Leash Aggression

Posted by jwoods
Jul 10, 2008
My 2 dogs have really bad leash aggression right now. I thought it was under control and it's really not. I have a female boxer mix that's 2. We got her from the shelter last December and she had been very social and fine with other dogs. As she got more confident, she decided she had to be the alpha female around any other female. We got an American Bulldog a few months ago so she'd have some company. He'll be a year in September. They get along great and they do fine with other dogs at the dog park or really in most situations they are not leashed. But as soon as those leashes are on they get aggressive any time they see another dog. I've worked hard on being the alpha dog and even on our walks we work on them walking next to or behind me. The other day we saw a stray on our walk and they got a little fiesty with him at first and then they were fine. We actually ended up bringing him home with us and took him to the local shelter and they did great with him. They were leashed then but he wasn't. This morning the female got away from me and went after another dog. Luckily the owner was very nice and my dog didn't hurt the other dog, but it's very frustrating for me. I try to act excited when we see another dog coming, but I feel like it's not helping. What can I do to help them know it's ok to see another dog?
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Jan 23, 2010
Hi there

Firstly, good work for using the alpha dog training program with your dog. You are definitely on the right track with establishing your position as the alpha dog. She sounds like she is trying to challenge you for your position at the top of the pack, and so especially as she is going through the adolescent phase at the moment, it is vital that you persevere with it. There are a few other things that you could incorporate into your daily routine to further reinforce to her that her place in the hierarchy is below yours. Some of these include insisting that you walk ahead of her through doorways, feeding her after you have finished your own meal, not paying attention to her when she asks for it but only when you want to. If you are playing a game with her, make sure it is you that chooses the toy and when you decide that you have had enough, take the toy away with you so that she realizes that it is you that controls playtime. She will struggle initially as she sees herself as the alpha dog and therefore being in the submissive position to you, who she sees as a subordinate, is distressing. She does have good intentions as she is trying to protect you from the other dogs, but it is important for her to understand that you, and not her, are leader of the pack.

Once she accepts that you are dominant over her, she should become much more attentive and responsive to your commands. When you see another dog approaching, you must remain calm, displaying a quiet confidence so that she realizes that you are in control of the situation. Give her a command to distract her, so that her attention is focused on you instead of the other dogs. You may need to use the ‘Alarm-No-Command’ method initially to get her attention. Don’t forget to reward and praise her when she obeys you instead of getting excited about the other dog. A good command to use in this situation would be the ‘sit-stay’ command, making her ‘stay’ until the other dogs have passed. You may also want to teach her the ‘watch’ command, so that she is looking at you the whole time, instead of becoming distracted by the passing dogs. If you get excited, she can easily sense that you have tensed up and this will put her on her guard, making her more likely to react aggressively to the oncoming dogs, because she thinks that you are worried about them.

If she barks or tries to lunge for the other dogs and doesn’t listen to you, lead her away in the opposite direction and take her home immediately. She will soon come to realize that her walks get shortened if she misbehaves. Another good message you are sending her by doing this is that you are the alpha dog who controls her movement and where she goes. This will further reinforce your status at the top of the hierarchy.

It may also be a good idea to try her on a ‘gentle leader’, as this will give you full control without having to fight her. This should not cause any form of neck injury, as it simply puts pressure on the nose, similar to a horse’s halter, to change her direction of movement. It will not restrict her breathing or pinch her neck. You will be able to lead her in the direction you want her to go without any further argument.

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!