Read here how leash aggression occurs in dogs and how you and your dog can learn to be relaxed about encounters with other dogs on a leash.
Leash aggression in dogs can take on different forms and degrees of severity. For the owner of a leash-aggressive dog, the walk quickly becomes an absolute stressful situation when another dog appears in the distance. Because in particularly severe cases of leash aggression…
… the dog completely freaks out at the sight of another dog
… jumps into the leash with all his might
… is difficult to hold
… growls and barks.
You can quickly get into situations where it makes sense to be familiar with the current legislation relating to dogs.
Some dogs only react aggressively to certain dogs (distinctive color, size, specific sex), while others are completely relaxed. Even dogs that are friendly to other dogs when out in the open and play amicably with them can be like a different breed when on a leash.
In the long run, leash aggressiveness can develop into a very stressful problem for both dog and owner. In order to stop the dog’s leash aggression, the cause of its behavior should first be clarified.
Causes of leash aggression in dogs
The dog developing leash aggression can have very different reasons. It is not always possible to find out which experience was so traumatic for the dog that it began to massively defend itself against other dogs on the leash. These causes are often behind aggression towards other dogs:
- Bad experience on the leash: The dog was bitten, hurt itself, is very frightened and linked this traumatic experience to meeting another dog.
- Lack of experience: The dog has had little contact with other dogs, is insecure and feels restricted by the leash and threatened by the other dog.
- Frustration: The dog really wants to go to the other dog, sniff it and play with it. Because he is not allowed to go, he reacts more and more aggressively (often the trigger for leash aggression in young, very playful dogs).
- Transfer of mood: The handler is tense and fears meeting another dog, since he already knows what is coming next. The tension is transferred to the dog.
- Breed-typical dispositions: Dogs that are bred specifically for guarding and protection are very territorial and can more easily develop leash aggression.
However, leash aggression is absolutely no sign that the dog is vicious.
Seven tips against leash aggression in dogs
Once the dog has developed leash aggression, it takes a lot of patience and consistent training to stop it. These 7 tips can help you:
1. Clarify the cause of line aggression
Research into the causes of leash aggression is important. Answer the following questions and write down the answers on a piece of paper:
- Has the dog ever been attacked, injured, bullied?
- Does he exhibit this behavior from the start?
- Is it only certain dogs/genders that he responds to?
- Does he only get mad when he’s on a leash or when he’s freewheeling too?
Jot down everything that comes to mind on the topic. Perhaps reading through will already bring enlightenment and with it a possible solution.
2. Commands direct from the situation
Reconditioning a leash aggressive dog takes time and patience. Above all, consistency and education. Instead of tugging at the leash, think of something you want the dog to do. Sit down, lie down, turn in a circle, give a paw. He should be happy to execute the command and should already be able to do it properly.
From then on, with every expression of aggression towards another dog, you immediately get a sharp “No!”, followed by a nice request “Sit, down, spin around, paw…” There are dogs that after ten to twenty exercises like this will do the alternative of their own accord to offer. Others take longer to link properly: A dog comes, I sit down.
3. Be friendly to other dogs
Turning a dog’s negative feelings inside out can be a good technique. You need an infinite number of special treats and a keyword such as “Look” or “Hmm, yummy”. Then it is important to find routes that offer you enough alternatives, but where there are still dogs in the distance, for example near a dog park.
Now they walk until a dog appears far away and in the same second, on your keyword, they put the treat in the dog’s mouth. Then move away. After a few such exercises, pass the other dog a few meters closer and work with the code word and bite again. The purpose: Your dog registers the other dog that is still too far away for his reaction and involuntarily associates him with something positive. It may take a while for him to get the message: Another dog in sight means a treat.
4. Stay relaxed yourself
Anyone who has been almost knocked over by their dog a few times because it threw itself into a harness or collar is nervous on walks and scans the area for possible dog encounters. The dog adopts the human stress level 1:1, tenses significantly and prepares for the next attack. A spiral that only you can break:
- Consciously focus on your goal, not the environment.
- Breathe calmly and evenly.
- Think of something beautiful.
You will be amazed at the effect.
5. Create more important tasks
Distracting leash-aggressive dogs is exhausting, but it also solves the problem for some dogs. When you go for a walk together, you constantly draw your dog’s attention to you. For example, it works like this:
- Walk around trees in pairs
- Let the dog find treats within reach of the leash.
- If the dog likes to fetch, he should now pick something up and carry it before handing it to you.
Important: The dog enjoys your undivided attention and vice versa. Other dogs become unimportant, the world now revolves around the two of you.
6. Avoid serious problems
If two males or two females are personally hostile to each other, i.e. your dog only reacts aggressively to this archenemy, none of the exercises will help. This is a special case. It is best to coordinate with the owner of the other dog and avoid each other as much as possible.
7. Request support from the behavior trainer
Special training has many advantages. In a fenced area, dog encounters are never accidental, they are provoked. Specialist trainers always have a peaceful, nerve-racking dog that responds to aggression on a leash with equanimity. And they not only observe and treat the dog, but also you. Before you are at the end of your nerves, special training under experienced eyes is definitely worth considering.
The right harness for leash-aggressive dogs
The behavior of a leash aggressive dog will not change overnight. Even if you try to consistently avoid other dogs, it can happen that another dog suddenly appears. In addition to consistent behavioral training, the right equipment can also help them maintain better control when encountering other dogs.
Collar or harness for the dog?
Experts recommend a well-fitting harness for leash-aggressive dogs. If the dog jumps into the collar with all its strength when it spots a conspecific, it can be harmful to its health. At this moment he feels pain and shortness of breath, but does not link this to his own reaction, but to the appearance of the other dog. In addition, the dog is set up with a pull on the collar, which is also threatening for the oncoming dog.
Safety harnesses or panic harnesses can also be useful for a leash-aggressive dog. Especially those with a back loop are well suited to keep the dog with you.
The right leash
The leash for leash-aggressive dogs should meet the following requirements:
She should be stable.
It should feel good in your hand.
It should be a comfortable length.
The dog should be given enough freedom to sniff in a relaxed manner, but the leash must not be so long that if it suddenly encounters another dog it can take off immediately and tear the handler off his feet with his run-up. A flexible leash is unsuitable for leash-aggressive dogs, as it cannot be fixed quickly enough in tricky situations.
Does a leash aggressive dog have to wear a muzzle?
A muzzle can provide security for leash-aggressive dogs that like to pounce on other dogs. In this way, the dog handler can be sure that his dog cannot injure another dog, even if the leash slips. It is often enough that the dog handler is much more relaxed and transfers this positive mood to the dog. However, before the dog can go for a walk with a muzzle, it must slowly get used to wearing a well-fitting muzzle.