dog’s ability to flight, so he immediately kicks in fight mode with an aggressive response.
It’s also important to note that the 2000 dogs were FOUR times as likely to be aggressive on a leash when a male was walking them as opposed to a female walking them. Many would assume the opposite because many would see the male as more the pack leader and in-charge, but they believe the reasoning is far more simplistic than that.
Women are often more friendly and inviting to passerby’s and their dogs. Meaning, often times when will smile, say hello, and exchange pleasantries with the oncoming person and their dog. They believe the dog picks up on this nice, calm, friendly demeanor from the owner, so they too feel more relaxed and at-ease with the situation. Whereas men are more macho, not as socially friendly, and not as warm greeting with strangers as women; therefore, when someone is approaching, the men often times will just not pay attention to the oncoming person and their dog, avoid eye contact, no smiling (etc) and the dogs can interpret this “avoidance” as a problem and go on the defensive with the oncoming dog.
What Can You Do To Help With Your Dog’s Leash Aggression?
–Obedience Training: This is essential, having control over your dog, pack leadership, confidence building, and correction for negative behavior. All of these are things that will undoubtedly help with your dog’s leash aggression.
-Be aware of your surroundings. When you see a stranger and their dog approaching, be friendly, polite, warm, and welcoming. This can help you translate your warm and relaxed demeanor onto your dog.
-Do not tense up on the leash when you see another dog. This tension travels down the leash straight to your dog and tells them, “I need to be on edge for something coming up.”
–Pack Leadership. Letting your dog know that you are in control of the situation and them controlling the situation is not necessary nor needed.
-Try to give your dog proper space for interaction with the other dog so they do not feel confined and do a proper introduction.
-Watch the other dog’s body language. You may be able to avoid a bad situation just by YOU being observant and see if the other dog appears to have good or bad intentions.
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