Owning a pet isn’t all cuddles and insta-perfect moments – it can be challenging, confusing and downright frustrating at times. To help you navigate pet-parenthood and all that it brings, we have launched Dear StyleTails – think of it as your really cute four-legged agony aunt! Every month our team of pet experts, including trainers, behaviourists, vets, nutritionists and holistic pet therapists, will answer a burning question from our community. Got something you want to ask? Submit your question here.
Q: How can I stop my dog lunging at other dogs when she’s on the lead?
Skye is a 14-month old rescue that we’ve had since she was six months old. She has a great temperament and is very relaxed, except when she’s on the lead and sees other dogs. She plays nicely with them off the lead, but when she’s on the lead, nine times out of ten she’ll lunge towards other dogs and bark.
Any tips on how to curtail this would be great.
Alex, from London
A: Rosie Bescoby from Pet Sense
It sounds as though your rescue is exhibiting signs of frustration when she is on the lead. This is often related to having a high expectation that every dog is there to be interacted with, so I would be looking at adjusting her level of expectation when she is off the lead.
I tend to stick to a 1 in 3 rule, whereby she is allowed to play with (roughly) 1 in 3 dogs, is allowed to meet-and-greet 1 in 3 dogs but is called away quite quickly, and she is not allowed to approach or interact with 1 in 3 dogs but instead stays with you. You can use a longline (10-meter-long lead) in off-lead areas while you work on this, which also prevents her from feeling as restrained and restricted as she does when she is on a short lead.
There may also be an element of anxiety driving her behaviour when she is on the lead – this may not be evident when she is off the lead because she has the option and ability to move away from other dogs, but because she does not have this option when she is on a short lead, she resorts to ‘shouting’ at the other dogs.
There may also be an element of anxiety driving her behaviour when she is on the lead – this may not be evident when she is off the lead because she has the option and ability to move away from other dogs.
In addition, depending on what walking equipment you use, lunging towards dogs when on the lead can cause discomfort from equipment that tightens, digs in or creates tension. This unpleasant sensation will become associated with the presence of other dogs – therefore when she is on the lead and sees other dogs, she experiences a negative emotional response. My preferred harness is the Perfect Fit harness by Dog Games.
When Skye is on the lead, I would be looking at teaching her an alternative behaviour on sight of another dog. This is best done with the help of a force-free trainer or behaviourist who can help you with the practical training side – check out www.apdt.co.uk or www.apbc.org.uk.
Rosie Bescoby, BSc (Hons), PG Dip CABC
Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers No. 1006
Full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors
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