Tackling Leash Aggression
It is very important, in kicking off this project, to be lavish in your reward giving, distributing treats every second while in sight of another dog. People often immediately retort, "My dog is going to get fat!" Not if you are a good owner and recognize that treats are incorporated into your dog's daily ration of food. Cut back on what is going into the bowl, knowing that tackling this behavior hurdle is top priority for the health and happiness of both you and your dog. It might take a bit of retraining yourself!
Over time, as your dog becomes increasingly comfortable looking at you, while ignoring other dogs, you will slowly decrease the number of treats given. If you are a good consistent trainer, by the end of this process you will be flipping one treat to your dog after you've passed the other dog and even sometimes simply offering a "good boy!"
Setting yourself up for success
1. When you are lazy, avoid routes with dogs! If you aren't going to be a good trainer, don't allow your dog to react--and thus unravel all the work you are doing. (It's like a smoker who picks up a cigarette again!)
2. Practice "Fido, look!" every chance you get, NOT just when faced with other dogs. Your dog must make eye contact with you for everything he wants in life: before you put his food dish on the floor, snap on his leash, open the door for him to go outdoors, between each toss during a game of fetch. This is your batting practice. The more you and your dog get in the batting cage, the more successful you'll be at the big game!
3. Exercise your dog. If you have a backyard, play fetch for fifteen minutes before going on a walk. Your dog will be a bit more tired, a bit more convinced that you are cool (after tossing the ball to him), and likely to free less anxious about those other dogs.
Work hard and your training will pay off. Sitting at at outdoor café without worry that your table flies out from under your plate as Fido lunges for another dog IS possible.
NOTE: If your dog is unable to pass another dog--while being treated and without reacting--you will need to consider proximity. Establish a comfort/space threshold: approaching other dogs only to the point where your dog is comfortable, and then crossing the street or creating a visual block as you get by. Over time, you'll increase proximity. This will definitely require working with a professional.
Colleen Safford, of New York Walk & Train and Far Fetched Acres, is one of NYC's most recognized dog trainers.
The article originally appeared on DogTime.com.
Image: quinn.anya / via Flickr
The harness of a draft horse
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