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Your Guide to Understanding Leash Aggression in Dogs

Rahul Thadani Nov 20, 2018
Though leash aggression is not exactly harmful, you should not turn a blind eye towards it. In fact, the sooner you identify and curb it, the better it is for your dog.
Leash aggression generally refers to the sudden aggressive and confrontational approach of a dog towards other dogs, while being led on a leash. Many owners find it hard to explain why this happens.
The sudden change in their dog's behavior takes them by surprise at times. It is generally harmless, as the dog on the leash simply snarls and barks at other dogs but does not―or rather can't―bite them. Nevertheless, owners who are walking the dog can get quite perplexed by this phenomenon.
Even though, the dog never really ends up harming another dog or person, this uncalled-for aggression ends up posing a lot of problems for the person walking the dog. Inadvertently, that pet owner ends up changing their walking pattern, which is not a healthy thing.
Walking a dog is meant to be an enjoyable and relaxing experience for the owner as much as it is for the dog. The aggression ends up ruining this experience for both parties.
Also known as leash reactivity, this behavior ends up confusing many people, as the dog only ends up showing aggressive behavior when it is on a leash.
When it is not on a leash, it appears to be very friendly and amicable to other dogs. This drastic change in dog's behavior cannot be traced back to any particular incident in his life. It seems to be an inherent quality in many pet dogs.

Understanding Leash Aggression

It is important for you, as the dog owner, to understand that the dog will only display leash aggression when its social skills are ill-developed. Dogs who are used to interacting with other dogs rarely display such qualities.
It is said that this behavior is likely to occur when the combination of agitation and frustration builds up to the extent that it comes out in the form of aggression. When a dog is outside, there are a lot of different sights and smells that sometimes leave him confused. This results in building up of a lot of agitation.
The trigger is mostly the sight of another dog, and when it sees one, it simply 'loses it'. The combination of all these factors ends up in such an occurrence and the best way to treat it is by ensuring that the dog interacts with other dogs from a young age.
Imagine that you are walking outside and wish to explore all the new sights that you see around you. You want to move around freely and go from one spot to another, but are unable to, because someone has a leash tied around your neck.
This is bound to get you frustrated and inadvertently, you will end up removing this frustration on a poor unsuspecting soul. This is exactly what happens, and there is no immediate cure for it. Only proper conditioning and dog leash training can change this attitude of your dog.

Containing the Aggression

There are a few ways to get rid of this problem, but you must realize that these methods take time and thus, require a lot of patience. At the same time, it also requires a certain bit of change on the owners part.
You have to train your dog well and make sure that he listens to your commands as and when the time arises. This can only be done through a patient training routine, which also involves providing the dog suitable rewards when he is obedient.
Understand your dogs behavior well and learn to recognize the signs of leash aggression and other behavioral problems in their initial stages.
There will be certain distinct movements by the dog and you must learn to stop this behavior by distracting him at the first sight of these signs. The more you let the behavior escalate, the harder it will be to curb. The most important thing though, is for the dog owner to stay calm and composed.
Leash aggression does lead to a lot of tension in owners, and this is translated into physical actions in no time.
The dog immediately senses this change in the posture, change in breathing, tightening of the leash, and change in movement of the owner, and gets further agitated. In order to avoid this, the owner must stay calm and talk to the dog soothingly, but firmly, and take him away.
Ultimately you must remember that leash aggression rarely ends up in actual violence. It is simply a way for the dog to intimidate the other animal. The key here is for you to stay calm―not get panicky―and divert your dogs attention away from the root of aggression.