Leash reactive dog training is a long and daunting process, especially if done with the wrong equipment. Discover which equipment you will need for success with this issue!
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The Best Products for Leash Reactivity in Dogs
When it comes to leash reactive dog training you can either work on it yourself or seek the help of a professional. It might feel like you are in it alone but it is actually a common problem and even a phase that a lot of dogs might go through. Your dog might become reactive due to injury, or even a bad experience with a trigger further down the line or just age itself.
Regardless of whether you choose to go the professional route or try your own way to reduce leash reactivity, you need to make sure you are properly equipped.
When I started out on this journey of leash reactive dog training with Jasper I had no idea what I was doing. Jasper is a 2 year old rescue Staff I’ve had for 6 months. His background suggests poor socialization or bad experiences with other dogs but he’s great with people (sound familiar?). At the beginning of this journey I was just equipped with a leash and a collar and hoped for the best. Now at this point in time, I don’t leave the house with a few essentials now which I highly recommend!
What is Leash Reactivity in Dogs?
Leash reactivity in dogs can literally be simplified to your dog reacting to a trigger while they are on the leash. You may find that off leash your dog is perfectly normal however once they are limited to their options things start to become a problem.
Reactive dogs aren’t aggressive! A common misconception is that your dog is dangerous and out of control when they just have an underlying problem you need to work through. If you do however feel like your dog might be aggressive then getting professional help is the best way forward.
Your dog can react to these triggers/stimuli in various different way. The most common trigger is another dog so let’s use that as an example.
Your dog might not notice a dog or see a dog but if they pick up a scent they can start becoming on guard. At this point you might notice them constantly sniffing or looking around trying to find this trigger.
This is where you want to be able to keep your dog calm, for me if I notice this with Jasper I focus on getting his attention back on me. This includes stopping and starting, crossing roads and performing U-turns etc. A key to reduce leash reactivity is to have your dog focused on you and one of the best way is to keep things changing up.
This is where your dog notices the trigger and depending on the distance all depends on the reaction. The jump between sitting on the threshold and getting a reaction all depends on how far your dog can deal with a trigger.
From a distance you might notice that your dogs ears perk up and their tail becomes stiff. As the trigger gets closer your dog might change pace from yours and might even stop moving. This shows the loss in focus. At this point you need to either move away or provide the right motivation to get your dogs focus back!
If you don’t manage the situation quick enough then you are going to get a reaction. If you don’t get out of dodge or you can’t keep your dog focused then you hit the next section. This is why your dog makes a scene, barking and lunging.
Regardless of motivators now your dog will ignore you as they are too focused on the other stimuli. The best thing to do is wait until your dog stops. Shouting and punishment could also make things worse (more later!).
Click here to find out more about leash reactive warning signs and triggers!
Why does Leash Reactivity in Dogs happen?
Many dogs will go through leash reactivity through life whether it be a short phase or a slightly longer one. When a dog encounters a trigger, the reaction is more of a way of wanting the trigger to go away, nothing aggressive!
There can be different reasons to come across this issue with the most common being as follows:
Unfortunately many of our dogs go through injury and this means that they might just need space. Imagine being a dog hobbling around and another comes charging at you even to say hi. Injured dogs need to have their space so they can heal in peace.
Bad Past Experienes
You might find that an experience has made your dog look differently at a trigger. Even a rescue whom went through bad experiences in the past can lead to the problem now.
A very common factor is an underlying emotional problem. Maybe your dog wasn’t socialized enough or they had bad experiences beforehand. Or you might find that your dog is just scared and wants the other dog to just go away
Believe it or not, your dog might just want to go and say hi. The leash restraining them from this builds up all the frustration which is all let out in bark and lunge form!
This goes back into injury in a way. Elderly dogs like their space, they may not want any interaction with other dogs at all. The reactivity is a lot lower on this scale until a dog is fully invading the personal space.
You can find out more in depth information on the causes of on leash reactivity and how to identify the triggers with the beginners guide to leash reactivity in dogs.
Best Products to Manage Leash Reactivity in Dogs
Dog Treat Bag
The best weapon in my arsenal at the moment is Jasper’s dog treat bag. Having a dog treat bag makes life easier for you by literally 20%!
The reason I’m a big believer in having a treat bag when you have a reactive dog is that you can deliver treats a lot quicker. With leash reactive dog training its all about giving the treat at the right moment to make positive associations etc. Having a treat bag allows you to quickly deliver treats to your dog and also keep a lot of equipment to hand e.g. I have a tennis ball inside and a muzzle clipped on the bag for extra safety if needed!
