It’s Not The Dog, It’s You! A Simple Way to Stop Leash Reactivity

Lacy on leadWell, the dog started it.

But now you are making it worse (although you really, really don’t mean to).

What am I talking about?

It’s when you’re walking your dog, and your charming, delightful, sweet family dog transforms into a nasty, snarling, barking hooligan.

Just because she spotted another dog.

It’s utterly baffling to you - you feel embarrassed and frustrated. You love your dog and you hate the looks people are giving you, down their noses, clearly thinking your dog is horrible!

I know, because I’ve been there too.

But there is light at the end of this particular tunnel. It may have started recently or it may have been going on (and getting steadily worse) for ages. Either way, breathe a sigh of relief, because we can change things!

Let me explain first why your dog is doing what she’s doing.

Aren’t All Dogs Meant to be Friendly?

Even the mildest dog can have a fear-reaction to something - and Spaniels, Labradors, you-name-its, are just as likely as any other breed to become fearful of dogs or people.

It may be something new, something invading her space, something that is sending out danger signals. It’s how both we and the dog deal with this that will dictate whether this now becomes a new behaviour pattern or whether your dog says “Ah well,” and moves on.

Dogs have an intricate body language of which many of us are blissfully unaware. Just like us, they don’t launch into a strong reaction to something - they start with subtle signals and work their way up if those signals are ignored. Dogs don’t bite “out of the blue” - it’s just that no-one noticed them politely saying “Excuse me, but I’m not happy about the way you’re staring at me.”

Just as you would shuffle away if a stranger sat close beside you on a bus, a dog will avert his gaze, turn his head away, turn his body away, lick his lips, yawn - amongst other things - to show that he’s anxious and he’s not a threat to the other dog.

If that stranger on the bus persisted in leaning on you, you wouldn’t pull a knife on him! Depending on your personality you may get up and move, you may shout, you may appeal for help from the other passengers. You would gradually escalate your response as you found that your polite signs were not working - only when you feel seriously threatened does your knife come out!

So if another dog is staring at your dog - even worse, coming straight towards her - your dog will be going through her entire repertoire of calming signals in an attempt to persuade the dog that she’s not a threat and the other dog should stop advancing right now. If her messages are not heeded, then she has no option but to bring out the heavy artillery and “shout” at the other dog, putting on an immense display of power and fury and teeth to keep him away.

So when we walk our dog along the road and see another walker and dog coming the other way. we are putting our fearful dog in a difficult position.

If we then do what so many people do, consciously or unconsciously - that is to tighten the lead as soon as you see the dog - you are a) telling your dog that something is about to happen and you are anxious, and b) preventing her from giving any of her calming body signals! It’s hard to look shy and inconspicuous if someone is holding your head up in the air.

Keep Your Distance!

Add to this that dogs have a very strong idea about personal space. As indeed do  we - only a dog’s personal space is way bigger than ours! The more frightened she is, the bigger her worry area will become, until a dog appearing in the far distance can be enough to trigger an outburst.

So while we may feel comfortable walking towards another person along a narrow pavement hemmed in by hedges and parked cars, your anxious dog will most definitely not feel comfortable! Heading in a straight line towards a strange dog is both rude and threatening for your dog (and for the other dog, too).

We are unwittingly stirring up a situation by expecting our dogs to conform to our social norms.

So What Can I Do?

Once you appreciate that your dog is not being nasty or suddenly turning aggressive - rather she is afraid - you can see things from her perspective.

Dogs do what works. And up to now, barking and lungeing on the lead has worked, to an extent. Either the other owner thinks “That’s a nasty dog,” and moves away, or you - in your embarrassment and confusion - get out of there yourself.

So quite often, barking and making a to-do have caused the progress towards another dog to stop.

Action Steps

So here’s a plan:

1. Avoid narrow paths, alleyways, and “tunnels” - be they tunnels of fences and parked cars, or tunnels of bracken and hedgerow.

2. Walk in the middle of fields, rather than hugging the hedge.

3. As soon as you see another dog, your first response should be to relax your hands, exhale, and look around for an exit strategy - the exact opposite of what is probably happening now (clutching the lead with a vice-like grip, sharp intake of breath, rising panic, trying to make your dog sit …)

4. Calmly and cheerfully ask your dog to turn with you (be fun and exciting, not anxious and stern), and head away: cross the road, go down a turning - in some way get away from the advancing dog.

