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If your dog pulls, lunges, barks and/or snarls at dogs or people while on leash, your dog is leash reactive.
This is one of the most common complaints about dog companions, and potentially one of the most dangerous. Leash reactivity is a serious problem and often involves multiple people and/or dogs. Human and dog injuries from reactive dogs include sprained, torn and broken arms, legs, wrists, ankles, fingers, tendons, ligaments along with the all too frequent and yet completely avoidable dog bites.
Dogs are leash reactive for a combination of reasons, including inadequate training techniques and improper training equipment. Harnesses, no matter the style, are inappropriate obedience training gear. To control a harnessed dog, brute force is required. Small, four-legged animals are considerably stronger than their larger, two-legged companions are and easily pull a human twice their size. If you have ever been on the other end of a leash attached to a focused, incensed and determined dog pulling on a harness, you know the result is not positive by any stretch of the imagination.Leash reactive dogs are a serious problem. Click To Tweet
Yes, leash reactivity is curable with the proper training approach and equipment. In fact, leash reactivity is a manifestation of improper dog gear and subsequent lack of coping skills of both dogs and their human companions.
Many training approaches do not teach skills the dog can learn and repeat in future situations. Instead, many trainers choose avoidance techniques. Rather than allow dogs to see and acclimate to human-perceived stressful situations, trainers remove dogs from challenging situations without teaching any behavioral skills. Why? They run out of training options to solve leash reactive problems.
Dogs should be able to be in the same vicinity as other humans and dogs without being reactive. Dogs and humans have been companions for tens of thousands of years. Dogs have been our partners and assistants for a very long time. Leash reactivity is a relatively recent phenomenon, so one must question the source of this problem.
Do not avoid challenging situations. Embrace these situations as learning opportunities and teach your dog reliable coping skills. Both you and your dog will be grateful and you will enjoy the freedom to go anywhere with your beloved companion.
Kathryn R. Gubista, PhD is an evolutionary biologist, college biology instructor, former zookeeper, author, and certified professional dog trainer with Lucky Dog Training Asheville. She has over 30 years of dog training and human teaching experience. Her book and blog, both titled The Dog’s Perspective, explain her training philosophy based on how dogs think. To learn more, or to get her help with a leash reactive dog, go to her website at LuckydogtrainingAsheville.com. Or call 828 423-9635.