May 23, 2023

Why chilled dogs lose their mind once someone goes on a lead!

Why chilled dogs lose their mind once someone goes on a lead!
Dr. Chris Brown

Has this ever happened to you? It’s all going fine in the park UNTIL…one dog has the audacity to put a lead on. And then it changes everything! There’s suddenly tension and a whole lot of barking.

But there’s a fascinating reason why dogs are so offended by other dogs on leads. And it gives an incredible insight into their mind…

For so many furry family members, they really are absolute angels until either they or another dog get back on the leash. But this leash reactivity comes down to two simple factors…

  • Lost in translation! For starters, being attached to a leash dramatically changes how dogs ‘talk’ to each other. Instead of that very carefully managed dance of wagging tails, approaching at an angle, not making eye contact and then sniffing each other’s backsides, a leash keeps them upright, rigid and locked in position. Like the awkward guy at a party. They don’t give any signals that it’s cool to approach. As a result, other dogs get worried they’re not actually that friendly and bark at them out of confusion…
  • Restraining the fun! So this is a surprisingly common one. I know, because my Buzzy does it. Ok so the majority of dogs live for play. And to be playing ‘lick-chasey' might just be the highlight of their day. So when, all of a sudden, their play buddy (or even just one of the gang) gets put on a leash to go home, your furry one gets super frustrated.

But without words to express their annoyance at the game ending, they resort to a lot of grumbling and even rumbling.

It’s basically a tantrum. But if you look closely, almost never aggression. Highly social and play driven dogs just can’t cope with the fun ending…

So what can you do?

Well, understanding why this behaviour isn’t quite as dramatic as it first seems should be a big help.

Then, you can go about building some leash tolerance skills.

The most useful? Introduce the ‘ON-LEASH LEAVE’ technique. Basically, if you encounter any dog on a leash, then they have to leave them. As hard as it sounds, this means no greetings (and none of their favourite kind of sniffing!) with other dogs while out walking.

Why? Well, if you lower (or eliminate) the expectation of play with another leashed little one, then there’s none of that frustration when they can’t then instantly run riot together. Which means no tantrums!

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