Off to visit people and dogs; Luke heads down the beach in CT. Mr. Social.
This image makes me smile; I remember it like it was yesterday.
We were heading to the path; the small path that allows you no leeway for distance. Just as we approach Luke decides to take a dump, nice. Trying to pick it up in amongst the bushes, I did my best. The poop bag was too messy to try to tie; you know those, I'm sure you've all had them. So I had Elsa and Luke in one hand and the undesirable untied bag in the other. I saw them coming, they were headed down the same path that we were on. I also saw one of the little dogs lower his head and stare; great and I have my hands full. I should have just dropped the bag and picked it up later but I didn't think about doing that at the moment. I knew what was coming and it did; Luke lunged and tried his best to sound like a Grizzle bear.
If I had not had a handful of poop that was looming to come out and touch me; I would have put Luke calmly on the other side of me. But I didn't so he did a big bluster. This is common for Luke and for many dogs. Luke has slight leash aggression, it doesn't always happen but if he is feeling threatened or he considers the other dog to be offering rude behavior, yep. It would never, and has never happened off leash. Luke is the picture of Mr. Social. He adores going to visit everyone, dogs and people. If someone growls at him he just moves away; he is a lover not a fighter. Even now as his hearing is diminishing I often have to run and gather him up as he goes on his visiting excursions.
So why do dogs act differently on leash vs. off? First let me tell you that it is very, very common. Putting a leash on a dog alters their body language immediately. Many dogs are not trying to give off a rude or aggressive display but because of their leash it looks like they are. An all too familiar scenario is when two dogs are meeting and then one owner pulls on the leash to move away. That is when everything changes. The dog being pulled away can no longer speak freely and opts for aggression. It is something that I have learned to try to avoid. Use your voice not your leash if you can escape it.
If you ever have doubts about another dog; err on the side of not visiting. With each bad interaction comes a built in defense reaction from your dog. Try to find those great dogs to meet and greet. I was very angry the other day when a woman walking at the park let her very large Rhodesian come our way. Luke is very frail now and I don't want him messing with anyone; it is my job to keep him safe. I saw her coming from a distance; I also saw that her dog did not have a leash on. I very calmly got off the path and walked across the park. When I turned to check on the pair; her dog was heading our way. I stopped as she yelled to me "he's friendly, gentle and older." I called back "he does not like other males," just as her huge Rhodesian did some jump, charge play bow type things at Luke and Elsa. Clearly he wanted to play and clearly this was not going to make Luke happy. "Put his leash on," I called to her and she did.
The whole humans reading humans always boggles my mind. She saw us move off the path and go in a completely different direction; should that not be enough to let her know that I was not interested in an interaction? Yes. It does not take much to knock Luke on his ass these days. Even a big bluster that he does himself can do it. A romp around with a friendly dog can leave him very injured so I am constantly aware. I am always scanning the area for dogs off leash with stupid people.
If you have a dog with leash aggression; work on staying extremely calm and not giving one ounce of message to your dog. Get some distance, that is the key. Although of course there are those who will ignore this distance and keep moving in. I work with dogs, people are another thing completely.