Spring and a leash reactivity update

Spring has FINALLY arrived, and we’re enjoying a lot more time outside: taking long walks, playing in the backyard, having dog friends over to romp.


Still no word on our next foster, but we’ve truthfully enjoyed the break. It’s nice to have a few weeks off, with our normal routine and our low-maintenance dog. That being said, I am excited about our next foster, whoever it will be! (Selfishly, I’m hoping for a young adult who would be a good playmate for Pyrrha… She loves having other dogs around, particularly ones she can wrestle with.)

Tulips in the backyard.

Update on her new leash-reactive behavior

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m keeping an eye on her behavior on walks. The interesting thing is that her aggressive displays are not consistent. On some walks, she’s totally fine; happily wags her tail at dogs that pass and seems like her “normal” self. But on other occasions, she shows this new fear/aggression display (barking, lunging).

There are consistent factors to her leash reactivity, however. She will react badly if: a.) we’re walking with another dog, especially a puppy, or b.) we’re walking solo, but the passing dog barks at her. If the passing dog just looks at her or wags its tail, she’s fine; no reaction. But she suddenly feels like she needs to respond in-kind if the dog lunges or barks at her.

Stick patrol

I definitely want to manage this behavior before it becomes consistent (i.e., she responds with an aggressive display to every dog that passes us, not just the barking/lunging ones).

Do you have a leash reactive dog? What have you done to help mitigate this behavior?


4 thoughts on “Spring and a leash reactivity update

  1. We do have a leash reactive dog, but she wasn’t always that way, either. Her behavior is fairly recent, too, and we’re still trying to figure out ways to manage her behavior. She does tend to be worse if one of her packmates happens to be with her or if there’s a guy in a baseball hat that we pass. If she’s going to have a bad reaction to someone, it will be a guy, even though my husband is the person she has the best rapport with.

  2. Oh the inconsistency! I fully know how frustrating that can be. My trainer (and friend) also has a dog who will react if another dog barks at her first. I can always ask her how to handle that?

    We’re always working with Avery and his reactivity. I’ve noticed that if he’s wound up before a walk or if we go somewhere, he will react to everything until he gets calm and works some of that nervous energy out. I try to work him a little bit with some play time before walks and car rides. It usually helps but not always. He’s getting better but we still have a long way to go.

  3. I have a dog who is/was leash reactive. Honestly, I think it was my fault. She’s not dog aggressive — but for a while when we first got her (she is our only dog) the only time she’d see other dogs was during playtime at the dog park. That taught her that other dogs meant good things… REALLY good things and she started to get overly excited anytime she saw another dog, barking and pulling (though not all out lunging) to go play.

    She wasn’t agressive (tail would wag, easy body, no other signs of aggression) but obviously that was not desired behavior.

    Our trainer warned us to be VERY careful correcting this issue; she says a lot of dog aggressive dogs start out the way Riley was, but then they get disciplined for the behavior and rather than think it’s their fault they’re being disciplined they decide it’s the other dog—they are being punished anything another dog is around, after all.

    We’ve done a number of things since that to teach her that’s not ideal. First, we signed up for training classes—and in class we did the “look at that” game, which essentially meant she got rewarded anytime she looked at another dog and then back at me without barking. We added in once a week pack walks (our trainer here in Raleigh does weekly “hound on the town” events, so we go). We also cut out the dog park for a while (I haven’t reintroduced it yet, although I’d like to now that the weather is getting better) and made a point to “work” around other dogs as often as possible (training class, dog walks with friends, etc).

    Since she wants to say hi, she is NEVER allowed to say hi when she’s barking. She has to be quiet and sitting before we will approach another dog, and if she isn’t we stay still or we add distance. We only get closer when she’s not pulling and is quiet.

    I can’t say that we’re consistently getting perfect responses yet (we’ve been training this for about 3 months) but we’ve made huge improvements and I’m getting a much quieter response, much shorter responses and it takes much less time to get back to our routine after an outburst.

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