You’re out on your morning walk. Suddenly a lady walking a Yorkshire Terrier comes down the street. You know your dog is leash aggressive you freeze up. Your mind races, “What do I do!?” You jerk your dog off to the side and pray they do not misbehave.
As they pass you your dog lunges, whines, barks, and growls at the end of the leash. Straining every muscle in your body you hold her back. This time that was the extent of it but what happens if you were walking around a corner and there happens to be a dog just on the other side?
Leash aggression has many causes. A few common causes are:
- Barrier aggression – The tension on the leash puts your dog into fight or flight mode.
- Fear aggression – Your dog has had a bad experience in the past and is overreacting to a normal situation (also referred to as reactive behavior)
- True Dog Aggression – Your dog is out to kill the other dog. This is the most severe of all the causes.
Deal with leash aggression can be time consuming and quite frustrating at times. Your main goal with any behavior training is to first identify the triggers or causes of the behavior.
Is it only when your dog is on leash they act up?
Is it only small dogs? Is it woman? Is it men? Is it large dogs
and men with hats?
Of course you will not be able to identify all your dogs triggers right from the start. Pay attention to your surroundings when your dog acts up. Take mental notes of the situation and remember then. You will start to notice a trend for certain triggers as you encounter more situations that cause your dog to act aggressively on the leash.
Even more important than figuring out your dogs triggers is to teach your dog an alternative reaction to the things that trigger your dogs leash aggression.
Most of the time owners and trainers alike focus on how to “stop” the behavior from occurring or how to “correct” the behavior when it does occur. You should focus more on getting your dog to react differently when they encounter situations that trigger their aggression.
Let me explain …
In the above scenario the lady walking towards you with her Yorkie is a known trigger. You know that this could be a moment your dog acts aggressively on the leash.
Your time for action starts the moment you notice the lady and her dog. You say, “Sparky, let’s play!” and you start to feed your dog rapidly. Moving around having them chase your hands in order to get the food you have secretly stuffed in there when you saw the lady and her dog. As your dog becomes eager and focused you praise your dog. You move away from the distraction at the same time not drawing attention to the lady and her dog.
The lady and her dog pass without incident.
How did this happen? You put the word, “play” on cue. Play means to turn around and start chasing food lures and your dog has learned that this is extremely fun.
You did this of course over time in low distracting environments. You’ve worked on it for weeks and finally it has proven effective during a real life scenario.
Will this happen for every dog that is leash aggressive? No. However it can happen for the majority of dogs if the proper foundation is set up and is trained for consistently over time.
If your dog is demonstrating true dog aggression this type of distraction training will be more difficult and may not work effectively. Again, true dog aggression means your dog wants to kill the other dog. Not scuffle or act out but will, without a doubt, kill the other dog if they are allowed near them. In this case you should consult a certified professional dog behaviorist (not a dog trainer) who is educated in applied animal behavior.
On a whole though true dog aggression even when talking about Pit Bull Terriers is quite rare. Often reactive or fearful behavior is mistaken for true dog aggression.
If you have a Pit Bull Terrier that is demonstrating leash aggression issues it is always best to consult a local certified applied animal behaviorist for specific hands on help with your situation.