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?