Leash reactivity is when a dog will react intensely on the leash towards stimuli in their environment. This can include lunging, barking, growling or redirecting onto the person walking them. Sometimes this occurs due to fear, guarding, over-excitment or frustration.
Leash reactivity is the #1 most common behavioural issue that I deal with in training. Unfortunately, it has become somewhat of an epidemic in Toronto. I describe it as a disease, because it gets passed around from one dog to another just like a common cold. How can your sweet docile pup catch leash reactivity? Its really quite simple.
Do you stop and say hello to every single person you walk past on the street? Usually, humans will stop to talk to people they already know. It should be no different for our dogs. Trust me when I tell you, it’s just not worth the risk. The amount of stress and anxiety this problem brings to both dog owners and their dogs can be debilitating and damaging to the relationship you have with your dog, and your lifestyle.
If you want to meet new dogs, the best way is to take your dog to an off-leash trail. Unlike dog parks, off-leash trails allow for you and your dog to keep moving if your dog happens to meet a dog they aren’t comfortable with. Most trails also happen to attract dog owners with better control of their dogs, since there are no gates or enclosures to prevent dogs from running away.
If the ingredients for the cure was simple enough to give you in this blog post, I would write it all down so everyone could just help their dog get better, and it wouldn’t be a big deal. While leash reactivity is curable, unfortunately, it’s a complex problem that involves rebuilding the trust your dog has in you, and your dogs confidence. Depending on the severity, it can take 3-5 sessions over 3-6 months to fully curb, and requires a lot of patience, time and effort on the dog owner / families part.
The vaccine to this contagious disease is simple: stop meeting and greeting strange dogs on leash. If everyone followed this practice, this behavioural problem wouldn’t be spreading like wildfire.
Please share this post to all dog owners you know. They’ll thank you for it.