My dog becomes very aggressive towards other dogs when we’re outside walking on a leash. There’s no problem when she’s at a dog park or other off-leash place. How do I curb this behavior?
The behavior is called leash aggression, or leash-reactivity. This happens when leashed dogs react, or over-react to other dogs who approach them while they’re out and about. This includes, but is not limited to excessive barking, lunging, or growling at the other dog(s).
The root cause of leash aggression is insecurity. Insecurity manifests when dogs lack self-confidence, have a chip on their shoulder, and believe “the world is out to get them.” Unfortunately, much of a dog’s temperament and attitude has to do with genetics and DNA, so you as the owner can only manage this occurrence.
A few techniques have to be mastered together in order to overcome leash aggression:
- Obedience. Before you can knock your dog for not obeying your commands, you must first teach your dog the commands you want him to know. “Leave it Joey!” is completely ineffective if you’ve actually never taught Joey what it means. A great tool to overcome leash aggression is to teach focus.
- Consequence. In addition to teaching little Joey what you expect of him, he needs to understand what the consequences are if he doesn’t obey. Dogs vary in how they are affected by consequences, but find something that strikes a nerve with Joey and follow through. For example, if Joey is sensitive to verbal correction but decides to react badly, a stern “STOP IT!!!” should be enough to get his attention.
- Densensitization. The more you’re out and about walking your dog, the better he’ll understand that passing dogs are not a threat, and that no one’s out to mess with him. Steer your experience out and about together in a positive direction by carrying high value treats in your pocket (like cubes of leftover rib-eye) and treat your dog for behaving well on your walk. If you’re able to correct him off a potential reaction, treat him. Tell him what a good boy he is. By nature, dogs want to do right by their people. Teach them how to keep you happy, and reward them for making the right decision.
Please note that Weimaraners don’t respond well to punishment, yelling, or other non-positive reinforcement.
Best of luck, and please contact us if you need additional troubleshooting!
ASPCA – Dogs who are Reactive to Leash
Paws 4 U – On Leash Aggression
Suzanne Clothier – Handling Lead Aggression
Positively – Working with a Leash Reactive Dog
When Hounds Fly – On Leash Aggression Towards Dogs
Three Dogs Training – Manage Leash Aggression
The Whole Dog Journal – Teaching an Aggressive Dog How to Be Social Around Other Dogs
Loving Paws, LLC – Reactive v. Aggressive Dogs
Mutt About Town – Leash Reactivity is Trainable
Pawsitive Feedback – What is a Leash Reactive Dog
Paw Rescue – Aggression to Approaching Dogs and People