Leash aggression


Leash aggression has got to be the most common problem that k9 guardians deal with on a regular basis.

Leash - a chain, strap, etc., for controlling or leading a dog or other animal; lead.

Aggression - the practice of making assaults or attacks; offensive action in general.

There are many reasons for leash aggression and most are not true aggression. Leash aggression can be caused by fear, over excitement, lack of education or a misplaced leadership status. There are some cases that are truly dominant aggression but most are not. Even the friendliest of dogs can display leash aggression.

Let’s take Mr. Luke (now gone nearly 4 years) for example. He was one of the worst leash aggression cases that I worked with, yep my dog. The funny thing about Luke was that he was also one of the friendliest and most stable dogs with other we’ve ever had. He was a rock solid lover, not a fighter. Even if a dog picked a fight with him; he’d laugh it off, turn on a dime and head the other way. Many a dog were left standing alone as he chose not to fight, ever.

But the love of my life sure had a blustery case of leash aggression. So where did it come from? As soon as we strap a leash onto our dogs they change. Their ability to move and communicate freely is taken away. They are also close to us, their guardian and may have a guarding behavior kick in. Body language communications are misread as our dogs movement is restricted. Excitement can be misread as aggression when a dog strains at the end of the leash. Back and forth the dogs are misreading much of what could otherwise be a friendly greeting.

A few bad experiences can lead to leash aggression as well. A face to face greeting gone wrong can lead to going on the defense. I am not a fan of face to face on leash greetings. Dogs get tangled, get too close, send wrong communications due to the leash etc. etc.

So what do you do if your dog displays leash aggression? You find the trigger and change the association. Is it other dogs? People? Cars? Once you discover the trigger then you find what most motivates your dog; food, balls, tug toys, catching etc. Then you associate the trigger with the great stuff. Depending on how bad the leash behavior is will factor in on your time to full or partial recovery. If you really want to get rid of leash aggression; then you will implement many different things to connect a positive association to the trigger.

Along with the great “thing” you need space. Space if your friend when dealing with leash aggression. You will not achieve success if you walk right up on the trigger. You must distance yourself far enough to NOT elicit a response. So for some people that may mean 6’ away, 12’ away or 50’ feet away. Once you achieve a tiny bit of success then you can reduce the space by small increments. i

One of the biggest factors in leash aggression is us. Yes, we humans can fuel a leash aggression problem so it is imperative to get a grip and get your chill routine down to a t.

Hire a trainer to help, they will let you know what you are doing right and wrong to solve your leash issue.

Dogs and common sense - Using grey matter


"I just got him yesterday," the man said.  My daughter was at the park with her children when she met this man with his "new" dog.  The dog was off leash and as any savvy Mom, my daughter was being extremely cautious.  She hovered around her two year old as the dog ran around the playground.  

First, no dog should be running around off leash in the playground area; that is unless there are no children anywhere  in the area.

Second, even leashed dogs need to be strictly supervised around children, especially children that are not your own.  

As my daughter conversed with the man she learned that the dog had just been rescued the day before.  Not only was this dog running loose in the playground, but the man didn't even know this dog.  They were in fact complete strangers; the dog didn't know the man and the man didn't know the dog.

This could be an extremely dangerous situation for everyone involved.  The man did not know how the dog would behave with children.  The man had no idea what would happen should the dog run off.  Well as it turned out, the dog did run off with the guy in hot pursuit (but of course it did.)  Honestly.  Listening intently to my daughters story, I was fuming and shaking my head.

Can you imagine rescuing a dog and then letting it off leash the next day?  I can't even ask "what was he thinking" because clearly he was not thinking.  I LOVE dogs and I ADORE children; but when the two come together, great care must be taken to protect both involved.  Not all dogs love children, especially unknown children.  I often see dogs at parks where there are lots of children and they are typically on leash and very close to their guardian; which is where they should be.  Dogs should not be wandering around a children's park off leash.  

