Leash Aggression or Leash Reactivity

Walking a dog that lunges at other dogs while on leash is not a pleasant experience. Dog trainers get calls fairly often from frantic owners concerned that their dog has leash aggression. They’re worried about what this could mean for and about their dog and if it’s something that is fixable. And for good reason; it can be embarrassing, scary and unsafe if a dog is lunging, barking, pulling and whining when he or she spots another dog while out on a walk.

There are a few key things to consider before “diagnosing” your dog as having leash aggression

I’d like to go over those in the hopes they soothe some worries and help people see a possible light at the end of the tunnel.

It seems impossible to many people to think that their dog can go from being a menace on-leash to calm, cool and collected while out on the town, but it is possible! In her course, Leave It: Help for Leash Reactive Dogs, my good friend, Sarah Pennington has built a plan and provides the necessary information to help many people with leash reactive dogs finally be able to enjoy walks! See it in action in the video below.


Understand the Difference Between On Leash Aggression and On Leash Reactivity

Okay, so maybe you are one of those people who is certain that your dog is leash aggressive, rather than leash reactive. You may or may not be right, so I’d like to lay out some ways that you can understand the difference and begin to move forward regardless. There are some behavioral hallmarks to look at and I’ll go over these below.

Ask yourself these questions:

How is my dog off-leash around other dogs?
How well does my dog play?

If your answer to the following is “She’s great at it! Has some friends, enjoys the dog park, etc.”, then your dog is likely leash reactive. If the answer is negative, then you are more likely looking at leash aggression.

✅The dog is great off-leash and loves to play with other dogs.
✅The dog is great off-leash, he doesn’t play but meanders around, greeting and sniffing other dogs.

In these cases, your dog is likely experiencing barrier frustration and would benefit from the protocol laid out in Sarah’s course Leave It: Help for Leash Reactive Dogs

You can watch the training plan in action below:


Maybe your dog likes to chase moving things and barks and lunges out of frustration at not being able to get at them. This is also a case in which the Leave It protocol would come in super handy. Barrier frustration is the result of being attached to a person on a 6′ leash and, like reactivity to other dogs, is not based in fear. Predation is a normal behavior for dogs and you can learn more about it in this awesome blog for The Academy for Dog Trainers by YPBY board member, Lisa Skavienski of Dog Educated in Rochester, NY.

If you’ve determined that your dog is leash aggressive, the best course of action is to work with a qualified trainer. Managing the behavior by walking at off times of the day can be helpful, as can walking in quiet places. But, to truly help your dog who may be experiencing intense fear, a qualified trainer, familiar with desensitization and counterconditioning is your best bet. You can find qualified trainers here:

The Academy for Dog Trainers
Pet Professional Guild
Karen Pryor Academy

Here’s a little insight as to what may be happening for dogs who are leash aggressive:


Read more about Leave It: Help for Leash Reactive Dogs. For a short time Sarah has discounted her program exclusively for YPBY readers. Sign up until April 5th and get it for 25% off when you use the discount code YPBY at checkout.

And stay tuned! We’ve got more courses coming- including ones on separation anxiety, jumping and dental care!

Update the Courses on Canine Separation Anxiety and Canine Dental Care are now live and accepting students.