5. Congratulate your dog (and yourself!) warmly for the calmness you’ve both shown in the face of a big challenge.

6. Let your dog know that she never has to meet another dog again as you will always move away.

7. Remember that Distance is Your Friend.

With this plan in hand there’ll be no need for you to walk only at The Hour of The Difficult Dog. You’ll no longer be avoiding other dogs - rather you’ll be positively looking out for them so you can practice your new-found skills.

Yes, I did say that - it’s really true!

And if you don’t believe me, see what Scruffy the Jack Russell Terrier’s owners said:

“Scruffy used to become frantic and scrape at the floor to get towards any dog he saw, even at a great distance. This was embarrassing and stressful. He is now able to look at other dogs and move away with us to continue his walk. This is a massive improvement in just a few weeks. It means that we no longer avoid dogs, but in fact go out looking for them so that we can work on his training.”

And the world will begin to see your lovely, affectionate and clever dog as you see her.

You may think I’m oversimplifying this, but if half the team gets it together then this is a great start and can stop things going further downhill.

Give this plan a try and tell me in the comments below what you have found.

For further work look for a force-free trainer - preferably a Certified BAT Instructor as they have great success with this. If your dog has bitten, you should acclimatise her to love wearing a basket muzzle to ensure that everyone is safe.

And for more ideas for helping your anxious dog, get your free e-course My Dog Doesn’t Like Other Dogs: How to Stop the Barking and Lungeing

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Positively Expert: Beverley Courtney

Beverley Courtney, author of the Brilliant Family Dog book series "Essential Skills for a Brilliant Family Dog" and "Essential Skills for your Growly but Brilliant Family Dog" works with new puppies and rescue dogs, always looking to intensify the bond between dog and owner. She has particular empathy with “growly” dogs.


50 thoughts on “It’s Not The Dog, It’s You! A Simple Way to Stop Leash Reactivity

  1. Katrin

    My dog is reactive - but in a different way. He really wants to play with all other dogs and he starts barking and lunging whenever the other owner (or me) doesn't allow for this to happen. I'm afraid I have to be pretty close to the other owner to be able to understand if they allow them to say hi or not. What should I do in this case?

  2. Chris Bright

    I live on a cul-de-sac and frequently walk my currently approximately six month old puppy past several houses where the dog in the back yard or in the house barks through the fence or front glass door. My puppy wants to stop, stand still and stare until the threat goes away, but the neighbor's dogs keep barking. It is safest, as a pedestrian, to walk either facing traffic near the curb or on the sidewalk if one is available. What are some ways I can help him ignore the dogs barking at him? There will be times when I have no choice but to walk past a barking dog in a neighborhood to get somewhere.

  3. Peggy Nalley

    My dog is the same way.. He is big and loud and I'm afraid he is going to pull me down. He really likes other dogs but acts so crazy is scares the other owners I use a no pull harness and it really helps. I'm at a loss as what to do. I really need some help .. He is such a sweet boy except for his craziness on a leash. We need to walk both of us but I don't like to because of this.

  4. Barbara Caplan-Bennett

    Our dog has always been friendly with every other dog. In the last 6 months, she's changed. When another dog approaches, everything seems fine. They start to sniff at each other, and suddenly our girl will lunge and snap and bark, and basically become very aggressive. We don't know what might have happened (with a dog-walker or at day care) that might have triggered this behavior. How do we go back to the happy-go-lucky girl who would almost always go into a play bow when meeting other dogs?

  5. Gabrielle Edman Briggs

    There are no leash laws in my town and we often encounter people with loose dogs running towards us. I call to them to please get their dog, but they have no control. The dogs continue to approach us as my dog is losing his mind. So many dogs don't back off even though my dog is fiercely barking, lunging and carrying on. Maybe it's because he is small. He's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. If they persist in approaching, my dog will bite their face. I am terrified that one day one of those dogs will turn on my dog. All of your advice in this article is valid and I employ these techniques when we encounter on leash dogs, but when off leash dogs come running for us, I can't protect my dog or give him space because the off leash dogs are not controlled by their owners. What can I do?

