Frustrated On Leash? – Whole Dog Journal

You’ve in all probability seen them. Maybe you even have one – a canine who fortunately performs along with his canine buddies within the canine park, however the immediate he’s on leash and sees one other canine he turns right into a barking, lunging, lunatic hound-from-hell. What on earth is it that turns a canine social butterfly into Cujo, with a human hanging onto the opposite finish of the leash for pricey life? 

Oh, wait. That’s it. The leash. He’s leash-reactive. But why?


Reactive conduct is outlined as an irregular degree of arousal in response to a standard stimulus. In different phrases, the canine overreacts strongly to one thing that the majority canines can deal with calmly, providing conduct described as barking (generally screaming), lunging, snapping, and generally biting. It can discuss with canines who overreact to guests on the door, individuals passing by the automobile window, vehicles, skateboards, and a wide range of different stimuli along with different canines. Reactivity typically entails aggressive conduct, however not at all times. The three kinds of dog-to-dog leash reactivity we generally see are:

  • Offensive Aggression Reactivity. The canine who actually needs to go assault different canines as a result of he actually doesn’t like them and needs to get them.
  • Defensive Aggression Reactivity. The fearful canine whose show is supposed to maintain scary canines away.
  • Frustration Reactivity. The canine who loves to interact with different canines and is immensely annoyed when not allowed to take action.

        It is the third kind, frustration reactivity, that we’ll focus on right here.


Frustration reactivity could be the toughest of the three for a canine’s caretakers to grasp. It’s straightforward to understand that some canines simply don’t like different canines, or are afraid of them, and the ensuing shows make sense. 

But when your canine clearly loves different canines, it appears counterproductive for him to placed on a present of behaviors which can be often fairly off-putting to people and different canines alike. Why is he doing one thing that’s more likely to make different canines wish to keep away from him, relatively than strategy? Because he can’t assist it!

This conduct is most frequently seen in canines who’ve a historical past of with the ability to strategy different canines each time they need, on-leash or off. It could be the canine who merely has by no means been on-leash round different canines – he grew up in an atmosphere the place canines have been off-leash and mingling on a regular basis. This may need been a shelter, hoarder, or rescue scenario the place canines have been communally housed, or a rural neighborhood the place canines have been allowed to often run free. It may even be a canine imported from a street-dog colony out of the country.

Alternatively, it is likely to be a canine whose human routinely encourages him to “Go say hi!” to different canines when strolling on leash, even permitting the canine to pull her as much as different canines for greetings, typically to the dismay of the proprietor of the canine being greeted.

In any case, this reactive canine is annoyed when he’s thwarted from his desired objective of greeting the opposite canine, and his frustration leads to an emotional show that may be fairly spectacular. This is commonly described as “low tolerance for frustration” or “lack of impulse control,” and the leash-reactive canine could effectively show these behaviors (maybe to a lesser diploma) in different frustration-causing conditions as effectively. 

Where the answer for a defensively or offensively aggressive-reactive canine is often to maneuver farther away or out of sight, this typically solely upsets our annoyed greeter much more, rising the depth of his emotional show as he sees the article of his want disappearing from view. So, what to do?

Find that preliminary threshold distance, the place your canine sees the opposite canine however isn’t but reacting.


Prevention is at all times higher than modification; that’s why I’ve a “no on-leash greeting” coverage at my Peaceable Paws coaching heart in addition to for my very own canines. To work together with different canines, we go to a safely enclosed house the place my canines can socialize with out the constraints of leashes, the place we aren’t creating expectations of on-leash greetings.

If it’s too late for prevention, you’ve a wide range of coaching and conduct modification choices.


Classical conditioning entails creating associations that lead to emotional and bodily responses. When Pavlov’s canines salivated on the sound of the bell, it was as a result of their brains had made an affiliation between the sound of the bell and the arrival of the meals. Their conduct wasn’t deliberate and it wasn’t underneath their management – they merely responded as a result of their brains had come to comprehend that the sound of the bell reliably predicted the arrival of meals.

The aggressive-reactive canine has a adverse affiliation with the presence of different canines, and reacts accordingly – with aggression. The frustrated-reactive canine has a optimistic affiliation with the presence of different canines and reacts accordingly, with pleasure.

Counter-conditioning adjustments an already present affiliation. In most circumstances, we’re working to vary a adverse affiliation to a optimistic one. In the case of a annoyed greeter, we’re working to vary an out-of-control optimistic affiliation to a much less exuberant however nonetheless optimistic affiliation. Our objective is to have a canine who’s glad to see different canines however can nonetheless be calm and managed about his happiness. This is a comparatively easy process, and I’ve had a variety of success utilizing it with annoyed greeters. 

The best strategy to give most canines a brand new affiliation is with very high-value, actually yummy treats. I like to make use of hen – frozen strips, canned, baked or boiled, since most canines love hen and it’s a low-fat, low-calorie meals. Here’s how the method works:

1  Determine the gap at which your canine could be within the presence of, alert and conscious of one other canine, however moderately calm. This is known as the threshold distance. 

