Do you have a dog that barks or lunges when encountering other dogs? Leash aggression is a very common behavior problem. It is one of the main reasons dog owners with reactive dogs dread taking their dogs for walks, or find themselves avoiding walks altogether. If your dog is leash-aggressive, don’t despair—you can turn your tense walks into relaxing strolls again.
In their book Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog, Patricia McConnell and Karen London offer effective strategies for handling dogs that are a bit too feisty on leash walks. One exercise, “Watch,” teaches your dog to look at you rather than the Dalmatian down the street. Here’s how it works:
“Start teaching ‘Watch’ in a quiet place where you’re the only show in town, and there’s nothing else competing for your dog’s attention. Don’t underestimate how distracting one of your other dogs can be. Start training when you and your feisty fido are all by yourselves. Arm yourself with a generous pile of treats by your side or in a bait bag, and wait until your dog is looking away from you. Say ‘Watch’ in a clear, animated voice and hope your dog turns his head and looks toward you. If he does, immediately ‘mark’ that response by saying ‘Good!’ or clicking if you use clicker training. Instantly follow that up with a yummy treat OR a game of tug and fetch if your dog adores playing with toys. Remember that every trainee gets to define what reinforcement is best…
…One of the reasons that ‘Watch’ is so effective is that when your dog turns her head and looks at you, she’s no longer being stimulated by the sight of the other dog. Rather than seeing an approaching dog and getting revved up, she responds by turning her head away, settling down, and happily anticipating something wonderful (provided by you, of course)!”
(excerpted from Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog)
For more information on the “Watch” exercise, and for other great tips on teaching dogs how to walk past other dogs politely, pick up a copy of Feisty Fido, new in the clickertraining.com store. Or, find a dog trainer who can help at www.greatdogtrainers.com.