You have probably been walking down the street with your dog and someone else appears with a dog, and their dog starts barking, pulling and lunging toward you and your dog?
Or maybe your dog does this?
Why do they do this?
One of the main reasons a dog does this when walking on lead, is because they are walking on lead. The lead, or leash is one of the best and worst of creations for dogs. Best because it has kept countless dogs safe from harm (physical encounters with vehicles), and from getting lost, or going where they shouldn't go. And worst because it prevents a dog from being a dog. Dogs communicate to each other (and us) via body language and a leash prevents a dog from communicating and approaching another dog as they naturally would.
When dogs approach each other off-lead and naturally, they will do so in a curving fashion and not head to head or face on.
It is unnatural for dogs, to approach each other head on, however it is how we humans walk our dogs on the sidewalk or the street. Even if the stranger dog and person are on the other side of the street when passing, it is a head on approach.
This starts when a dog is a puppy, so by the time they are a young adult, this walking style is an anticipated exposure for them.
Also - in many (most) cases, a puppy has learned to pull forward when walking, and they have had to deal with the extreme frustration of being prohibited from meeting the other dogs they encounter, or they have had frightful experiences when meeting other dogs.
Not all dogs are reactive on leash walks, but many are, and it generally stems from a puppy who is nervous or fearful of other dogs and being subjected to forced exposure, simply because they are being walked on a leash and have no way to move out of the situation, or get away to a more comfortable distance.
Please remember - our dogs do not have to be friends with everyone (canine and human), and they definitely do not need to meet every stranger dog or person.
Reactivity on leash can also be created because a friendly young dog wants to meet and greet dogs they encounter on walks and are prohibited to do so by the leash. This is frustrating and the young dog will pull, bark and carry on. This generally results in the people allowing a meeting between the dogs, the young rambunctious dog being dragged away.
The meeting does not usually go well, because the young dog is simply too stimulated and therefore bold and inappropriate toward the stranger dog and the pulling and taut leash gives the impression of rudeness and aggression in the eyes of the stranger dog.
And if the young dog is dragged away, then their frustration builds each time they encounter another dog and they are dragged away again and again. Over time the frustrated dog's action will likely become more dramatic, louder, will last longer and become more frequent. Eventually a dog can become anxious and reactive as soon as their leash is put on and they walk out the door.
Meetings on lead
In my opinion dogs should never meet on lead. It is simply too unnatural for them and problems can arise because of the leash, human interaction and of-course the body language that is displayed or not displayed.
So what do we do when we have to walk our dogs on lead in the city for safety reasons and leash laws.
Starting with puppies, if you get your dog as a puppy, start teaching your dog to focus on you and follow you when they are on lead - not you following them.
Condition your dog to the great rewards they get for staying close to you!
Do not even take your puppy or adult dog out on public streets, until your dog has great "name attention" and "focus" on you when they are on a leash. Allow them to sniff and look around of-course, but teach them a cue, that brings focus back on you.
When you encounter a stranger dog on your walks, cue your dog to focus on you, and make sure you curve as widely as you can around the other dog.
Don't forget that you are the person who is responsible for the safety and well-being of your dog. If you and your dog do not know the person and dog you meet on a walk and the stranger person asks if the dogs can meet, simply say "no thank you" and walk on by. Don't be afraid to do this - you are doing this for your dog!!
Dogs meeting stranger dogs (or new dogs), should do so off leash only. Let the dogs be dogs and move and act the way dogs should.
~ Allow them, their ways ~
© Copyright 2015 Jackie McGowan St. Croix.