  6. A Better Dog

    Yes, on-leash reactivity can either be fear-based or it can be frustration-based and, for social dogs without impulse control, being restrained by the leash is a source of frustration that can quickly spiral upwards to stress and arousal that displays itself as 'reactivity'.

    The process is pretty much the same for both types of reactivity: Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning. It's in your best interests to speak with a qualified/experienced trainer, behaviour consultant or canine behaviourist to get you started properly on a theoretical and practical level, and then DS and CC is something you should be able to continue with independently relatively quickly. With consistency and repetitions, you should be able to shorten the distance, bit by bit, between your dog and the 'stimulus' over time while still maintaining desirable behaviours.

    In the meantime, the place to start is not allowing your dog to continue practicing its reactive behaviour... so that means keeping a safe distance. For a fearful dog, distance = safety. For a social/impulsive dog, distance = less stimulation. With your dog at a distance where he is below his threshold of reactivity, when you do see another dog you should be able to re-direct your dog's attention back to you (praise!) and show your dog that really good things (praise! play! pat! treat! etc.) happen to him when he sees another dog yet remains attentive to you. If you can't distract/redirect your dog's attention back to you relatively easily, then create a bit more distance between your dog and the stimulus.

    Because you are wanting to develop positive associations and appropriate behaviours about the stimulus (be that a dog, bicycle, skateboard, etc.) aversive/punishment based tools and methods are an absolute no-no. 🙂

  7. Angela Peters

    My wee dog is exactly the same! I hate walking him for the same reason! His crazy behavior when he sees another dog scares the other owner and its so embarrassing!

  8. Mandy

    The general advice would be to use a suitably sized basket muzzle for the dog. It's our responsibility to ensure our pets are safe, and we've all heard the horror stories of otherwise we'll-behaved family pets facing euthanasia because of attacks. Basket muzzling is a good way to prevent a bite (and legal/veterinary consequences of a bite), while giving us the opportunity to treat and reward our dogs for positive behaviours.

  9. Mattie Parsons

    Try making up a word and telling the other owner that your dog has this and it is very infectious which is why you are keeping your dog away. It won't work with everyone because you can't cure stupid but it does work for quite a lot. 😀

  10. Mattie Parsons

    I have a Romanian Street dog, came as a foster boy because the people who brought him over couldn't cope with him, I have had quite a lot of reactive dogs in the past and turned them round but Jamie is different, it was "I am going to kill you" reaction and is worse with men. Now it is "Go away" which to him is a very big improvement. Thanks to his past life I doubt he will ever get over this but it doesn't stop me trying, if I stopped trying he wouldn't even improve and for his sake that is essential.

  11. Mandy

    "Watch me" is a great one to help deal with this situation! It's easy to make it fun, and you can increase your success by pairing it with an appropriately timed click from your clicker.

    Start with a high-value reward. Not your normal treats. I like to use freeze-dried venison, or boiled chicken. With the lead in one hand, and the treat in the other, call your dog's name. Raise the treat to your face, and use your "watch me" command (some handlers prefer "watch", or "look"...whatever you're comfortable with.) As soon as pup makes eye contact with you, click and reward. Gradually increase the amount of time he remains focused on you, until he is consistently paying attention to only you.

    Now you can amp it up, and try it with some distractions. Use it on your walks as a fun game with the hidden objective of redirecting him. Remember to keep it fun. Play "watch me" equally with distractions as without to make sure puppy is consistent, and not learning to associate the game with high-quality distractions.

  12. Kathryn Spears

    Thank you. After being bitten by a big black dog while my whippet Sam was on leash he became reactive to dogs he does not know. I did some of the wrong things and finally figured out (trial and error) what is being advised here and it sure does work. Sam is a lot happier on our walks because I am. I keep my eyes open, my demeanor calm and unless we are surprised, we don't have too many reactive incidents. Strangers are happy to accommodate us by leashing loose dogs or at least holding them until we have space to move on when I ask. Happier days are in the future. My confidence is supported by this article. 🙂

  13. Laura Rakestraw

    Body blocking the approaching dog while holding out your stop sign hand and giving it a loud, firm "NO" or "GO AWAY" works with many dogs, but I'd recommend carrying something like an air horn or citronella spray for more persistent dogs. Some people carry a tennis racket or walking stick to use as a physical deterrent as well. I've also heard of people keeping small treats with them and tossing a handful at an approaching dog's face (not to hurt, just to startle) to hopefully stun and distract them while you make your escape. Since you have a small dog, picking him up may be an option, though often that makes a small dog (especially a wiggling, noisy small dog) more exciting and can cause the approaching dog to want to jump up to get to him.

