What makes an 8 lb Chihuahua think they’re tough enough to take on a dog twice its size? Leash aggression, that’s what.
If you were to look at my pup Ricky, you’d say he’s the cutest and the sweetest. But get that dog on a leash and he’s more like…
Maybe you’ve heard the term “leash aggression” and aren’t really sure what it is, but chances are if you live in a city you’ve seen it.
Also known as “leash reactivity” in professional circles, leash aggression refers to the quarrelsome behavior some dogs exhibit specifically when leashed.
Given the higher likelihood of encountering other dogs in the city, country dogs don’t seem as afflicted by leash aggression. This doesn’t mean they don’t get it, just that dogs have more room to themselves in rural or suburban areas and therefore have fewer encounters with other pups.
Leash aggression more than likely stems from one of two conditions: either the dog genuinely doesn’t like other dogs so barks to keep them at bay, or the dog loves other dogs but is frustrated by the experience of being restrained. Either way, this reaction is completely normal and completely manageable.
The simplest option would be to keep your pup away from other pups. After all, your dog may not like other dogs as a result of trauma, or pure social preference. Whatever the reason, your dog doesn’t have to like other dogs and can just avoid them.
The ASPCA recommends a variety of techniques and products to help your dog avoid others. You can always carry a light towel or cloth to cover your dog’s eyes to keep them from seeing other dogs, or if you have a small dog pick them up and move them away.
You could also invest in a calming cap or a head halter. The calming cap obscures the dog’s vision without rendering them blind, which “reduces visual stimulation.”
A head halter allows you to gently steer your pup’s line of sight to keep them from making eye contact with other dogs. This is important since eye contact in dogs is an aggressive communication.
Unlike humans, for whom eye contact might represent respect and sincerity, for dogs it means a fight. Dogs say hello by pulling alongside one another then commence sniffing butts. However, when us humans go out walking our dogs, we put them in a situation where constant eye contact with other dogs is virtually inevitable. A properly used head halter will diminish eye contact and allow you to redirect your pup’s attention elsewhere.
You also have the option of building positive associations. Though not complicated, it requires a lot of effort on your part but the results are worth it!
I would encourage you to visit the ASPCA’s website to review the detailed process of building positive associations, but the principals behind the process are simple.
When out on a walk, bring lots and lots of treats to give your dog when they encounter another dog.
Another option is to give your dog something else to do when they see another dog. Channel their energy toward something positive. Command them to sit, stay, and then maintain eye contact. If they sit and stay, reward them with a treat, but only if they sit and stay. Rewards only work when they’re actually rewards.
Leash aggression can make walks awkward and stressful, but it is manageable. If your pup’s leash aggression is so severe that it becomes inhibitive and potentially risky, find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. Just know you’re not alone and that you’re not helpless. And your dog is perfectly normal, m’kay. 🙂
Enjoy the video below to see for yourself how lovable dogs with leash aggression truly are.