Just a couple of days ago I was at a park with my daughter and two grandsons.  They were having a great deal of fun and as we were leaving a man with an off-leash bulldog headed our way.  I immediately got in-between them and my two year old grandson.  But I was happy to see the man leash his dog as they got closer.  You just never know how a dog will behave around children; there is no way for everyone to know every dog.  Many people don't fully know how their own dog deals with unknown children.  It is always best to veer on the side of safety.

The off leash dog at the park, who was just rescued the day before has me still shaking my head big time.  Come on...

On-leash canine greetings

Always ask!!!!

She was headed our way with a mission in her step. Her intention was to give her dog the chance to meet my little Jack Russell.  "She's not friendly," I called out to her.  "Oh she loves dogs and wants to say hi," she replied.  I was a little set back by her response and responded "NO."  Turning abruptly, we picked up the pace.  She was one of those dog guardians; the ones that have no intention of listening to my heed. 

Approaching other dogs in hopes of an on-leash interaction without asking first is foolish.  Off leash greetings can go wrong; on-leash greetings can be even worse.  

Leashes can cause all sorts of problems.

1.  Leashes can take away our dog's ability to communicate freely.
2.  Leashes inhibit our dog's freedom of movement.  The inability of moving away can cause many behavior issues.
3.  Leashes are our line to our dog.  Wrong messages can be sent via that line when we deal with our own emotions. 
4.  Leashes can give people a false sense of a well behaved dog.
5.  Leash entanglement is a huge problem for many.

Leashes and communication
- When we attach a leash to our dogs it decreases their ability to communicate freely.  A tight leash, pulling and tugging changes our dog's body language.

Freedom of movement
- If a dog cannot move away, they can become fearful or aggressive. 

Our message
- Our messages are sent down the leash to our dogs.  If you are uptight, anxious, stressful or fearful; your dog will know this and act accordingly.  It's our job to send good messages down the leash.

- Many dog owners think that their dog is very well behaved because they are on leash.  Being on leash and being well behaved are two entirely different things.

- Becoming entangled with other dogs is a very common problem.  Even the friendliest dog encounter can go wrong if they become entangled.

Leashes are a piece of safety equipment.  They are also a line of communication, a problem creator and cause of much confusion.  

Use a leash but think about the leash when you are out with your dog.  A tight leash can do a great deal of damage as far as lack of communication, body language confusion and misread messages.

What do I use?

People regularly ask me about the stuff that I use for Luke and Elsa.  Grooming equipment, food that I feed, training leashes, harnesses and collars.  I am always happy to share this information as I've been sifting through a lot of stuff over the years.  I  hate to see people waste money so when I can help out and share what I think to be useful I like to pass that onto you all.  I'm a gear junkie, I love canine stuff that makes living with dogs easier. 

I have my standard "go to" items and that can change on a daily or weekly basis depending on my mood and requirements for the day.  Even though I love gear I don't love I do not like complicated.  So my favorite things to use are simple, easy and useful.  I've picked up equipment before and just stared wondering how long it might take one to put this onto their dog.  Not all companies that make dogs stuff think before they put things out there for the public; that much is obvious.  There is a lot of stuff out there that is useless or just a plain waste of money.

Sometimes I change my mind on something if I find a new and improved item that someone has come up with.  New ideas, constant improvements to dog gear; I love when there are new things to try.   I like companies who are always improving on what they have and actually want to make good products for dogs. 

My prerequisite for being a favorite of mine is quality and usefulness.   Cost factors in, I want value; to get what I pay for not pay a ton of money for garbage.  Customer service is way up there for me; if I find out that a company does not stand behind their product or care about feedback then they slip way down on my list. 

You will notice some changes to my blog; to the right side is now a couple of lists of things that I recommend.  I have all of these products and use them.  I will keep adding to these lists as I find new things that I like.  If you have a question about any of the products please let me know.  If you'd like to see something that I don't yet have on there let me know.   I love feedback.