  14. Sara Fulton

    I would suggest that you teach your dog how to properly greet other dogs. Rewarding his barking/lunging with giving him what he wants is reinforcing the obnoxious behavior. It should be done in a training class setting so everything is supervised and controlled, rather than hoping a random owner lets you get close enough to see if the dog wants to play.

  15. CJM

    My dog lunges and barks at some people, haven't yet worked out why. It started when he was older. I know when he's going to do it because he starts to walk out in front of me towards the person, huffing under his breath. He can start at some considerable distance away from them. I carry, treats and a clicker and he understands 'look at me', however none of these will get his attention so I can turn him around and usually I end up half dragging him in the opposite direction. This only happens where we walk every day, anywhere else we walk or in town with loads of people walking by him, he's ok. Not really sue if perhaps he's being territorial rather than frightened as he's become very territorial in the garden. Any help would be appreciated.

  16. Tori

    She could end up traumatizing her own dog with the air horn. The other suggestions are worth a try however.

  17. Gabrielle Edman Briggs

    Thank you for the advice. I always walk with a treat pouch on me so that is a good option with tossing the treats. I have tried the body blocking but it is not that effective for me because Petey (my dog) is always trying to get around me to scare off the approaching dog. He gets into the "red zone" very quickly when there is an off-leash dog approaching so it is not safe for me to pick him up. Beyond the comments you made about the approaching dog wanting to jump up, Petey would not even register that it is me picking him up at that point and be in fight or flight mode.

    Although it is not quite a fashionable choice, I wear a fanny pack (with a treat pouch attached) when I'm out with my dogs 🙂 In my fanny pack I do have pepper spray in case of emergency (i.e. coyote) but maybe I should switch to citronella spray which I would be less hesitant to use. I also may add a walking stick to my supplies to help in physically blocking an approaching dog as well. Petey's reactivity is fear/anxiety based so I would be reluctant to introduce an air horn to the picture.

    I am working with a positive dog trainer and we are employing lots of tactics to help Petey, but I will add these strategies as well. Thank you!

  18. Gabrielle Edman Briggs

    Thank you for your advice, but at this point, I am reluctant to put a basket muzzle on Petey. I am working with a positive, force-free trainer and we are employing lots of strategies to help Petey. His reactivity is fear/anxiety based because he is restrained and cannot employ a flight response. Adding a muzzle would amp up the restraint aspect and hence his reactivity. As with many fearful, leash reactive dogs, his behavior is only present while on leash. I foster dogs at my home and have had 30 foster dogs over the past 5 years. Petey has never had a problem with a new dog coming into our house and he loves all of the other dogs. He came to us as a very abused puppy at 3 months old. He had a broken tail that had healed and fused together in a crooked position and he had scars down the left side of his body where fur won't grow from being burned. We think some of his injuries may have occurred while he was restrained in some shape or form and that is why he feels fearful when he is outside of his safe zone (home) and is restrained.
    I have worked endlessly on counter-conditioning, but it all goes down the drain and we take five steps backward every time we encounter a dog off leash and we cannot keep the appropriate distance from the dog that keeps Petey below threshhold. Therefore, I carry pepper spray with me in case of a dire situation where a loose dog will not leave us alone, in spite of Petey fiercely barking, or if a fight were to break out. Petey is always on leash and he is small enough to pick up if I had to as a last resort. He will only bite another dog if the dog is loose and insists on getting in his face in spite of all of his warning signals. I will also start carrying a walking stick with us (as someone else suggested) to help keep a loose dog at a distance if they insist on getting close and the owner does not get a hold of their dog. I have checked with my town in regards to liability. Although there are no leash laws in my town, the state (CT) has a law that requires dogs to be within an owners control at all times. That can consist of voice control, which is why dogs can be off leash in my town. If my dog is on leash and a loose dog approaches my dog and a bite occurs, the other owner is liable because they did not have their dog under their control. Even if it were just Petey biting them, I still would not be liable because I had my dog under control and the other person's dog approached us and was not under control whether it be leash or voice control. Obviously I want to avoid bite situations at all costs, but in the situations I encounter, a bite would only occur as a result of my dog defending himself.

