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What is Leash Reactivity?

“Leash reactivity” is shown when a dog on a leash reacts to triggers (like other dogs, people, or trucks) with lunging, pulling, barking, growling, or vocalizing. Leash reactive dogs often attempt to get closer to their trigger.

 

What Might Be Causing It?

So many factors can contribute to this behavior! The most common motivations are:

  • Fear: Dogs who are fearful of their triggers can learn that reacting with Big Feelings gets their trigger to leave them alone or even give them space.
  • Frustration: Our “frustrated greeters” are SO excited to see their trigger and want to interact, but that darn leash is preventing it and that’s frustrating! Other dogs can be frustrated because they are motivated to aggress and the leash is preventing it.
  • A combination of both fear and frustration: “I want to meet you and I’m exited, but also I’m nervous!” Dogs can experience conflicting emotions, just like we can.
  • Protection: This one is much less common than the others. It’s marked by dogs whose reactive behaviors are confident and lacking in evidence for fear/anxiety/stress.

 

What Does a Behavior Plan for Leash Reactivity Look Like?

  1. Manage your dog’s world to prevent or reduce practice of the unwanted behavior. This can mean walking at unpopular times of day, driving to a quieter place to walk, or using enrichment and exercise strategies instead of some or all walks.
  2. Teach your dog their Training and Behavior Games (Like the 123 Game and Here) at home, then in the yard, then on walks with no triggers present. Most dogs need 2 to 3 weeks of practice doing these without triggers before we go to the next step.
  3. Practice Set Ups for Success around your dog’s triggers. You’ll be using your Management and Behavior Games, which is why you both need to get good at them first, before doing them around triggers.

While you’re training, it’s also important to:

 

What Does Success Look Like?

Clear improvement in your dog’s leash reactivity and way less stress for you both! This can mean:

  • Your dog is able to be around their triggers and stay calm much more often. (Reactions become the exception, rather than the usual!)
  • Your dog can get noticeably closer to their triggers without a negative reaction.
  • Your dog recovers faster and easier after they see a trigger.
  • You feel more confident about reading your dog’s body language and what to do when things go right, as well as how to help when it’s too much for your pup.

If you haven’t already, please check out these two short articles that can help you better understand what to expect:

Behavior Program Expectations

How much will my dog improve?

 

What Do I Need to Do?

We’ll give you the tools and know-how to help your dog. Your role for your dog is:
  1. To carry out the behavior plan. While we wish we could wave a magic wand and help your dog just within our sessions, behavior change takes time and practice. Your dog’s behaviors won’t change unless your behaviors do. And they won’t be consistent unless you are. We’ll help you find ways to maximize your success and fit training into your lifestyle.
  2. To let us know if you have questions, concerns, or struggles. We want more joy and less stress for both you and your dog! Email us so we can help you both out ASAP 🙂 Timely, honest communication helps us do our best for you.
We’re here to help you succeed, and we’re always rooting for you and your dog!