Dog Aggressive on Leash

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We adopted our dog Sally in February 2017. We did an obedience class with her in April 2017 and she did absolutely wonderful besides one thing — she tends to be aggressive on a leash. If we’re walking/running on a trail and pass another dog on a leash she starts lunging and barking at the dog. I’m not sure if this is out of excitement or if she’s being protective. We use a pinch collar on her and correcting her does absolutely nothing. In fact, it actually worries us because she is uncontrollable at these times. We try to keep her focused on our run/walk before getting close to the dog and tell her “leave it” and give a slight tug to take her attention off the other dog, but this hasn’t helped at all. She fixates on the other dog and goes crazy. Please if anyone has any suggestions feel free to share them. She is a wonderful dog but has this one quirk that we haven’t been able to stop since we adopted her.

FYI, when she is off leash and gets to meet a dog she is completely fine. She is very social and loves playing with other dogs. It’s only when she is on leash that she shows this aggressive behavior.


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Have you tried a gentle leader? My dog was (is?) Crazy on a leash because she gets excited about everything. I think it might be a hound thing too? But with the gentle leader on she is perfect. It basically pulls her snout down if she pulls or lunges an leash.

Now this didn’t work for my other dog, he would just not move, lol. With where we live now I only need it when taking her to the vet.

Kimberly Alt (Admin)
We have an Easy Walk harness (from the same brand) but haven’t used it recently. We just purchased the Gentle Leader because of your comment. It was less than $15, so we thought it was worth the price to see if it helps solve our problem. Thanks for the idea!
Hound Dog
From another of her articles (Gentle Leader VS. Easy-Walk Harness), Kimberly HAS purchased the Gentle Leader, and it DIDN’T work!
One thing our teacher mentioned was instead of continue walking, make her sit while they walk past. Refocus her on ‘sitting’ and looking at you. If you stop her ‘energy’ (motion going forward), it’s easier to refocus her attention.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
We’ve tried that a couple times and her lunging and barking is reduced drastically (still some). Maybe I’ll make a point to do that every time though. I just hate stopping during a run lol, it’s so hard to get going again!
Hound Dog
Not to beat you up, but if you really want your dog to overcome this, you’re gonna have to make SOME sacrifices. If it works, then USE it, and it will pay off in the end! You have to do it EVERY time is you want her to completely stop this behavior!
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
I completely agree that sacrifices have to be made and I think we have made sacrifices. We met with our dog trainer on Sunday and got more tips from her. We now use a pinch collar and the Gentle Leader. The pinch collar is used to correct her and the Gentle Leader keeps her from being able to bite others or bark excessively. This has helped drastically. Our trainer told us that a lot of the issue is that my husband and I were building the problem up to be more than it was and Sally could sense that. So every time we crossed paths with another dog on the trail we may have tightened on the leash unknowingly and prepared for the worst, which resulted in Sally behaving poorly. We’ve been doing our walks like this the past week and so far it’s been successful. I’d say these are sacrifices we’re making since we’re not giving up on Sally and accepting her poor behavior. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve.
Hound Dog
Personally, I just don’t like prong/pinch collars. The danger of the dog spooking or suddenly forgetting he’s on leash is so high, and what if he gouges himself. I’ve heard stories of bloody puncture marks. Oh well, I think you should keep doing that sitting thing, maybe bring a few treats with you and have her look at you. If she keeps focusing on you, give her a treat. NOTE: Our dog trainer calls this trick “watch me”. I’ve heard it called “Look” as well. It doesn’t matter anyway. Dog trainer said that instead of holding the treat in front of your face (what’s the dog looking at, you or the treat?) you should hold a treat in 2 hands on both sides of your head. The dog, not knowing where to look will finally look at you and go “WHAT?!!!!” Then you say “good” and give him the treat. It worked with our dog. Of course, you ought to practice it at home and then try it on the run.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
I totally respect your opinion of prong/pinch collars. In fact, nearly everyone I’ve talked to about them has the same opinion as you. I think since I did training classes with my dog in a group setting and was taught everything about them it made me more comfortable using it on my dog. Plus everyone else in the class was using it as well and by the end of the first class we all noticed drastic differences in our dogs (in a positive way).