  19. Mils

    I have a beautiful white GSD. She is 7 years old, but we have only had her for 3 years. We have worked out that she may have been mated on the lead as she was used as a breeding bitch. We are going though her PAT test prep as she is really wonderful with the Special needs children we work with. She lives with 2 other dogs a Llasa Apso and a Belgium Malamute, akita cross who a pup at the moment. She also mixes with my mums Staffordshire Bull terrier. I would like to have her to stop this behaviour of Barking lunging and snarling. I just want her to be happy to go for walks and to trust her off leash at the park. Please help x

  20. Laura Rakestraw

    It's possible, but she can also work on desensitizing her dog prior, and if it's between that and a potentially dangerous fight, I'd take the air horn.

  21. CJM

    Thanks Beverley, I have been working on the assumption that it's fear but good to know that is correct. His personal space is very large unfortunately and I mostly have to distract him from reacting to people some considerable distance away when I have to walk past them to get home!

  22. Mattie Parsons

    Jamie is a Whippet/JRT, he was put in a pen with much bigger dogs and had to fight for his food and his life, when the rescue got him out he was covered in other dogs blood and he has quite a few scars on him. When he arrived he was terrified of my other 4 dogs who are used to dogs coming and going as I foster dogs, he had the run of the living room and hall with a high gate between the kitchen and hall, he kept peeping round the living room door for several days and it took him 8 days to realise that my dogs wouldn't attack him. I have turned dogs round that were reactive on the lead without many problems but he is different. His fear of men and being restricted is because he was neutered without any anaesthetic. As leads have been known to break I have 2 leads clipped onto him when he goes out for his exercise, it is my job to keep him safe while working with him to help him get rid of his fears. This was taken after he had been rescued from the kill shelter, his coat is white apart from his head and a spot on his back, the rest is blood from other dogs.

  23. Mattie Parsons

    If anyone used a air horn or citronella spray on my dog I would take them to court for cruelty, there are other ways to deal with dogs like this, put up an umbrella fast in front of them, toss treats in front of them, stand in front of your dog and dance to keep in front of him and "The Voice of Doom" often works with dogs when you give them a command like "Down", many don't understand this but the sound makes them stop. It is better to give them a command to do something than just to say "No" or "Go Away".

  24. Manon Pekelharing

    great article and so true. My dog was leash reactive too. For a while to get her stress levels down we avoided seeing other dogs. This is crucial, because when they;re all stressed it is impossible to learn a different habit. Then started playing with the necessary distance. Also after a while parallel walks, the least confronting way of meeting other dogs is very beneficial to build up their confidence. And from there you can start doing social walks. It will take some time but you'll get there and don't dispair when once in a while your dogs doesn't proceed as you hope for. It's about the good experiences they will have and learn from.

  25. Megan Hoot

    Hi Beverley,
    Our oldest dog (an 8 year old pit bull mix) is leash reactive. He has always responded very well to training and so far this is the only thing we haven't been able to train him on! I understand this is usually fear based but it never really seemed like that with him. He never growls or lunges, only whines, barks and pulls toward the other dog. When he does it, his tail is always wagging and when he gets close enough to the other dog he always wants to play with them. There have been times when we leave the dog park (he is very good with other dogs in the park) and we will see another dog on the leash outside the fence that he was just playing with while in the park and he whines and pulls toward the other dog. My question really is, does this still sound like a fear reaction?

    We tried talking with a trainer and they gave us a whole shpeal about how he is a pit bull and this is a sign of aggression and we should be concerned he might turn on us yada yada. He is a great family dog and I know there is no such thing as a dog "turning" on an owner for no reason. Other than his leash reaction he has always been very calm and is only getting more relaxed with age. Can you offer any advice?

    Thank you!!

  26. Beverley@BrilliantFamilyDog

    Hi Megan,

    This is an interesting question, and one which a number of people have asked. So look out for a new piece on this which is appearing here very soon! I hope it will answer a lot of your questions. Meanwhile, focus on points 3 and 4 above, and carry on believing in your dog!

