Good morning, seems I missed blogging yesterday. I had planned on an afternoon blog which is out of the norm but I got so busy that the day just passed me by. The hot topic these days; at least from where I stand is leash aggression. For most who deal with it on a regular basis it is anywhere from bothersome to a nightmare. Most dogs have it at some point in time, even the best and friendliest of dogs can display some leash aggression.
Out of my three; Luke is my most dog friendly, Jessie is just plain bossy and Tilley doesn't even acknowledge other dogs. Jessie is often leash aggressive; its her nature but Luke also displays aggression when on leash. Jessie is not bluffing; I remember once when a lady let her Australian shepherd come right up to Jessie while she was displaying. Jessie came away from that meeting with a huge mouthful of Aussie fur.
Luke on the other hand is all bluster; lots of noise with nothing behind it. Most of the time he just walks by but whatever it may be; something can trigger a response to some dogs. I do know for sure that if we are in a tighter spot and I need to reel him in on his leash; that he will guaranteed give an aggressive response. Tightening up on a dogs leash does several things, first it lets the dog know immediately that something is up. They feel the stress you are feeling down the leash. Next it pulls them into an unnatural stance; messing up all their natural communication signals. And lastly it takes away their fight or flight reaction; if they feel any bit like they would like to move away, they can't.
I am seeing more and more pinch/prong collars these days. I'd like to say that they are fading into history but with certain trainers who are on tv; they seem to be coming out of the dark ages and breathing new life. I hate them and I'll tell you why. Dogs learn through association; bottom line. When a dog gets excited by another dogs presence while on a walk; they immediately feel pain. What are they learning? Strange dog = pain.
If your dog acts naturally aggressive with other dogs walking by; using a pain causing pinch/prong collar fuel the fire. The dog becomes agitated much quicker and redirected aggression can occur. Even if a dog moves forward with any pressure they receive pain. And I know what you pinch/prong collar users are thinking, they don't cause pain. I hear it all the time "I put it on my arm to see if it hurt." Then tell me; if they don't cause pain how do they work? Ponder that, what is different about a prong collar and a regular collar that stops them in their tracks?
Okay this was about leash aggression not pinch collars. So back to it. I had my three dogs at the beach the other morning. It was beautiful; very few people were out that early in the morning. Having all the dogs with me I know that Jessie loves to diisplay which fuels Luke into the same behavior. So when they made their first demonstration on leash I thought I'd do a little experiment. My dogs know the "leave it" exercise really well so I gave it a go.
As we walked down the beach I could see a golden coming with his guardian. Luke noticed first as I gave them a little space. Once we were about 20 feet away; I said "leave it". Both Jessie and Luke's ears flew back to me; what? what? I hadn't used this verbal cue in a situation like this before and it threw them. Tilley of course was still at my side being as perfect as she always is. They all looked at me and we continued our walk. "Wow, that went well." So I tried it again with the same results.
By using a cue to communicate to my dogs what I would llike them to do makes them interact with me. They are then verbally and food rewarded to listening to me and not jumping into an aggressive response. Associating a positive reaction and food to the other dogs takes away any negatives of having dogs walk by us.
Another important factor in leash aggression; which is probably even more important than all the other stuff is your reaction. Dogs watch us; they watch us very closely. If leash aggression is something you deal with you are already stressed before you see your first dog coming towards you. You may not think you are; but at the first sign of another dog you tense up, reel in quickly and your breathing pattern changes. Your dog feels all of this and looks around immediately to see what the deal is. They see the other dog and respond to your behavior to match yours.
So what you need to do is act; cool as a cucumber is the order of the day. You want to do happy talking to your dog and make like walking by other dogs is as natural as getting up in the morning. You need to be really good; dogs don't fool too easily. Praise your dog for attention while walking by other dogs and use food treats in the beginning to create a very positive association. Do not change your pace; do not reel in your dog unless you have to. And if you do try to do it in a non panic way. Best to keep your dog about 2-3 feet from you so you don't have to reel.
Helping your dog get over leash aggression is a several step process with a big step being you.