As far as purchasing items online, my go to is Amazon.  They have crazy fast service, even when I choose regular 5-7 day delivery I have been getting my stuff in a day or two.  Almost everything can be found on Amazon but if not I will link to where an item I like can be found.  Of course these items are just what I like to use, my opinion. 

This is the harness that Elsa is wearing in the photo above.

A crutch, the dog park?

      At the beach and around the corner in Connecticut.  It was a very chilly day for the beach.   Elsa was about 5 1/2 months old here.

The dog park can become a crutch.  It is a place where you can socialize and exercise your dog without exercising yourself.  Most times you can get a great deal of exercise for your dog in a short time span.  So you go and you go and you go; day after, day after, day.  Your dog loves to go, they get lots of canine interaction and all is good right?  Maybe not.  The question is, do you also take your dog for leash walks in public areas.  Maybe downtown, a children's soccer game, the park or outdoor Mall?  If not, you should. 

When I was in Connecticut in 2011/2012 I had a young puppy.  Being that we were plunked in a place where I knew no one and didn't know where the great parks were I had opted for the beach.  A great beach that is only open for a very short time of the year for dogs to be off leash.  Being that I could hit the park at off hours; it made visiting the park a great place.  There were never too many dogs at a time and lots of room between each group of people and their dogs.  If you wanted  to interact you could but you didn't have to.  It was a great place and one that gave Elsa a huge boost in her canine socializing.  We visited a lot for the short time that we were in Connecticut an I loved it. 

Of course there were extenuating circumstances that made the park the place for us to be.  I had to bring Luke with us for every outing; as he was dealing with separation anxiety due to the loss of his two life long companions.  So I needed a place where Elsa could run her little butt off and Luke could meander; the beach was the place where it could all happen.  But when we weren't at the beach and leashes were required, it could be difficult containing Elsa.  Her enthusiasm to romp with every dog she met was becoming apparent.  "What do you mean I can't just run with every dog?" Was her clear dilemma. 

Once we were back in California we had work to do with on-leash canine greetings and walk bys.  She had to learn that life is not a dog beach.  I see this quite often; dogs get so use to being free that being leashed and controlled becomes a problem.  Elsa was very young so the dog beach gave us the most important thing that she needed, socializing.  But you also need life lessons, learning to walk nicely on a leash (which she does amazing I might add); seeing other dogs and not interacting with them and walking by all manner of people. 

When a dog is at a dog park and very involved with other dogs and the whole activity of interacting, not much concern is put into anything else. A great dog park or beach with nice friendly dogs can be a great place to socialize; but our dogs need  more, much more.  They need structure, control lessons and introduction to the life around them.  If you miss out on all the other stuff and opt just to hit the park all the time then your dog and you will pay the price. 

The more varied things that you offer your dog to experience in their early years the better.  Hit the street, go to the park, sit outside of restaurants; go to all the places that you might end up going at some point in time.  Teach your dog about revolving doors, automatic doors that open as you approach and shopping carts.  Elsa learned about automatic doors before she was 4 months old and it was very useful when she had to go in and out of many on our travel across country.  Go to a soccer game; this is one place where much can be learned.  The first couple of times that we walked by a soccer game; Elsa almost came unglued by the balls.  Of course, being the ball dog that she is she wanted them all.  With just a couple of visits and some age behind her she was able to walk by a ball field without losing it. 

People carry a lot of stuff at soccer games; they can look menacing to a dog who has never seen someone carrying a giant bag of balls.  Dogs need to learn what to concern themselves with and what can be ignored.  How about a tennis court?  Been by one of those with your ball crazed dog?  I have and it was......lets just say crazy.  So, we did it again and again and again until she learned that all of those tennis balls belonged to someone else. 

Yes the dog park or beach can be great; but they can also become a crutch.  Get out, experience life with your dog.  Take a turn down a street where you've never been.  Go to a new park or beach where leashes are required.   Yes leashes suck but they are a fact of life so you may as well do leashes well if you have to.  So get out and have a great new day with your dog today.