  27. ann

    Hi Beverley I have a 4year old German shepherd to take him out I use a mobility scooter as I cannot walk him he walks lovely until he see's another dog then he's jumps around and barking and it happens if he on a short lead or longer lead I have tried having a distance between us and other dogs does not work I have got him to sit and let the other dog go by sometimes that works I'm sure its because when he was a pup he used to meet and greet other dogs but I'm sure that's why he plays up now because he's cannot do it now

  28. Rivka

    Yes, but who says the air horn would prevent a fight? If it scares the dogs, the air horn could be what starts the fight.

    A walking stick is the best, as you can use it to claim space and create a barrier.

  29. Rivka

    I'm sorry, but you said that your dog goes into the "red zone" and it's not safe even for you to pick him up (i.e., he would bite you). This means that a bite is not a mere matter of him "defending himself." While the other owner might be at fault for their dog being off leash, your dog is the aggressive one, and another dog shouldn't have to suffer because of that.

  30. Warren Ramos

    My 19 month old Rottweiler is always on alert mode when someone or another dog is walking straight for us so we take another route by keeping our distance but still walking towards them or cross the street. Can I just loosen the leash and see how he does? I know he'll lunge and be in protective mode and people get scared because its a Rottweiler. My Rottweiler does great in group settings like going in Home Depot and walking around but its that one on one contact that he becomes in protective mode. He doesn't lunge or bark in home depot. I usually walk him with a 30 foot leash but wrapped around my hand to about 6 feet.

  31. Cathy Hagemeyer Wickins Cope

    I'm a little confused as avoidance doesn't fix the problem it just tucks it away. There are many times I am walking my dogs and there is little choice but to continue on and face the scary thing. I would much rather learn how to condition my dogs to not have the fear than to pray and hope at every walk that we can just turn around and ignore it. A perfect example happened the other week where we turned a corner and right there facing us was a man, a child and a dog, 3 of the most scary things to my older dog.......I can't avoid it as it's right there, I need to learn how to help my dog in that situation as avoidance by this time is too late.

  32. Chris

    Rivka...What you're saying does not make sense.

    If the "other" owner does not have control of their dog from the onset they are the impetus of whatever ensues, and therefore at fault. In the aforementioned off-leash situation, the "other" owner has already put their own dog in danger (being that it doesn't respond to voice and it continues to approach). That's bad form- I don't care who you ask. Even if Petey was aggressive, does he not have the right to go for a walk safely with a leash?

  33. Arielle in NoVA

    Sounds like she might be ill or slightly injured and/or might be losing her sight/hearing. Take her to the vet and have them check her out thoroughly.

  34. Orfan

    If you condition your dog to the muzzle it's not more restraint for him. He can still bark, growl, and take treats; only he can't cross the uncrossable line of biting another dog (liability isn't the main concern here). Once you let that cat out of the bag, it's much harder for it not to be repeated, as any behaviour the dog engages in is neurologically strengthened.

    If every time you see a dog it's five steps back you're probably too close, which is difficult where there aren't leash laws. You could try a large shirt (for you) with some sort of "do not approach" on it, or your dog could have fleas or (my favourite) ringworm.

    Since the dog is on leash the training isn't truly force free (by definition, and shouldn't be). If you and your trainer haven't worked through Feisty Fido, BAT, CAT, and Suzanne Clothier's "Go Hunt" game, I'd add those to the list.

    Good luck.

  35. Beverley@BrilliantFamilyDog

    Avoidance is the first step. Teaching your dog techniques to cope with things he can't avoid is the next step. If you live in a war zone it's hard to learn to relax and not be suspicious of everyone you see. If you can keep your distance your heart-rate will slow down and you're better able to make rational decisions. So it is with our anxious dogs. You would find my free e-course mentioned above very helpful.

  36. Beverley@BrilliantFamilyDog

    I find people are often very surprised at how much better their dog does when they relax their hands and allow the leash to be loose! Naturally you'll take care not to frighten or endanger other people, but when you know you're at a safe distance it can have a magical effect.

