Recently we published a video to our Facebook feed showing a client and his dog. This dog was constantly pulling to sniff the ground, or smell a bush, randomly changing directions, just all over the place during the walk. This same dog would then bark, yelp, screech, lunge, spin, and drag when she saw another dog. This is behavior we see quite often.
The best way to address your little companions leash reactivity during walks happens long before they come into visible contact with another dog. Trying to address the reactivity when it’s happening, when your dog is already stressed and at their worst is not a winning strategy. If we are allowing them to act upon their impulses (pulling, sniffing, leash biting, marking, lunging, jumping, spinning, etc.), we cannot be surprised when they do what we have trained them to do: listen to their impulse rather than us. Allowing the bad habits of acting upon their impulses is encouraging our dogs to be disconnected and pushy, rather than attentive and polite.
So what can we do to win over our dogs? We win by creating a structured walk. We do it by having our dogs walk in a relaxed and calm heel. No more pulling on leash, sniffing whatever comes their way, no more intensely staring at other dogs, etc.. We need them to look to us for guidance and permission. If you set up your walk in this fashion - listen instead of ignore, patient instead of pushy, relaxed and calm instead of being stressed. If you see giving your dog the gift of comfort and peace of mind that comes from leadership and structure, you’ll see some profound changes in your dog’s behavior on walks. Remember, you win the battle of reactivity, long before the actual fight.