Dog Aggression: Aggressive on Leash but a Great Dog off Leash

Dog aggression on leash can be pretty scary. In fact, dog aggression on leash can not only be scary but it can be embarrassing to you, and intimidating to others in your neighborhood.

You don’t want to develop the reputation of having the “neighborhood menace.” Many people who get into this situation just quit walking their dog all together. This is like sweeping the problem under the rug. It’s not good for you or your dog. But what do you do?

How it starts

See if this sounds familiar to you. A very concerned or even distraught dog owner called and said, “We’ve had our 5 y/o, 75lb hound mix since she was 4 months. Within the last year, she has demonstrated aggression when on a leash toward other dogs. She is not aggressive toward dogs when off leash.
I need suggestions on how to walk my dog as I don’t walk the dog much anymore. See, I am afraid of what the Hound will do as she can pull me. More than a few times she got really close to the other dog and it was very unnerving.”

Dog Aggressive on Leash

The frustration builds

Frustration gets worse because of all the “different advice” folks get. Folks have said to me “well my previous dog trainer told me that I wasn’t correcting my dog hard enough so he wasn’t getting the message. But then, things only got worse.”

What’s the problem?

The problem can complicated – everything from old style training techniques that require too harsh leash corrections (not my recommendation) to “owner follow through” (lack of) and commitment to working their dog every day.

A trainer, with no relationship with the dog, could probably get a dog to stop aggressing with harder leash corrections but then the expectation would be that the owner would apply the same corrections on their dog when at home and around the neighborhood.

Things get sticky

In my mind, this is where things get sticky. Here’s why:

  • The owner – that’s had a loving relationship with their dog –may not be able to give harsh corrections to their loving dog (again not a fan of harsh corrections). The owner may not have the best timing on corrections either.
  • With dog aggression on leash there are other complications also. For instance, using a choke collar on your dog that is out of control, will simply add pain to the mix. Here’s an examples:
  • You’re walking down the street with your dog on a choke chain. He sees another dog and immediately starts barking and lunging on his choke chain. All of a sudden the offending dog goes away. What this says to your dog is: Hey, it works! I bark and lunge and the dog disappears” 
  • You might find it’s very difficult to do training exercises with your own aggressive dog. How will you be perceived by your neighbors? Are they going to let you use their dog for “bait”? What will your dog think about your harsh corrections? Consequently your dog never really gets better.

What’s the solution?

A good desensitization program works well. Gradually desensitize your leash aggressive dog to other dogs, at a distance at first, then move closer as you get successful behavior.

But here’s the key: It takes time and consistent repetition to eventually reach your goal.

If your dog only knows to use aggression to make another dog go away, then help your dog realize that there are choices, other than aggression, that can achieve the same results. Again this takes time and consistent repetition to achieve your goals.

For example, if your dog could figure out that turning its head (looking away) could achieve the same results (the dog goes away) – and eventually be rewarded for that, your dog figures it out all by himself without any coercion/corrections by humans. Think positive when training your dog.

Your work on behavior modification should be supported by a strong foundation of rules and expectations for your dog, exercise, daily obedience training and your dog having a healthy respect for your personal space. You’ll be surprised how many other dog behavior problems might go away.

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“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8t00+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog. 

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that when your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.