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How to Curb Your Dog's On-Leash Aggression

By Linda Cole

Going for a walk with your dog is a great activity you can enjoy together. It’s a chance to get some exercise, fresh air and quality time to bond. But it’s not much fun if your dog turns into a snarling, excited dog who drags you down the street as he races towards everyone and every dog he sees. Some dogs become so excited that their eagerness turns into aggression towards you and everything else within their reach. On-leash aggression is a serious dog behavior issue that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

I have a 10 month old Border Collie who can't wait to get outside for a walk or to play in the dog pen. She's fine once we get her outside – it's the transition that creates an aggressive behavior with the other dogs and sometimes with us. Putting on her leash only adds to her aggression.

Any kind of aggression should never be allowed to continue because by not correcting this type of behavior, the dog learns it's acceptable and their aggression will only get worse. On-leash aggression needs a firm hand, but not in a forceful manner. Matching your dog's aggressive behavior with equal force will only make him feel more stressed out, adding to his excitement and aggression. Positive reinforcement is your best option in correcting your dog's on-leash aggression. It's also important for you to remember to stay calm when your dog is on a leash. He will pick up on this and react to the same type of energy you're putting out. Dogs are experts at picking up our emotions and if you tense up, he can feel that energy through his leash which will increase his on-leash aggression.

Positive reinforcement is a combination of praise and plenty of your dog's favorite treats, such as CANIDAE Snap-Bits™. As with any dog training session, stay consistent, calm and patient. Have fun with your training and make a game out of it. Teach your dog to focus on you when you call his name. My dog's name is Keikei, and I say “Keikei, focus.” You can use any word you want such as “look” or “here.” Just make it something simple and easy for them to understand. As soon as your dog makes eye contact with you, give him a treat and praise.

The goal is to get your dog to focus on you and not on an approaching dog, cat, squirrel or person. Instead of grabbing the leash in an effort to pull him closer to you, you're teaching him to look at you instead, which helps calm him down. When your dog is making eye contact every time you give him the command, start to move away from him to really get him to focus on you. When you call him and he makes eye contact, move a few steps away from him. He should follow you as you move. Reward him for following and then making eye contact with you in the new spot.

This is an exercise you will need to practice every day, and you need to begin in an area where there are no distractions for your dog. As he begins to understand what you want, then you can add distractions to continue your dog's training. After your dog consistently ignores other distractions when you call his name, you can stop giving him treats and continue with praise, but carrying treats with you on a walk is no big deal and that added incentive can make a difference.

This is an important dog training exercise to help curb your dog's on-leash aggression because it will also change his body language and the signals he's sending to other dogs. When he breaks his eye contact with an approaching dog and focuses on you instead, he's giving the other dog a non-threatening signal which can also help keep that dog in a more relaxed state of mind.

Aggressive behavior is not something that's corrected overnight. We've been working with Keikei for two months. On-leash aggression can be dealt with by teaching your dog that good things happen when they look at you and an approaching dog or person is nothing to feel anxious about or intimidated. You're teaching your dog that when other dogs are around, it's good for him because he gets a treat and lots of praise.

On-leash aggression is serious and can be dangerous for you, your dog and to other people and their pet. As responsible pet owners, we need to have control of our dogs at all times. Positive reinforcement can give you a well-trained dog who understands what you expect from him and helps you keep him under control when you need him to behave.

Photo by Clix

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