November 21, 2011
I have taken my dog to the dog park numerous times and he is great with other dogs. However, if he passes other dogs while walking on a leash, he tries to bound after them and acts as if he is going to attack. Why is he so bad on a leash?
Dear mom of Chief,
Yep, leashes can be a real pain in the neck. However, since you and Chief aren’t able to walk together hand-in-paw, it’s a helpful solution for keeping us inquisitive canines safe. They’re also a law in many places, so I recommend you consider the following training tips to help your buddy Chief enjoy himself, and less like the need to “attack”.
Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:
- Know Your Animal!
Dogs weren’t born knowing how to walk on leash, so we need some lessons before heading out into the big wide world. We also have limited impulse control which can make it tough – and quite frustrating – when we aren’t able to get to something or someone whenever we want to, or when we want to sniff and update our status at the nearest tree.
Think about it. Over time, with each and every on-leash adventure, when we’re not allowed to do what we want when we want in a manner that we want, we become more and more frustrated! (Kind of like when you humans are stuck in traffic and can’t get to where you want to get to!) This frustration builds and builds, and gets to the point where the mere sight of another dog triggers this “attack” reaction. Chief now associates other dogs with frustration. So there’s your “why?”.
- Whaddya Want? It’s important that you figure out and decide what behavior you want from Chief when you’re out and about on walks. Do you prefer he look at you when other dogs appear? If so, teach him how to do that. Whatever you decide though, make sure it’s something fun and rewarding that he enjoys.
- Reward. Reward. Reward! Whenever Chief sees another dog while on leash and is the perfect gentleman, reward him heavily with praise, petting and yummy treats! Even when you didn’t ask for it! I’m sure you’d agree we can never be thanked too many times.
- Know Yourself: You weren’t born knowing how to use a leash. This is one reason you’ll want to do some dress rehearsals with Chief before heading out into the real world. Sort of like having a fire drill during a fire – not very effective. So take some time and practice your own leash handling skills inside your home and yard before you take the leash-walking act on the road.
Paws and Reflect
Determine what you want from Chief and teach him in a way he understands. Make it fun and rewarding. With time and consistency the new behaviors will soon become the better, more desirable choices when out walking. This way he will begin to associate other dogs with activities that are enjoyable instead of frustrating, and the next thing you know he’ll be as great on leash as he is off.___________
Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and canine behavior. He and his mom work together running the family business providing dog training services to other inquisitive canines and their humans. For additional training and behavior tips subscribe to their blog.
Got a question about behavior, training or daily pup life? Email Poncho directly.