Ask Dr. Tory: Do You Have Tips for Walking a Leash Reactive Dog?
Dr. Tory Waxman, VMD
Check out Dr. Tory's tips for how to help your dog cope if they happen to be sensitive to strangers and other dogs while out on a walk.
It's spooky season and for some the spookiness is actually very real. People with reactive dogs may have legitimate fear when taking their dogs out for a walk anytime of year, but especially when there are masked children running around–not to mention ringing their doorbell.
Here's Dr. Tory's tips for how to help your dog cope if they happen to be sensitive to strangers and other dogs while out on a walk.
Question: Do You Have Tips for Walking a Leash Reactive Dog?
Answer: Walking is a great way to exercise your dog physically and mentally. If your dog is severely leash reactive, I recommend walking them in areas away from other people and dogs. And be prepared to be your dog’s advocate if you do come across other people and/or dogs and try to create as much distance as possible between you and them.
Is My Dog Leash Reactive?
Leash reactive dogs tend to be more stressed when leashed compared to off-leash. When these dogs see another person or dog approach, they will tense up and be on alert - ears and tail raised, sometimes tail wagging slowly which can be a sign of stress, low-pitch growling.
3 Leash Reactive Dog Walking Tips
Any dog is trainable, even dogs that may be leash reactive, it just takes patience and dedication. And keep in mind that while you can teach an old dog new tricks, with age, dog’s can have bad experiences that can make it more challenging to train a behavior. So it's important to start training early, but also realize that an older dog may take longer to train as they have to work through their fear from bad experiences.
- 1. Be your dog's advocate.
- Make a loud statement that your dog is not friendly to people or dogs. Even if it can be embarrassing to do so, it is safer for everyone. Any negative experience can have long-term effects. And even friendly dogs can change their behavior quickly. Some people have special harnesses, collars or leash sleeves to signify that their dog is not friendly. A yellow color often signifies this.
- 2. Never introduce your leash-reactive dog to another dog or person on-leash.
- It creates tension and you don't know how the other dog will react. Over time, your dog’s stress will decrease as they walk past another dog as they realize they will never have to approach or be approached by another dog. This can mean crossing the street, turning around or not saying hi to a friend that you happen to pass by.
- 3. Teach your dog an incompatible behavior.
- For example, train your dog to heel while looking you in the eye. At first, except this behavior at home then slowly start introducing it on walks. Then eventually you can introduce it at a safe distance from another dog (starting with a known dog can greatly aid in this training). Very slowly, work on this behavior closer and closer to another strange dog. If at any point your dog regresses, take a step back and continue work at a further distance.
Remember that you want your dog to be successful, no matter how long these strategies might take. Patience is key!