How To Fix Leash Reactivity 


How to Fix Leash Reactivity?



Ever seen a dog at the end of their leash lunging, growing and barking at you?  These dogs are often pulling their owners towards other dogs or people and looking like little Tasmanian devils.  It can be a source of frustration and embarrassment for dog owners.  If you are wondering how to fix leash reactivity, stay tuned!  I’ll be addressing some key points here.

If you are struggling with leash reactivity in Portland Oregon or anywhere for that matter I am available for consultations and lessons. Leash reactivity can be a little tricky to “fix,” and can often be something that has to be properly managed throughout the dog’s life.  However, many people can stop leash reactivity through the use of the proper training and collars.  How long it can take to train a dog depends on many factors.


Why Are Dogs Leash Reactive?

There are a few theories as to why this happens in dogs. I would say about 95% of dogs are uncomfortable with the leash itself and here are a few possible reasons:

  • It makes them nervous because they can’t greet dogs in the way they could without a leash

  • Dogs and people make them nervous in general

So leash reactivity in dogs is really about them trying to “push” things away from them. Like, “please leave us alone – I am so scary.”  In more rare cases, dogs are actually aggressive and would like to do real damage to dogs and people.  


Positive Reinforcement vs Negative Reinforcement Dog Training

The force-free, positive reinforcement only community would like everyone to believe that food reward and positive reinforcement will bring your dog out of leash reactivity.  However, positive reinforcement will only work for easier cases.  Most of my clients come to me after trying positive reinforcement extensively and only getting minimal or no results.  In addition, there are many scientific studies funded by folks that want to disprove the use of punishment to suppress or stop unwanted behaviors.  

However, if you are a balanced dog trainer like me, you are doing a lot of clean up work for folks.  Balanced dog trainers work in the trenches of the dog training world, providing owners with real information.  The Force-free movement does dog owners a disservice because they teach that all you need is positive reinforcement to stop an unwanted behavior.  It simply isn’t true.  

How to fix leash reactivity really depends on use of the correct methods.  The use of proper punishment or correction in stopping leash reactivity is a game changer and is helping many owners build confidence and take their dogs out more often.  Positive reinforcement can be used as well and is really helpful, but only after a punisher has been applied.  


The Importance of Pack Leadership

A possible theory to consider: If your dog really trusted you to make decisions for the pack because you have a good track record, they could defer to you to deal with the scary things like dogs and people. Getting a dog to buy into you as a pack leader is about your relationship with them, how much you ask of them in day to day activities and how you can hold them accountable for their behavior, meaning, if they blow off your “ask” there is a consequence that they would rather avoid.

I’ve been a dog trainer in Portland Oregon for several years now and have worked with many leash reactive dogs. I think the magic combo is asking a lot more of them in daily life and then working on your leash handling skills with a prong collar or head halter and an e-collar.


reactive dog training portland


How to Establish Pack Leadership with Your Dog

      • Claim your space in your house.

      • Kick them off of couches, beds and out of rooms like the kitchen… just because, like, for no reason other than that’s what you decide on a whim.

      • Make them stop at thresholds like the crate door, car door and front door before going through it.

      • Wait for eye contact before you give them food.

      • Don’t let them jump up on you or anyone else.

      • Teach them how to hold commands like a down with an e-collar as reinforcement.



I recommend checking out Cheri Lucas’ website for more ideas:  CHERI WULFF LUCAS

These are just some ideas that really really help them to buy into you as a leader. Dog training shouldn’t be something you just do for a period and then stop, it’s something you have to constantly be working on. I help people with dog obedience training in Portland and see that the clients I work with that really adopt the mindset that its a lifelong process, have the best results.

The Prong And E-Collar

If you are wondering how to fix leash reactivity, keep reading.  The second part of the magic combo to stop leash reactivity is leash handling skills with the right collars. This is something you may need help from a professional dog trainer. E-collar training is a game changer for stopping leash reactivity. And no, an e-collar will not mess up your dog unless you blast them unfairly with is constantly on a level that is ridiculously high. I’ve never had a client do that. Most people are afraid of messing up their dogs so they use the e-collar on levels that are way too low, often not getting the best results from it.

If you are looking for a leash reactivity dog trainer in Portland Oregon, check out my website.

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