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How do you deal with leash aggression?

Lora from It’s the Dogs’ Life has a good question this week: How do you deal with leash aggression and what causes it? She asks because her lab, Apollo (not pictured), acted aggressive while on the leash at a public dog event. As soon as he was off leash, he was everyone’s buddy like normal.

I’ve seen this same issue with my family’s golden, Elsie. Elsie used to growl and strain at the leash when other dogs passed during a walk. With her, it seemed like she had low self confidence and acted out with aggression toward other dogs because of her anxiety. In her case, using a Gentle Leader for walks solved the problem. She is a different dog while wearing it. She is calmer and doesn’t try to control every dog she passes.

Although I don’t think the Gentle Leader (or any similar head collar) will fix the problem entirely, it is a tool that can help control a dog that is acting dominant. If anything, the owner will be more relaxed and confident and the dog will pick up on that energy and also become more relaxed.

Correcting an aggressive dog on a leash is similar to correcting a dog that whines on a leash because in both cases the dog is not under control. Many of the strategies to correct a hyperactive, crying dog will also work to correct an aggressive dog.

Make sure the dog is getting enough exercise so he is less likely to release his pent-up energy in a negative way. As far as correcting a dog, the worst thing to do is hold the leash really tight because the dog will naturally want to resist and pull even harder. Tension will cause the dog to act even more aggressive, so make sure to hold the leash loosely. Also keep the collar high on the dog’s neck where you will have the most control, and give quick leash snaps when necessary to correct the dog.

Practice walking your leash-aggressive dog near other dogs in a controlled situation with another person and dog you trust so you can make quick corrections when needed. Make the aggressive dog sit at your side and have another dog walk around him from a safe distance. Again, hold the leash loosely and give him a quick leash pop the second he growls, barks, stares at a dog or starts to lunge.

Signing up for a group obedience class is a good idea so your dog can practice being around several dogs while on a leash.

Does anyone else have a solution for Lora and Apollo? Have you ever dealt with leash aggression? What caused it, and how did you fix the problem?

Teach your dog the command 'find it'
Breed profile: German shepherd (coated)

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 7th of September 2008

Thanks for stopping by Dave. Ace likes to dart after squirrels and rabbits, too.

Dave Robbins

Sunday 7th of September 2008

I aggree with your approach to the problem. The aggressive dog needs to be exposed to other dogs in controlled situations.

My dog is a squirrel chaser, and would dart at a moments notice. Since I have two small kids I corrected this right away. My tactic has been to constantly "remind" her to pay attention to me with a series of "psssttt" and "Hey, Missy" until we've passed by the squirrel. They same has worked for her with other dogs. I've found that if I can keep Missy focused on the pace of the walk that we're on, I can keep her calm and prevent her from darting or charging.

On a different note, I've just stumbled on your blog and really enjoy your writing.

Dave Robbinss last blog post..The Joy of Running on a Full Belly


Thursday 28th of August 2008

Wow, this could be the subject of a whole post since we are still working on it with Biggie. I think a lot depends on what the dog is reacting to. A group obedience class and even some leash work while in a dog run, with lots of treats, helps immensely.

Biggie-Zs last blog post..Long overdue post: Teach your dog 5 commands in 30 days

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 27th of August 2008

Ace acts aggressive with about three dogs in our apartment complex. By aggressive, I mean the hair goes up on his back, he growls, barks and pulls. In his case, I think it is because he picks up on the energy of those three dogs and feels insecure. Two are shepherds on Flexis that pull and lunge and one is a doberman that whines and barks. There are plenty of other dogs that bark at us, but for some reason only these three get to Ace.

It is hard to control him when this happens if he is not on the Gentle Leader. A good way to get his attention is to just step in front of him, facing him, like, hey, pay attention. This actually works well with Ace. I have also made him lay down. If needed, I step on the leash close to his collar so he can't get up.

Saint Lover

Tuesday 26th of August 2008

Its not a matter or lack of exercise as he is very fit and exercised regularly. He has been socialized from day one and goes to dog parks weekly. He is now 4 1/2 and has only shown leash aggression twice in his life. He had jumped several times at the event and was well worn and still acting like a turd to the dog that kept coming over. I dont know what sparked it. Apollo is a therapy dog as well and has been through extensive training. Why this time? I was relaxed so he wasnt picking up vibes from me. As soon as he was off leash he played with that dog for a good while. It seemed directed mostly at that particular dog too.

Saint Lovers last blog post..Dog Trails