Please see the following links for help with Leash Reactivity/Aggression...

Don't Socialize That Dog -

Grisha Stewart - BAT (Behaviour Adjustement Training) for Fear, Frustration & Aggression -​

Leslie McDivitt - Control Unleashed -​

Urban Dawgs - Counter Conditioning Dogs to Dogs on Leash -

Emma Parsons - How to Say Hello, Teaching Manners to Aggressive Dogs -

Aidan Bindoff - Aggressive Dogs: Nature or Nurture? -

Dr Ian Dunbar, Dog Star Daily - Fighting Dogs -

Three Dogs Training -


Leash reactivity is a common dog behaviour concern. Some research indicates 90% of aggression in dogs are fear-based responses.

When faced with fear, there are a few primary responses most dogs will choose from.

1. Run away - flight

2. Become defensive - fight

3. Surrender or do nothing – freeze

Being on-leash takes away the first possible response, (running away from the fear) and anxious or insecure dogs will learn this quickly. So now the dog is left with two options - fight or freeze.

The added dynamic when the leash is involved results in most handlers pulling or jerking the dog away from whatever they are reacting too, increasing the opposition reflex. The harder you pull one way, the harder the dog pulls back the other way, increasing their frustration and arousal level.

When leashes become tight and two dogs are pulling to meet, this also changes the dog’s natural, normal body language and communicates an aggressive or defensive appearance, typically stiff or leaning forward.

When most happy, confident dogs meet, you should see loose, relaxed body language and typically greetings will include a sniff around each other's mouths and a butt sniff.

To overcome on-leash reactivity, we should prevent the dog from reacting as much as possible as every time the dog gets to practice the undesirable behavior they get better and more skilled at the behaviour including the offensive ones.

More importantly, we need to focus on teaching the dogs what they should be doing – acting calm and trusting the person at the end of their leash to take care of any offensive approaching people or dogs.

Since on-leash reactivity is usually a fear-based response, we need to change the way the dog actually feels about the presence of another dog while they are on-leash.

While you are in the training phase of leash reactivity, it is recommended you do not allow your dog to interact with another dog on-leash, unless your dog can approach the other dog with NO pulling and instantly respond to their name even within 1’ of the other dog.

To prevent the dog from practicing the reactivity, keep a safe distance (at least 10') away from other dogs while your dog is on-leash if at all possible. Your dog may need even more than 10 feet of space away from other dogs to feel comfortable.

Experiment to see how much distance your dog needs to remain calm. This distance may vary depending on the excitability or appearance of the other dog. Keep your dog’s attention on you by letting them earn their breakfast or dinner kibble on the walks by sitting and paying attention to you in a relaxed and calm manner.

Be sure to practice this behaviour frequently when other dogs are not present too so you have lots of practice time doing the right thing and your dog doesn't start to think the cue to "sit" is the cue to start scanning the environment because you only use it when other dogs are approaching. Cross the street or go down people's driveways before your dog starts reacting if possible. Then use your body to help block your dog’s focus from the approaching dog. This way you can reward your dog for looking at the approaching dog without reacting and you can use your body to block your dog from lunging out without relying on the leash.

To body block - turn your back to the approaching/strange dog and try to keep your hips lined up with your dog’s shoulders. Step in front of them as required to hold your position. If your dog manages to get past you bring them back to the spot where you started or try to take them further away from whatever they are reacting to.

It is beneficial to teach your dog to follow a hand target to get them out of these situations without putting tension on the leash. To learn how to teach your dog to follow a hand target, visit our blog.

If your dog won't take treats or food during these encounters with other dogs’ on-leash, it is an indicator they are so stressed by the other dog’s presence which also means they are too stressed to learn a new response. At whatever point your dog is able to turn and take the teats or food for example say it is ~15' from other dogs, is where you will start training a new response. We also recommend you toss the treats on ground and ask your dog to "find it." This will often trigger a seeking mechanism in your dog that will naturally help them relax.

Make sure you are using high value rewards. Last night's left over steak, dehydrated liver or tripe or sliced up hot dogs work well for most dogs. you can create a puppy trail mix so your dog doesn't get bored of the same treat or if your dog is not food motivated you can use a toy but run the risk of getting the dog more aroused.

If you do use a toy, keep your games low-key and brief (10 seconds or less).  Gradually (usually over about 2-3 months) you will see your dog start to see approaching dogs on-leash, in a more positive light.

However it could take much longer to be able to have your dog walk past another dog without reacting. Your first goal should be to achieve a sit-stay and focus on you when faced with most new dogs and work this up to the point where your dog can maintain a sit/stay while a dog walks by within a few feet.

What you want a dog to do isn't compatible or wouldn't allow them to display the offending behaviours. For example if a dog is in a sit-stay they can't be jumping or lunging. If the dog is focused happily and confidently on you they likely won't be able, nor will want to focus on or react to whatever else is happening.

Once a dog passes and there is a safe distance between you, try trailing behind the other dog so your dog can check out the other dog’s scent. If your dog stays clam and loose toss a couple of treats on the ground.

Make sure you are calm, happy and relaxed when training your feisty fido. Your behaviour and attitude can directly influence your dog's progress!


Recommended Readings

Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell and Karen London available at

It’s Yer Choice by Susan Garrett – Google to find You Tube videos and other info

Click to Calm by Emma Parsons