Lead aggression

By Nick Jones

When a dog is on the lead, it has had one option removed when under stress…. this is the chance to move away from what is concerning it. I regularly hear that the owner’s dog is ok off the lead but unsociable when on it. You may require some more detailed help from a professional trainer, but in the mean time you could try this simple procedure. In this sort of scenario it would be as well to break it down into three steps for you to try using the following simple method I have developed over time.
Please note. Serious cases of on lead aggression are unlikely to be resolved with the following points I offer. Always seek the advice of your vet and local behaviour expert when in such a situation.

  1. Approaching Danger.
    This is when you first see the other dog and can then find a few moments to set yourself up for a more successful meeting. Stop and bring your dog so he is sitting side on to the approaching dog. Place your dog as far back as you can to allow plenty of room for the passing dog. Also produce some food at this time that you know will distract him. Go for things like cheese, bacon, sausage etc!
  2. Immediate Danger.
    This is the time that your dog is most likely to lunge or to start barking. Remain calm but firm as the other dog passes. This is also the time when a good level of basic obedience (sit and down stays) will be useful, so look to improve these if necessary.

    Continue to distract your dog with your chosen food. Hold the food between your thumb and finger so he has to work at it to remove the food rather than give it in one mouthful. During this time I find that a calm but clear repeating of the Stay command can help. Be careful not to sound too reassuring at this stage, as he may even take your tones as reward for any uneasy behaviour, just let him feed as the other dog passes. Hold your free hand out in front of him (a couple of feet away) rather like a policeman stopping traffic as you repeat the stay command. Another helper can be useful here to hold the lead, or you may be able to place the loop end on a fence post for security and hands free approach. Given that he is a small breed, you may find that standing on the lead is enough?

  3. Passing Danger.
    Once the other dog has passed and your dog starts to look more relaxed and is looking around, you can be fairly certain he is over any immediate concern, and you can return to normal. Do make a point of praising through touch and speech for any calm well behaved reactions! This three-step routine is somewhat basic, but in the absence of being there with you, it’s worth a try for you to see what areas need to be worked upon. In more mild cases, this routine is often sufficient for the dog and owner to build confidence and to go from here.
    Good luck with this and stick with it!

Nick Jones MCFBA
Dog Behaviour Specialist and Trainer
01299 404356
0775 909 3394
Nick Jones, a full time Dog Behavioural Specialist and Trainer wrote this article. You can visit his main site atwww.alphadogbehaviour.co.uk for more articles and training information.
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