Leash training for dogs helps build the engagement your dog has with you on a walk. By making your walks more fun you can increase your dogs level of engagement which is very crucial when you come across something that will trigger your dog. Continue reading and discover 3 reasons why leash training is effective and how you can incorporate it into your walks today!
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Managing Leash Reactivity in Dogs
What is Leash Reactivity?
Leash reactivity in dogs is actually quite a common issue that many owners end up having to deal with. There can be numerous reasons why a dog could have this problem on the leash. Regardless of the underlying cause, the reactions are always the same – a big display or barking and lunging.
Your dog could be the sweetest dog in the world when they are at home but outside the house it’s a different story. Sound familiar? The same goes for Jasper, he’s very nervous outside the house and loves to kick up a fuss. Through learning about the issue however you can start working on how to resolve this with your dog either by yourself or even professionally.
What Causes This Behaviour?
I feel the 3 most common reasons for this kind of behaviour fall into three different categories:
The least common out of the three. You will find dog to dog aggression is an issue but cases of aggression aren’t as common as those below. Dealing with an aggressive dog should be something done through a professional as you don’t want to hinder the problem and put yourself and others at risk if you don’t know what to do.
You may find that when your dog decides to kick up a fuss and make a show of barking and lunging, they are just excited. If you have a dog that is super friendly you may find that people playing, a dog walking, a skateboard going past can easily set your dog off. They are just wanting to interact and need to be taught self control and focus.
This is a more common cause of leash reactivity in dogs where they just want the trigger to go away. The barking and lunging as a reaction for the dog to go away becomes a bad habit as they repeatedly do this. Now whenever they come into contact with a trigger they believe their barking and lunging is the best way to get it to go away.
How Do You Cure Leash Reactivity?
It’s a lot harder said than done. There are many different methods that you can use out there to reduce leash reactivity. There is plenty of information on the web, some of it great and useful and some of it not really worth the read. Either way every dog is different, so it will take time for you to find a technique that works for you and your dog.
It’ll take a bit of time and effort for you to work with your dog through this issue, however just ignoring it could lead to bigger causes.
If you feel like you don’t have the time then there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help. A professional will be able to figure out the problem and prepare yourself with a leash reactive dog training plan.
The Importance of Leash Training for Dogs
Leash training for dogs I feel is important for any dog owner to have a nice walk. A walk where you don’t have to deal with your dog pulling in excitement to get to the park. Even a walk where you don’t have to deal with the constant barking and lunging.
Achieving this is possible, I believe leash handling skills are crucial for dogs and especially those that are more reactive than others.
Below are 3 reasons why as a reactive dog owner you will find this crucial….
Increase In Engagement/Focus
How do you expect your dog to stop focusing on a dog when they don’t know to focus on you? Developing your dogs engagement and focus on your during your walks is very beneficial. Having a dog that is anticipating your every move, trying to figure out where you’re going next makes for smooth walks.
When in the presence of a trigger if you can train your dog to focus more on you, you may be able to start teaching them alternate behaviours than barking once you can hold their focus. An example would be to train a dog sit and stay. At a distance where you have their focus work for alternative behaviours.
It’s taken me time to build up Jasper’s engagement but I constantly get check ins (where he will just look to me for some sort of guidance) and can make quick maneuvers without any hesitation now. Having his focus on me before he notices a trigger has been so helpful for keeping him under the threshold.
Develop Quick Maneuverability Skills
Leash training for dogs doesn’t just involve walking up and down the street with your dog. There are many different components and one of them maneuverability.
One thing I learned early on is to treat Jasper as if he’d never have to cross paths with another dog again. This involved some quick turns and heeling work and quick moving out of the sight of the trigger when it got too close.
Being able to develop these skills is crucial as sometimes you will have to escape a situation. Maybe there is a dog coming toward you and one from behind as well. Learning different ways to move out of harms way can be very useful to you.
Make Walks More Fun
The final reason is that you can get the fun back into your walks. As someone who also has to deal with a leash reactive dog I know how frustrating and tiring walks can be. However, learning how to add a bit more fun and work with Jasper has made things a lot more fun.
Leash training for dogs is a great way to add this fun factor on your walks. Even better it will also improve how your dog walks on the leash…win-win!
How To Incorporate Leash Training for Dogs on Your Current Walks
Start and Stopping
Performing simple stop and starts are as easy as they sound.
- While walking with your dog stop yourself from moving without warning
- Allow your dog to stop, whether it be at the end of the leash or by your side
- Call your dog back to your side and ask them to sit
- Treat and reward if successful
- Release your dog and continue your walk
- Repeat a few times on your walk
- If your dog doesn’t sit, turn around and walk back to the same position and try again
- If still unsuccessful retry on another walk.
Praising for check ins
Whenever your dog looks at you then praise them
- While your dog is exploring and sniffing, when he stares at you treat and praise
- Allow your dog to go back to their business
- If they look at you again treat and praise again
- Repeat a few times
You need to find what motivates your dog whether it be treats, play or praise. Whatever the motivator is you need to make sure that it is high value otherwise you will struggle to get your dogs focus. Take a look at the video below…
The next option you have is to train your dog to go through U-Turns with you. It’s a very simple exercise and can come in useful when you have to make a quick getaway from a trigger that you may come across.
- While walking your dog turn without warning and walk the other direction
- Your dog may hit the end of the lead but either way start calling them to follow
- Using a cheery voice and a slight jog call your dog to your side
- If they run with you, praise and reward
- Repeat a few times on your walk.
Check the video below for a great example…
Final Thoughts – Be More Engaging!
If you want your dog to be focused on your whether with leash training for dogs or general obedience then you want to make sure that you are more engaging than their surroundings. You need to give your dog a reason to be engaged with you when there are so many other things around.
The best way to do this is to start off in quiet areas. Your dog will find it a lot more easier to engage with you somewhere with little to no distractions. Be silly. Make silly sounds. Do anything that gets your dogs engagement or you loose it to the environment around you.
Another important factor is to make sure that you have value treats to hand or a similar motivation for your dog. Finding out what motivates your dog will help you tenfold when it comes to engaging and training them. For many its a good treat and for others its a quick game or toy they love. Some even can survive on praise alone as a motivator.
Make sure the motivator is of high value otherwise you might struggle to keep your dogs engagement for long enough. Throw away the kibble and bring out the big guns such as dried liver which will make your dog go crazy. Alternatives include:
- Peanut butter
- Chicken feet
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!
- 5 Rules of Engagement – http://www.sportdogtrainingcenter.com/5-rules-engagement/
- Stages of Engagement – https://denisefenzi.com/2015/02/stages-of-engagement-part-1/