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  • Gemma Johnston

Is Your Dog Reactive On Leash?

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

This can be a complex situation. As aggression is normally a secondary issue and/or emotion that has arisen as the primary issue or emotion has not been addressed or noticed in the first place, thus turning into reactivity.

Reasons why a dog can be reactive on leash are:

  • Frustration & excitement

  • Fear

  • ·Positive Only Imbalance

Figuring out which of the above is causing the reactivity will help with what to do next.

First, for all of the above, all dogs should still have clear basic skills for them to be able perform. Basic skills are very important in these situations, as it gives the dog something else to do that it knows how to do clearly, rather than reacting. It also helps the owners to keep the dog under control or move them effectively away from or past a situation, that could otherwise turn bad if the dog didn’t know how to perform these basic skills.

These basic skills are:

  • Lose Lead Walking

  • Heel

  • Sit

  • Drop/Lay Down

You may also consider teaching:

  • Between Leg

  • Place Training

  • Recall

Back to the emotions

Frustration & excitement normally occurs when the dog is allowed to play too often & too long with other dogs (or people), with no rules or obedience being implemented in these situations. The dog may simply be easily excited by the sight of other dogs (or people). Because your dog can not get to what it desires (Playing with or greeting the other dog), it starts to become frustrated, as you are holding it back from what it wants to do. When we feel frustrated for a long periods of time or frequently in repeated situations, how would you begin to feel? Angry? A bit pissed off? Same with your dog.

The owner then becomes concerned with their dog’s aggressive outburst, panicking themselves with what to do or that their dog may harm another dog or person. Pulling their dog away, causing opposition reflex, which makes the dog pull harder being most frustrated.


This is where the dog is scared of the other dog, person or object. When we fear something we go into fight or flight mode. If the dog is on the leash, it has no way of running away from the scary situation. Left only to defend itself, by reacting or attacking.

Positive Only Imbalance

This is where the dog lacks rules, structure, or boundaries. Basically, getting away with what ever it likes when it likes. Your dog has found it enjoyable to react while on leash & has made a habit or game of it. As why not? It gets away with this fun game.

Addressing the emotional side of this is best done in Private Lessons to work on your individual case

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