Walking your dog is a simple way to engage with your pet and give them regular exercise. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to keep yourself healthy while bonding with your furry pal. However, if your dog pulls at their leash to get to other dogs, it can turn your daily walks into a challenging game of tug of war. You can use a customizable dog running leash to make it easier to control your pet, but it would be better for both you and your dog to correct this type of behavior.
Dogs that exhibit seemingly aggressive behavior towards other dogs may have something that’s called leash reactivity. This reaction commonly happens when a dog reacts negatively toward a given stimulus while on a leash and can be triggered by different emotions.
In this article, we’ll help you understand why your beloved pooch lunges at other dogs and how you can manage such behavior so you can have more pleasant walks.
Your Dog Is Afraid
When dogs lunge at other canines, they don’t truly intend to cause harm. Often, their behavior is driven by their fear, so they bark and display aggressive behavior to keep other dogs away. This is a common tactic among dogs who have had a negative experience or limited interactions with other canines when they were still puppies.
Rather than just pulling on your dog’s leash in an attempt to restrain them and calm them down, it’s best to find out your dog’s triggers, or the specific cause of their fear. Observe if your pet usually lunges at canines of a particular breed, size, or sex. This can give you an idea of the kind of dog your pet becomes reactive to, so you can avoid meeting them head-on during your walks. If possible, change your dog walking schedule to a more peaceful hour or find another route where you encounter fewer canines.
Additionally, it will help your pup feel calmer when you use walking accessories that fit them more comfortably. Traditional dog collars can put a lot of pressure on your dog’s throat when you’re pulling them back. The choking can add to the negative association between your dog and the triggering factor. Instead, use a chest dog harness for your pup’s comfort. Using a dog harness helps evenly distribute the pull of the leash across your pooch’s chest and shoulder areas. This way, even if you need to rein in your pup, they won’t experience choking.
Your Pup Feels Frustrated
Another reason your dog might be lunging at other dogs while walking is that they might be frustrated. Many dogs get very excited about meeting other canines and want to get near them to say hello. As social animals, most dogs often like to greet each other by getting side to side. This position allows them to sniff and recognize the other animal based on their unique scent. But if they’re on a leash, they can’t greet each other as they naturally would. Head-on engagement between canines often results in fights.
Some dogs also have a more excitable personality, and they show their enthusiasm by lunging at the object or creature that triggers their interest. This combination of excitement and frustration can overwhelm your dog. While you may be certain that they won’t attack the other dog, letting your beloved pooch socialize with other canines isn’t always the best answer. It may heighten their emotions and encourage them to keep behaving in this manner.
What to Do When Your Dog Has Leash Reactivity
The best way to calm your pup is to change their emotional response from negative to positive. This technique is called counterconditioning and can be done when your dog is in the presence of another dog but far enough away that they don’t react immediately. As soon as your pup sees another canine, give them a high-value reward like some tasty dog treats before they even get a chance to lunge. This helps create a positive association between the reward and the trigger.
Bring with you dog treat bags so you can offer your pup a treat whenever they look at the other dog and continue this process each time they have an encounter. With enough repetition, your pet will eventually learn to turn their attention back to you whenever they notice a dog approaching because they’ll expect the trigger to be followed by a reward, forming a positive association between the two.
At home, you can manage your pup’s emotions and keep them calm through different mental stimulation techniques. One popular way to do this is to give them toys that encourage licking and chewing, which helps soothe any frustrated pup. While getting them certain toys they can chew on is an effective way to self-soothe, you can also engage your dog in simple games like scattering food in the garden and letting your pup find them. You can also hide treats in a scrunched-up blanket for them to sniff out.
Generally, dogs lunge at other dogs because of negative emotions, and not because they’re trying to pick fights. By understanding the cause of your pup’s leash reactivity, you can find the appropriate way to help them feel more at ease during your walks. This way, you and your dog can look forward to pleasant walks and positive encounters with other canines.