Handling Leash Aggression 

Ever notice your dog act completely different once you put on a leash on them? Does your normally docile and happy dog become more guarded and aggressive once they’re on a leash and see other people or dogs? If so, it is likely that your dog might be experiencing leash aggression, which can range from mild to severe. Some dogs might already have existing issues, but they become exacerbated once they are on a leash and facing certain triggers or stimuli.

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Leash aggression, while not a fun thing to deal with, can easily be treated. Dogs that get leash aggressive act out because they feel insecure being controlled. Leash aggression is sometimes linked with territorial and protective aggression as well. Commonly, dogs that feel “stuck” on the leash, get aggressive because they cannot escape a stressful situation or a problem-causing stimuli. For example, while working with a dog trainer in Nashville I worked with a dog named Bronson who had severe leash aggression. Typically when he was off-leash, Bronson got along with everyone and everything. However, on walks he was a nightmare — lunging and barking aggressively to the point where he was foaming at the mouth. Bronson was very protective of his owner, but he also showed signs on nervousness before the aggression began — usually stiff posture, ears back, and wide eyes as he stared at the approaching trigger. It didn’t matter if it was a dog or a person, of Bronson was on the leash, he would suddenly become ferocious.

To combat Bronson’s leash aggression, we had to work on his owner’s leash handling. Whenever Bronson would act out on the leash, his owner was at a loss on what to do, other than scream “No!” and pull him to the side. Bronson is a strong dog and it was a struggle to get control of him when he was in such a heightened state of mind. The tightness of the leash did not deter Bronson from acting out, but it seemed to add fuel to the fire. Along with showing more controlled leash handling, we had to start working on Bronson’s leash behavior WITHOUT distractions first. With no triggers, Bronson was able to succeed with some basic training exercises and gain some confidence, while also a calm, structured association with being on the leash. After that, we gradually reintroduced distractions and triggers, and this time both Bronson and his owner were more equipped to deal with them!

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Leash aggression happens for many dogs, and sadly, many times it goes uncorrected. This type of behavior can make walking your dog extremely stressful and sometimes infrequent. I have worked with many owners who choose not to walk their dog in fear of their dog’s leash aggression. Taking away their exercise and isolating them from triggers will not help the dog at all. Leash aggression CAN be trained, and with the right tools and consistent training, your dog can learn to be a total gentleman/lady on the leash!

If you have questions or need help overcoming your dog’s leash aggression, call us at 800-649-7297 to sign up for our aggression dog training program.

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