Pierson has made a lot of progress with being better on his leash when he sees another dog. Two things helped. First, we cross the street when we see another dog. I have Pierson sit and I use the “look” command to distract him. He gets rewarded with lots of treats every time he pays attention to me and not the other dog. Second, I was fortunate enough to find a group of people who were willing to get together once a week or so to help work with our dog’s leash reactive behaviors. We walked our dogs at a distance from each other and the distance depended on our dogs’ own individual thresholds. Pierson was always last in line and furthest away. But by the end of fall, he was able to get within a few feet of those other dogs without reacting.
There have been four major challenges in trying to overcome Pierson’s leash reactive behavior:
Challenge – Walking Two Dogs
Pierson’s leash reactive behavior is due to his high prey drive. He could even be called aggressive, although it is difficult to imagine such a cute ball of fuzz with a girly bark as aggressive. But that is what it is. He whines, he barks, and he lunges. Maya’s leash reactive behavior, on the other hand, is due to excitement. She loves other dogs and really wants to go say hi. She barks and lunges too, but only because she is so happy.
Needless to say, I can’t walk Maya and Pierson together. Maya’s happy bark makes Pierson’s aggressive bark more intense, and vice versa. So in order to properly work on their behaviors separately, I need to walk them one at a time. By the way, the “look” command does not work on Maya when she is excited. I need to find a different training technique for her.
Challenge – Loose Dogs
One day when I was walking with this group down a nature trail, someone coming up from the other direction had two dogs not on a leash. When the dogs saw us, they ran towards us. Their mom called them but they didn’t listen. They ran straight for Pierson. In order to keep something terrible from happening, I quickly picked Pierson up out of the way. Luckily the two dogs were small. That would not have worked if the dogs had been bigger. The lady was apologetic but she didn’t really grasp what had almost happened. Luckily, the group of people I was with explained to her just how close her dogs had come to being injured. Having a good recall is extremely important, and this trail was not an off-leash trail. I think the reality of the situation sunk in and I hope she learned her lesson.
A similar situation happened in my own neighborhood. A Lhasa named Barkley is often allowed off leash in his front yard when his mom is out with him. I have met Barkley a number of times and know that he usually has a great recall. But one day, there was just something about Pierson that he had to investigate head on. I picked Pierson up out of the way. Barkley’s mom kept saying that Barkley was friendly. I told her I knew that, but my Pierson was not. She finally understood. And the next time I met her while we were both walking our dogs, she called Barkley back and put his leash on while I went across the street. She complemented me on being so responsible.
Challenge – Other Leash Reactive Dogs
Pierson is very good about paying attention to me when we cross the street and I use the “look” command. It works most of the time. The only time it doesn’t work is when the other dog is also leash reactive. If the other dog reacts, Pierson does to and no amount of bribing with treats will distract him.
Challenge – Winter, Fewer Dogs
We are getting a little out of practice this winter. Even though I still try to walk Maya and Pierson every day, we seldom see other dogs. In fact, we have gone over an entire week without running into any other dogs. I fear Pierson will be greatly out of practice when spring arrives.
Do you have a leash reactive dog? If so, what are your challenges?
See what other people with leash reactive dogs are doing to manage the behavior in the WOOF blog hop below.
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