  37. Kim Chant

    I have a 45 k rescue DdB bitch. She was never socialised before we got her at 2 years and gives all the wrong indicators to other dogs which can cause the other dogs to fight with her. I would love her to enjoy the company of others but she is too big to be jumping on dogs and not expect a reaction from them and thier owners. How can I solve this problem?

  38. Beverley@BrilliantFamilyDog

    I know it feels worse because your dog is big - but there's a little frightened dog inside her! The same techniques apply. The distance where she feels safe will gradually shrink, and when she's ready she'll be able to greet a friendly, easy-going dog - very briefly. But this may take a long time.

  39. Sylvia Dyal

    We got the distance thing down. I just wish I had eyes in the back of my head and periscope vision. My issue is the sudden appearance of the "threat" coming around corners, down the stairs, when I'm picking up poop and the other owner & dog "quietly" come up behind us. I try and watch his body language, but there are times I either miss the cues or there aren't any. Zander can be okay with some dogs, so it's not until he has sight of his trigger that he goes off like a rocket. Bit hard to be relaxing and loose in those situations. Other than backing off quickly with this ravening beast of mine, what else can I do?

  40. Dee Dreslough

    What about dogs who are DESPERATE to go see the other dog? I have a pibby who wants to meet (and play BIG) with every dog she sees. She's got the opposite problem but it's still leash reactivity. We're trying to get her more doggy playtime with her dog friends but so far, she's still very excitable/barky/pully when she sees a new dog when we're out on walks.

  41. Dee Dreslough

    I have the same problem. In cases where I've known the other dog, I've dropped the leash and she's gone and played nicely (although crazily) with the other dog. The leash causes her to build up and get so excited she gets just wild. If I don't know the dog, I just have to pull her away and get her refocused on me with tricks and treats, and keep her moving to try to prevent that excited buildup. It's happy energy...but it's so frustrating. We were out for ice cream and she saw this other dog...the other dog wanted to play, but was half her size and the owners didn't look into it, so I had to tell her 'no' and walk her off (forcibly). Not fun. <:(

  42. Nadine

    I have a 12yr old GSD who has had poor social skills with other dogs ever since we adopted him at the age of 4. I resorted to walking him and our other dogs between midnight and 3 am because he has bitten other dogs (he once escaped from his previous owner's back yard and attacked the neighbor dog who was on a tie-out outdoors). He has never done serious damage - at most a small puncture wound (which considering his size is a surprise) and there was never snarling or teeth baring - so it didn't seem like aggression, more not knowing how to act. Nonetheless, I would never want to risk it. He is extremely protective of our eldest dog (who is now 16) and having the two together around near other dogs would result him losing his mind (btw - both are fixed). Also when we did walk in the daytime on trails/parks/sidewalk, I had a muzzle (not the cage kind) on him. I understand 100% that my reaction will fuel his - I know if I tense up, he senses it and starts looking around. On the other hand, relaxing my hands has also resulted in nearly having my arm ripped off, being knocked down and almost losing the leash (this is when we are surprised by another dog walking towards us or running in their yard - so I don't have a chance to get stressed and grip tighter, we are just casually walking).

    When he has had a chance to have the space to get to know another dog (fenced in back yards, our house with our other dogs and cat) he eventually learns what each dog (or cat) is ok with and can roughhouse a little or be super gentle. But he never approaches cautiously - he just goes full on and the other dog (or cat) will let him know that is not ok by either a quick nip or swat to the face and then he starts to dial it back. He doesn't realize that he is 80 lbs of muscle, he thinks he is 5 lb marshmallow.

    Even at 12, he is very active and very strong. It is probably too late to change this pattern, but what do you do when you don't want to get the vice grip on the leash, but have a dog so strong that a vice grip is needed to keep him from getting loose?

  43. Positively

    Hi Suzanne, we recommend a consultation with a qualified trainer to give you some tips on how to manage or change this behavior. It is impossible to give you good advice without seeing your pup's behavior, I'm afraid.
    For immediate help, I recommend that you visit our website and plug in your zip code or city to see if there is a VSPDT local to you. If there isn't, there is always the option of doing a phone consultation with one of them.
    Here is the link to search for a VSPDT:
    Here is the link to request a phone consultation:
    Either way, you should be able to get some very much-needed help.
    The Team at Positively

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