High Value Toy
You will need to find a toy that motivates your dog. You need to find one that they go absolutely crazy for. The goal is to take this with you on walks and when you encounter a situation using the toy as a motivator to either focus on you, turn around or sit and stay quietly while the trigger passes.
I find that toys such as squeaky toys work as they can instantly break the dogs attention with the high sound. Even a tennis ball works well which you can bounce when your dog is pushing threshold to bring them back.
High Value Treats
The next thing to consider are high value treats. You are asking a bigi thing from your dog, to change an emotional response. How do you expect your dog to focus if all you’re offering is kibble?! It;s time to bring out the big guns!!
- Dried beef
ANYTHING YOU CAN CUT IN SMALL PIECES!
By going for a higher value treat you should be able to keep your dogs attention more (if you stay below threshold). When they see the trigger they start to associate them with that reward, changing how they feel.
I know people look at muzzles and think they look dangerous or can’t be good for the dog etc. However, a muzzle is the magic wand you need to help your dog.
After a couple of weeks with Jasper I got a muzzle. Not for himself but for other dogs. Our biggest issue is people letting their dogs come straight for us, so to make it simpler I got Jasper a muzzle.
A muzzle will relax you so much more knowing your dog can’t do serious damage even if the situation is not his fault. Honestly in my opinion it is one of the best ways to dealing with irresponsible dog owners.
Make sure you give your dog proper muzzle training so they have no negative thoughts about it.
You can check out my review for the Baskerville Ultra Muzzle here!
I recommend getting a leash that is sturdy and comfy for you to hold. I highly DO NOT recommend getting a retractable leash if you have a reactive dog. If you have a retractable leash you will find its a lot harder to actually control your dog. Pulling them back in is just a nightmare! Plus if you have a larger dog and they charge at a trigger it’s not going to be pleasant for either of you!
I suggest one that you can hold in two hands, one around the loop and one for extra stability. For Jasper I have two leashes, one which I use when we are going for a normal walk. Slightly padded loop for me, strong material and reflective. The other is more of our reactive dog training leash. This is the 15 meter leash where we go to dog parks and wander around trying to work on the reactivity.
Finally for those of you dealing with leash reactivity in dogs, the next piece of equipment that will help is a harness! A harness will help distribute the force from you and the dog pulling at different times all around the body instead of just one area, the neck.
Jasper can pull with some force when making contact with a trigger and a harness not only makes me feel better because its less pressure on his neck but also safety reasons. If you have a larger dog the last thing you want is the collar popping off from the strain.
We now have a collection of harnesses, the one type I’d recommend is the more padded versions for your dog but we also have one that warns people that Jasper is a nervous dog and to give him space.
Common Questions/FAQ About Leash Reactive Dog Training
Some common questions I’ve discovered (I’ve asked one of these before) are as follows, you might possibly be looking the answers too!
- How do you calm a reactive dog?
If you want to get your dog to calm down
- Perform simple obedience for a second and treat
- Walk back and forth and increase focus
- Run the road and burn energy
- Cross the road multiple times
- Speak to your dog
- Stroke your dog
- Why is my dog leash aggressive?
There can be many reasons why your dog will be reactive on the leash…
- Loud noises
- Bad experiences
- How do I get my dog to walk beside me?
The best way to keep your dog focused is to have them walk nicely in a heel position next to you. Simple leash training for dogs is great to get them to walk nicely on the leash.
- Walking back and forward
- Crossing the road multiple times
- Performing U-turns
- Stopping and starting
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Leash Reactive Dog Training
Leash reactive dog training is a long and daunting process. You will get frustrated at times. To do this make sure you learn about keeping your cool with training.
Make sure that you have the best equipment to deal with this problem. Whether you are doing it yourself or with the help of a professional. The last thing you want is to make things more difficult for the both of you.
You Aren’t Alone
Don’t forget to leave a comment whether to ask a question, give your own tips, give feedback etc and check out the leash aggression training blog for more information and resources on dealing with leash reactivity in dogs. The worlds a better place when people help each other!
- These Dog Training Tips Can Help Your Pup Overcome Leash Reactivity – https://www.petmd.com/dog/training/these-dog-training-tips-can-help-your-pup-overcome-leash-reactivity – Learn more about the causes of reactivity.