2  While holding your canine on leash, have a helper current a peaceful, leashed, impartial canine at your canine’s threshold distance. Or, alternatively, place your self and your canine so {that a} leashed canine   seem at threshold distance. The immediate your canine sees the opposite canine, begin feeding bits of hen to your canine. Pause, let him look once more, feed once more. Repeat so long as the opposite canine is current.

3  Continue pausing and feeding till the opposite canine is out of sight. (Or, after a number of seconds, have your helper take away the opposite canine and cease feeding your canine.)

4  Keep repeating steps 1-Three till the presentation or look of a canine at that preliminary threshold distance persistently causes your canine to have a look at you with a contented smile and a “Yay! Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is a conditioned emotional response (CER) – your canine’s affiliation with the canine at threshold distance is now about hen as a substitute of pleasure and arousal.

5  Now, enhance the depth of the stimulus (the opposite canine) by reducing the gap between the opposite canine and your canine. In small increments, transfer your canine nearer to the situation the place the opposite canine(s) will seem, reaching your canine’s objective CER at every new distance, till your canine is glad to be very close to to the opposite canine. Note: It could take quite a lot of trials over quite a lot of days or longer to realize this!

The “Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is the “conditioned emotional response” (CER) you need. When you see your canine discover one other canine, after which have a look at you with this expression, you might be in your strategy to success.

6  Then return to your canine’s authentic threshold distance, and work on rising the depth of the other-dog stimulus. You can do that by having your helper encourage her canine to be extra lively (maybe by jogging by, or taking part in fetch or tug), or by rising the quantity/frequency of canines showing. Gradually lower distance and attain your objective CERs alongside the best way, till your canine is delighted to have the extra lively/elevated variety of canines in shut proximity whereas remaining calm.

Caution: Because your canine needs to greet the opposite canine(s), she could develop into extra aroused when the opposite canine(s) goes farther away or out of sight. If this occurs, have your helper preserve the impartial canine in view. Alternatively, have interaction your canine in different actions that she loves (corresponding to concentrating on, taking part in tug, or catching a ball) to take her thoughts off the lacking canine when the opposite canine is out of sight. 

Walk Away!

(Adapted from Kelly Fahey’s Resource Guarding protocol, tailored from Chirag Patel’s “Drop” protocol)

Note: Be certain to repeat every step eight to 12 (or extra) instances, till your canine eagerly responds to the cue, earlier than progressing to the subsequent step. Remember, you need the canine to do a 180-degree flip and run away with you.

1  Say “Walk away!” in a cheerful tone and toss a number of treats on the bottom about six to eight toes behind your canine. Turn and run along with your canine to the treats to encourage him to maneuver shortly. 

2  Place a impartial (not priceless to the canine) object on the bottom. When your canine sniffs it, say “Walk away!” and toss a number of treats on the bottom about six to eight toes from the article,   behind your canine. Turn and run away shortly along with your canine. Encourage your canine vocally – make it a celebration! Practice this step with a wide range of impartial objects. 

3  Place a low-value object (one thing your canine is mildly concerned with) on the bottom. When your canine sniffs it, say “Walk away!” and toss treats as you and your canine run away from the article. Practice this step with a wide range of low-value objects.

4  Place a medium-value (to your canine) object on the bottom. When your canine sniffs it, say “Walk away!” and toss treats as you and your canine run away from the article. Practice with a wide range of medium-value objects.

5  Place a high-value object (one in every of your canine’s favourite issues) on the bottom. When your canine sniffs it, say “Walk away!” and toss treats as you each run away from the article. Practice with a wide range of high-value objects.

6  Start utilizing “Walk away!” often when you’re strolling your canine on a leash, when he exhibits curiosity in one thing. (Not each time – he nonetheless will get to be a canine!) Use your Walk Away cue when he sees a canine within the distance earlier than he begins to get aroused. Eventually it’s best to be capable of use it to maneuver him away even when he has began to get excited.



You can even use operant conditioning – instructing deliberate behaviors – to change reactivity utilizing a process often called Reverse CAT (Constructional Aggression Treatment). 

The CAT process makes use of adverse reinforcement (whereby the canine’s conduct makes an disagreeable factor go away). Say the canine is careworn and sad about seeing different canines. The handler units up a scenario that exposes the topic canine to a different canine – and strikes the opposite canine away from the topic canine in response to any enhance within the topic’s calm or relaxed conduct. The topic canine learns that behaving in a peaceful and relaxed method will preserve different canines away. Once he’s calm and relaxed, he now not feels the necessity to preserve different canines away, and now not shows aggressive conduct. (For extra about this, see “Build Better Behavior,” WDJ May 2008.)