Before we did training classes, we tried the whole “treat training” thing but my Sally is so stubborn that if something else gets her attention on a walk/run she is fixated on it. No food can take her attention off it, period. However, I have practiced the “look at me” command with her and she does well at home with it.

Currently, I use a pinch collar and the Gentle Leader Head Collar on our walks. (I have the leash attached to the pinch and use the Gentle Leader to deter her from barking some. I think the Gentle Leader is a reminder to her that I’m the alpha and I’m going to protect her, so she doesn’t need to bark or be protective of me. If I walk her without the Gentle Leader she is more apt to act out.) When we are approaching a dog I have her sit and I get her attention off the dog by blocking her view and nudging her until she is looking at me or somewhere else. If her ears perk up, she lifts a paw (like she’s pointing) or she drops her head I nudge her until she is more relaxed and paying no attention to the dog. (These are all signs of fixation that my trainer taught me to look for.) Throughout all of this I say “leave it” until the dog passes us. Once the dog is past us I praise her and tell her how proud I am of her (I find that she reacts more to my positive words and affection than being given a treat. Plus I think this has helped grow our bond even further since she looks to me for confirmation instead of as a source of food.)

She isn’t always perfect at it and it’s my fault if she has a bad occasion. Sometimes I’m too late to notice a dog approaching or I don’t catch her “fixating” signs soon enough. Overall, I’m very proud of her because she has come a long way from the lunging and barking dog she used to be. If I didn’t do these things to direct her attention elsewhere she would be back to lunging and barking. My hopes are that with enough practice, she will eventually be able to walk past a dog without being aggressive. But I always try to set her up for success and take things slow.

My GSD is the same on leash. Extremely reactive to dogs and all small animals really. I have also tried the harness and gental leader which help for the walk itself, but still reactive to passing dogs within close range. I also have used training by stopping and having her sit and use the “leave it” comment and lots of praise. I also stop to let her sit and watch other dogs at the distance needed to avoid the barking and lunging….prasing her for “watching” but remaining quiet and calm. I find it a work in progress…as we can get closer then before to other dogs before the reactive stage kicks in. We also follow behind other dogs keeping a distance that keeps her focused but calm.
Sounds like you are using what works for you as well. Seems like the more we walk and train, the easier it gets to control her. Best wishes on your runs!
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Brenda, I’m so glad you left this comment. I was feeling like I was the only one with a dog who behaved this way. Sally is the most wonderful companion, but this one quirk can drive me crazy sometimes. It sounds like we’re both doing very similar training techniques. Sally has definitely gotten better but still has some work to do. Currently, we put her in a sit stay and don’t allow her to look at the dog passing us at all. (If she sees the dog she goes crazy.) We nudge her and direct her attention elsewhere until they pass. Then we give her lots and lot of praise for “leaving it” and not barking and lunging. She’s definitely improved but as I said, we still have some work to do. I hope to some day be able to walk past a dog without us having to stop. But for now, we set her up for success and she is doing well at this stage of training. Best of luck to you and your GSD and thanks again for sharing with us!
Have you tried a spray bottle?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
No we haven’t. We probably wouldn’t want to carry one on our runs since we are doing longer runs with her
Hound Dog
I’m not sure how a spray bottle would hamper you, unless you’re thinking of a really big one–if you can go to the Dollar Tree, they sell small bottles of glasses cleaning solution. These bottles are about 3 in tall? They work awesome (after I thoroughly cleaned the bottle), and was what finally broke my dog of biting me on our walks.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Since I run up to 5 miles and my husband is training for a marathon we try not to run with more than we can carry. Sally loves going for long runs with us, so we always try to include her on them. She’s gone up to 12 miles with my husband! We also need our hands to be free to hold the leash as well as use them to help push our momentum forward through our runs.
Very interesting Kim, very interesting. Have you tried contacting Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer? Alternatively, go on Amazon and read every single one of his books until you run into something related to a dog on leash going crazy. Sally must be a cool pup, I love dogs that go crazy on leashes.
Hound Dog
WOW, another Cesar Millan fan!!!! I LOVE Millan. I’ve read most of his books, and they’re interesting. Cesar doesn’t like to use many “tools”, but in his book “Cesar’s Rules”, he has a list of the different training tools and their pros and cons.