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Leash Reactivity In Dogs

5/12/24

By Anthony De Marinis, CDBC, ADT, FFCP

Leash Reactivity is when a dog overreacts to stimuli while attached to a leash. It is one of the most common behavior issues dog owners deal with. It can affect all dog breeds and occurs in all types of environments: city, suburbs, rural etc.

What Is Reactive Behavior In Dogs?

Reactive behavior represents an emotional response to a stimulus (i.e., the sight, sound and/or smell of something) that triggers an abnormal level of intensity (i.e., an over reaction). A common example would be a dog who barks excessively when seeing someone (the “trigger”) walking across the street. Reactive behaviors vary from dog to dog and often include barking, lunging, snarling, snapping, stiffening, hyper-vigilance, alertness, fearfulness and/or avoidance. When dogs become reactive, the overstimulation may cause loss of their conscious control. When this happens, overreactive, frustrated and/or aroused dogs can exhibit aggressive behaviors.

What Is Leash Reactivity?

Leash reactivity specifically refers to a dog that reacts (barking, growling, lunging etc.) while on a leash. Owners will commonly report that their dog is friendly with dogs or people, but when they are on a walk or a hike and attached to a leash, the dog starts barking and lunging as if he wants to cause harm.

Leash reactivity usually occurs as a dog may become:

  • Frustrated or frustration builds up
  • Fearful
  • Lack of confidence
  • Insecure
  • Over excited
  • Aroused
  • Protective (of themselves and/or their owner)
  • Conflicted or seeking conflict
  • Predatory (towards small animals, other dogs or even sometimes, people)

Frustration and the Leash

The leash can cause frustration as a result of it holding the dog back and restricting them. As the dog is being restricted by the leash they may start to develop a reactive response out of frustration. The dog may start out happy or excited and then as they are restricted by the leash they may start to overreact or become aggressive.

Fear/Insecurity and the Leash

Some dogs may develop more of a fear response to being attached to the leash as they cannot leave or avoid the trigger. So if the dogs internal response is to flee or move away, but the leash restricts them of that, this may cause an overreactive or aggressive response, generally as a way to increase distance between them and the trigger.

In some cases, a traumatic event such as a dog approaching your dog while on leash and fighting or biting could cause a dog to become reactive when on a leash as a result of that scary or traumatic event. So essentially your dog could learn that dogs equal something scary, which means your dog may choose to react as a result of that scary or traumatic past event.

Seeking Out Conflict and the Leash

There are some dogs out there that find conflict to be fun or rewarding to them. These types of dogs are typically confident and not afraid. They find conflict and/or a good scrap to be enjoyable. Some of these dogs may display predatory types of behaviors such as being silent while eyeing up and stalking the intended target.

Helping Your Leash Reactive Dog

There are many protocols and approaches to address your dog’s leash reactivity. To learn more, checkout my blog on Reactive Behavior In Dogs as it explains reactive behavior as well as lays out some beginning steps to help you and your dog. You can also check out my blog on 6 Skills To Help Your Leash Reactive Dog, which has some helpful videos as well.

If you are seeking help and looking for a dog trainer and dog behavior specialist, and you live near me on Long Island, reach out for in-person help. If you are out of my area, I also provide online virtual consultations for behavior modification. For those located in NYC, Westchester, Putnam County, Hudson Valley, Connecticut or New Jersey, and you wish to work with me, contact me to learn more about coming to work with me at my studio space.

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About Anthony De Marinis

Anthony hiking in the woods with his dog, Journey

Anthony De Marinis specializes in working with dogs with behavior issues, specifically with aggressive behavior. He provides comprehensive in-home behavior consultations and dog training services in most of Nassau County and western Suffolk County on Long Island, NY. (Online Virtual Consultations for aggression and behavior modification are also available for clients who are local and out of state.) Anthony is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Accredited Dog Trainer by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and a Fear Free Certified Training Professional (FFCP). Anthony currently has an interest in training and behavior modification in Working & Sport bred dogs. He is also learning about and currently competing in agility and sheep herding with his own dogs. Anthony has two Australian Kelpies, Journey and Quest.

 

Anthony

Anthony De Marinis specializes in working with dogs with behavior issues, specifically with aggressive behavior. He provides comprehensive in-home behavior consultations and dog training services in most of Nassau County and western Suffolk County on Long Island, NY. (Online Virtual Consultations for aggression and behavior modification are also available for clients who are local and out of state.) Anthony is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Accredited Dog Trainer by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Licensed Family Dog Mediator (LFDM), and a Fear Free Certified Training Professional (FFCP). Anthony currently has an interest in training and behavior modification in Working & Sport bred dogs. He is also learning about and currently competing in agility and sheep herding with his own dogs. Anthony has two Australian Kelpies, Journey and Quest.

May 12, 2024