Here at Sit, Stay, N’, Play, we have had many clients call us wanting us to do a temperament test on a dog that displays what they perceive to be “dog aggression.” More often than not, they are mistaken. Dogs communicate with body language and vocalizations. They don’t speak human, nor do most humans speak dog. Bridging this communication gap is part of what makes a great interspecies comradery.
There are many dogs out there that feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or scared and defensive when a barrier comes into play. The most common barrier is your pup’s leash. The display that you are seeing when your dog is tethered, is a result of your dog being over their threshold, and attempting to communicate to you and the trigger. You may hear this referred to as reactivity.
How do you know if it’s true dog aggression or reactivity?
The answer to this is simple. How does your dog behave when he isn’t tethered or behind a barrier? If your dog does not react or put on a show when they don’t feel confined, then the issue is the fact that he feels overwhelmed when he doesn’t have free range of motion. A dog that is truly dog aggressive will exhibit these behaviors whether he is on leash or not.
Why does reactivity occur?
The first possibility is simply lack of socialization, or socialization not done properly. Many dogs that I have met with on leash reactivity have been under socialized during the crucial period between 7 weeks of age and 16 weeks. While you should avoid taking your unvaccinated puppy to places that are highly trafficked by dogs of unknown vaccination history, this does not mean that you shouldn’t socialize at all.
Reactivity may also stem from a negative interaction with a dog or person that has left them traumatized. When a dog is on leash, it inhibits their movement and prevents them from being able to choose flight when they are over threshold. This leaves them with fight as their only option which is why you are seeing the unsettling behavior that they are exhibiting.
This canine conundrum is not all that complicated. With a combination of classical conditioning, patience, and attention to your dog while in environments that this behavior may be displayed, you can teach your pooch to react differently when in these kind of situations. Teaching your dog to look at the trigger and back to you is referred to as LAT training. Use your clicker and high value treats. When your dog looks at a stimulus click and treat. Ideally, we want to teach our reactive dogs to look at the trigger, and then back to us. I refer to this as, “checking in.” Over time you will see a decrease in the reaction, and the amount of space your dog needs to be able to stay calm.
For help with your reactive rover, please contact Katrina, Head Trainer, at email@example.com
Check out these classes that will be starting up:
- Impulse Control 101: Starts July 10th. Will be held on Wednesdays from 6:15p to 7:15p for 6 weeks. This class focuses on the distracted canine. We will touch on behaviors like leash/barrier reactivity, and learning how to proof the behaviors you want to see while out of the house. While this class is for dogs of all ages, our trainer does ask that your dog have a few of the basics under their belt before starting this class. Cost: $125
- Puppy Class: Starts July 10th. Will be held on Wednesdays from 5:00p to 6:00p for 4 weeks. This class is for puppies 6 months and younger that have had little to no training. This class will encompass basic manners, socialization, introduction to simple commands, and troubleshooting problem behaviors to get you and your puppy on the road to a wonderful companionship. Cost: $100
Limited space is available, multiple dogs from the same family welcome. Register at our front desk or online.
Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or to find out what class is the best fit for you and your pup!