In distinction, a annoyed canine greeter is bolstered by any alternative to maneuver nearer to a different canine. So the Reverse CAT process makes use of optimistic reinforcement (whereby the canine’s calm conduct makes an excellent factor occur); when he’s calm, he will get to maneuver nearer to the opposite canine. The process additionally makes use of adverse punishment (whereby the conduct we don’t need – his aroused conduct – strikes him farther away from the canine). 

Note: Don’t fear in regards to the technical phrases; they’re complicated to even some very skilled trainers! I’ve included them for the sake of those that wish to perceive what behavioral constructs are at work right here.

Start at your canine’s threshold distance (shut sufficient to the opposite canine for him to note, however not so shut that he begins any frantic or excited conduct). Start strolling towards the opposite canine. As lengthy as your canine is calm, preserve transferring ahead. As quickly as he begins turning into aroused or enthusiastic about attending to greet the opposite canine, flip and stroll away to no matter distance it takes till he’s calm. As you repeat this a number of instances, he’ll hopefully come to comprehend that the one strategy to get near the opposite canine is to stay calm.

If your canine stays calm all the best way as much as the opposite canine, go on a pleasant, calm, parallel stroll with the opposite canine. Sometimes (not each time!) in some unspecified time in the future within the stroll, discover a secure, enclosed space the place you may drop leashes and let the canines play with a “Go play!” cue. (You don’t wish to drop leashes and play instantly when your canine calmly walks as much as the opposite canine, as it will once more reinforce your canine’s perception that he will get to play with each canine he walks as much as.)

This is just not a easy process and is greatest carried out underneath the steerage of a conduct skilled who’s skilled with the protocol. When it really works, it might occur amazingly shortly for a annoyed greeter. But for some canines, the frustration of continually being walked away is simply too nice, and so they could solely develop into extra annoyed. In this case, the opposite protocols described right here can be higher.


If your canine is a annoyed greeter, you understand that administration is essential to a low-stress existence. Often, administration simply means preserving your canine far-off from different canines. But there are occasions when some operant (skilled) behaviors will help you thru surprising or unavoidable encounters. Here are two such helpful behaviors:

  • Find it! This is the best conduct you’ll ever train your canine. Just drop a high-value deal with between your toes and cheerfully say, “Find it!” If crucial, level to indicate your canine the place the deal with landed. Repeat many instances, till if you say “Find it!” your canine runs to your toes to search for the deal with. Your canine could have a really optimistic classical affiliation with the “Find it!” cue, so it is going to put his mind in a contented place when he hears it. 

Note: Always drop the deal with at your toes, so when he hears the cue, he’ll orient to your toes, taking his consideration away from the opposite canine.

  • Walk away! This is an emergency escape cue that you’ll affiliate with a enjoyable recreation: “Do a 180-degree turn and run the other way with me!” This protocol additionally installs a optimistic affiliation with the cue, places your canine’s mind in a contented place, and offers him one thing enjoyable to do as a substitute of reacting to the opposite canine. 


These are issues you may apply along with your canine to assist him be taught to higher tolerate frustration. Teach them within the absence of different canines in order that ultimately they’ll contribute to your canine’s means to stay calm within the presence of different canines.

  • Wait. This is best to show with a meals bowl. Have your canine sit. Hold up your canine’s meals bowl, say “Wait,” decrease it just a few inches, give a click on or different marker, elevate it again up, and feed a deal with from the bowl. Gradually decrease just a little farther every time till you may set it on the ground with out him getting up. You can even use it at doorways and another time you need your canine to pause and wait. (See “Wait and Stay” WDJ May 2018.)
  • Leave it. Say “Leave it!” in a cheerful voice and place a sturdy high-value deal with underneath your shoe. Wait in your canine to cease making an attempt to get it; don’t use corrections, and don’t repeat the cue! When your canine backs away from the deal with, click on (or use another marker), and feed him a distinct deal with. 

Continue to make use of a excessive charge of reinforcement (click on and deal with rather a lot!) as he continues to depart the deal with underneath your alone. Eventually, uncover the deal with, along with your foot able to cowl it once more in case your canine dives for it. Do not appropriate or re-cue! Continue to click on and deal with till you may ultimately go away the deal with uncovered with out him making an attempt to get it. (See “Leaving for Good,” WDJ June 2018.)

  • Sit. Yes, even a easy “Sit” could be an impulse-control train. We train “Sit” as a default conduct – the factor a canine does when he doesn’t know what else to do. It turns into a default conduct as a result of he has been so extremely bolstered for it that it’s his automated conduct selection. If, along with utilizing a really excessive charge of reinforcement for provided sits (in addition to ones you’ve cued), you additionally enhance period of the sit (steadily ready longer and longer after he sits earlier than you mark and deal with), your easy “Sit” turns into a really priceless impulse management conduct.


Even although your canine’s annoyed greeting reactivity comes from a contented place, it’s nonetheless not straightforward to stay with and never at all times straightforward to change. If you’re struggling, don’t despair. There are ever-more certified force-free coaching professionals on the market ready that can assist you. Find one! 


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