As I mentioned in one of my previous blog, not mastering the walk with your pup can cause several problems. One of them is Leash Aggression.
Let me start by explaining what leash aggression is. Leash aggression means that your dog gets aggressive when on leash. The outcome could be excessive barking, lunging or attacking another dog or human.
An example for this is a dog that is well socialized and has no problems off leash, but as soon as you put the leash on, he or she starts getting aggressive with other dogs or humans.
Leash aggression is always caused by lack of leash communication between you and your pup. If you already adopted your pup with this problem, don´t worry it´s still on your hands to fix it.
There is no leash without humans, so you can kind of guess what´s the cause of the problem. When you remove the leash, you remove the human, you remove the problem.
Yes, this might be a little painful to hear, but if your pup has leash aggression there are good chances that you´ve created it. But dont´t worry if human created it, human can fix it. If you are reading this your are in the right path to find the solution.
What´s happening is that your dog is associating the leash with restraining and tension, so he or she starts building up frustration. When a trigger comes up, it becomes an explosion.
Remember this: TENSION ONLY CREATES TENSION
Often, dog parents have their pups on tight leash, “in case anything happens.” Unfortunately, the tight leash communicates tension to the dog, and it further increases their stress.
Be aware that the leash restricts your dog´s capacity to move freely. When you attached the leash to your pup he or she is in a weaker position which can make him/her vulnerable. In a way she is depending on you and you have to convince her that she can trust you. Pulling and restraining doesn’t´ communicate trust, quite the opposite. What you are telling your pup is to get ready for the battle.
It´s funny how humans focus their attention on the dogs instead of on themselves. I usually get comments like:
- “ My dog hates the leash” or
- “my dog hates going for a walk, she just wants to run” or
- “my dog is just a bad walker by nature”
Well, dogs are by nature good walkers. They love to walk, to explore and to go to places. And by nature they do it in a very calm manner. Leashes are created by humans not by nature, so it´s not a natural thing for them. They need proper guidance and we need to learn how to communicate properly.
A very common mistake people make is to tense up the leash to gain control of situation. “To play safe”.
I get it, you are taking care of liability, but that´s exactly what created the problem. “Liability” is a human problem not a dog problem.
Of course liability is something you want to take into consideration, but remember when you put tension, wether is physical or mental, your dog doesn´t know why. They only know you are getting tense and they react to it.
Teaching your dog that leash means “time for a nice and relaxed walk where no-one is going to pull or fight the leash” is entirely up to you.
It doesn’t come from liability thinking, it comes from self control, awareness and learning how to comunicate properly with the leash in a gentle manner.
Check out my blog on Leash Communication where I explain how to gently and effectively communicate if you are not already doing so. I will give you a couple of tips that will help the process.
Meanwhile I will give you something to consider if you are struggling with Leash Aggression: Success is measured by good behavior or the lack of a reaction, it is NOT a measure of how close you can get before a reaction. Maintaining a good state of mind is much more effective than trying to change it or punish it after it occur.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, October 2017