Leash reactive dogs can be hard to understand — and even harder to train. This article will shed some light on this unwanted behavior, so you’re better equipped to handle him next time he “acts out”.
It’s not uncommon for a dog to become leash reactive. Many dogs become reactive on leash because they feel frustrated with the leash holding them back. This causes them to become aggressive, where without the leash they seem perfectly okay with other dogs. There is a great little booklet on this called Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell and Karen London and it goes through all the steps on how to work on this behavior. This is a much more detailed process, but in a nutshell, you want to work on teaching the dog to focus on you so that when he sees other dogs, you can give him a cue such as “watch me” and he will focus on you while the other dogs pass by.
It also involves some desensitization to other dogs’ presence, which means rewarding him with something he really likes (food, toys) when in the presence of other dogs. To do this, he needs to be “under threshold” which means at a distance where the sight of the other dogs doesn’t stress him. Every dog is different, so it could be 5 feet, 10 feet, 20 feet, etc. Seek help in your area. Look for trainers who run a type of training called “Feisty Fido” or “Reactive Rover” that actually focuses on this specific behavior.
While it is unlikely your leash reactive dog will get to the point of loving other canines you pass on the street, he can certainly learn to be calmer. How close he can get depends on the trainer, the training, and you. While it can take time, it is certainly worth it for many reasons to address this issue.