Leash pulling and reactivity: Dog training tips

by | Dog Care |

Imagine you’re walking down the street with your pup, and you see someone else walking their dog ahead of you. Your dog sees them, too. He starts barking, jumping around, and performing other unwanted behaviours. What do you do? How do you calm your dog down? Fear Free® Happy Homes has great proactive tips to help with leash pulling and reactivity.

What you can do about leash pulling and reactivity:
  • According to the Fear Free® Happy homes resource, the first step is to try and limit exposure to overly exciting situations, such as crowded streets, that exceed your dog’s ability to handle calmly. This will help keep your dog calm enough to learn new ways of behaving.
  • They also suggest keeping your distance when you see an approaching person or dog. Leave enough distance so your dog can remain calm, respond to cues, and eat treats.
  • Another tip is to try and walk during lower traffic times of the day and in less populated areas. Walking in areas with multiple route options so you can quickly change direction will also be useful.
  • Fear Free® Happy homes recommends removing your dog from situations when needed or reducing the intensity of the situation to prevent your dog from engaging in unwanted behaviours like barking, pulling, or lunging.
Fear Free® Happy Homes “Quick fixes in a pinch”

(Taken from the Leash pulling and reactivity resource):

  • Cross the street.
  • Do a U-turn and move back in the opposite direction.
  • Move off the main pathways until the human or dog distraction has passed.
  • If your dog looks like they might react, use an interrupter such as a treat, a cue for known behaviour or a handclap or light tap. Try not to scare your dog but simply break their focus.
  • Fear Free® Happy homes suggests using visual barriers as well. These can include a building, parked vehicle, tree, or bush. By blocking your dog’s view of the passing person or dog, it can reduce the intensity of the situation. Then, they recommend keeping your dog busy by rewarding cued behaviours or giving them treats.
  • If your dog reacts, turn and move your dog far away so they can calm down. Reassess and see if the situation was too close or if there were any triggers that can be avoided next time.

Check out the resource for more Fear Free® training strategies.

Visit the Fear Free® Happy Homes website for more tips on caring for your animals!