Leash Reactivity (overreaction/response to other dogs or triggers while on a leash) takes 2 forms: fear based or arousal/frustration! When dealing with the latter, you typically have a dog who gets excited/adrenaline filled at the site of another dog because they want to PLAY and interact, which can actually be more challenging to address than fear based (seemingly aggressive) reactivity. Why would that be? Well, fear based leash aggression is when you have a dog barking and lunging at another dog, because they want to move away from the other dog.
The last thing your fear based leash reactive dog wants is for the other dog to actually get closer to them or interact with them…in fact, when taught how to ignore and walk calmly while being advocated, they are happy to oblige of it means they can feel more comfortable. They want to avoid conflict and interaction with the other dog. In most cases, excitement/arousal based leash reactivity comes in the form of barking, pulling, or whining because a dog is frustrated it can’t interact (meet, play, sniff) with the other dog. Your dog isn’t looking for an out, or alternate behavior – your dog WANTS to go over there and is motivated solely by their desire to see with/interact/play with that dog. Some softer dogs can be easily interrupted and accept, quietly, the fact that they can’t meet every dog they see. More intense cases, such as a dog I am familiar with, can be a challenge because they are not as easily discouraged from excitement when they see one of their friends – to help move forward, my job as the handler is to be responsible for capping his arousal and helping him remain soft, easy, and present with them through engagement, accountability, and meaningful follow through. This must happen consistently, in many other arousal triggering scenarios as well, so that he can learn to regulate his emotions and make the right choices.
Response: Great explanation. This is so like my dog. He just gets super pumped up and seemingly frustrated that he is on a leash. His reactivity seems to be strictly on a leash. When off leash, (he is only off leash during a game, fetch or flirt pole, he has insane ball drive) he will blow off a dog if we are playing a game. He will stay in a down if he is waiting for a release for the flirt pole and completely blow off another dog…. but on a leash its like hes a different animal. We’re working on it!
Flash Dog Training, LLC.
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Wheat Ridge, CO 80033