Leash aggression

by Dawn
(Atlanta, GA)


My dog Sydney shows aggression when we have him on the leash. The aggression is not towards other dogs but towards humans–especially if they are alone. If Sydney sees a person with a dog, while he’s on his leash, he doesn’t show aggression. How can we break him out of this?

He is almost two years old and we want to have confidence in his behavior–presently, we do not. He is a big baby otherwise but we want to learn how to control his leash aggression.


Hi Dawn
If Sydney only shows aggressive behavior in this particular situation and is calm, confident and non-threatening otherwise then he is probably temperamentally sound which is good.

Dogs are more likely to show ‘aggression’ when leashed or crated as they feel vulnerable and unable to protect themselves if necessary. It’s actually usually more of a defensive reaction than a truly aggressive one. Often this behavior is directed at dogs and/or people but for some reason Sydney only seems to feel threatened by the people.

I really recommend that you get some professional help dealing with this as a qualified dog trainer who can give you hands-on help and advice is worth their weight in gold and can help far more than I can from here.

One thing to be careful of is to make sure that you’re not unintentionally reinforcing the behavior through body language and emotion. Dogs are very intuitive and aware of their owners feelings, and in this sort of situation it’s normal for the owner to feel apprehensive or nervous when they see someone approaching as they are expecting their dog to ‘play up’. The dog immediately picks up on that (even if your grip tightens just a little on the leash, or you take a deep breath etc. etc.) and becomes worried. They don’t realize why you’re tense, and the obvious answer is that the person coming is a threat to you, so they respond accordingly.

So, do make an extra effort to be calm and relaxed when walking your dog. When you see someone approaching, talk to Sydney is a happy, up-beat voice and try to distract him. You can even offer him a tasty treat or two (if you hold them in your hand he will focus on them and may even not notice the pedestrian). You’re basically trying to help him to break this habitual way of reacting.

I hope this helps some and do encourage you to get some professional help if necessary. Best of luck with Sydney.

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