Monday, November 21, 2011

Leash Walk Stress and Tug

I have admitted on many occasions that I know it is best to walk your reactive dogs singly, so that each dog gets a chance to practice calmness around his triggers. 

Reactive dogs carry around a high level of stress and anxiety in general, and there is evidence that dogs in multi-dog households carry a higher level of stress as well. 

Combine two reactive dogs on a leash walk, and the potential for stress is high. Key to working with reactive dogs is working with them sub-threshold. With the higher stress levels generated by just being around other dogs, your reactive dog is going to be near-threshold before he even sets eye upon the bicyclists or other dogs or other things that trigger him. So you've got even less time to whip out your treats and countercondition, or just turn around and go the other way. 

I say all this, but when it comes to walk time, I just don't always walk my talk. 

The whole idea behind getting Sandy was so she and Fozzie could be each others personal trainers and I could walk solo with Lamar. 
But sometimes Fozzie and Sandy just look at me too piteously when I leash up Lamar and I can't bear it. So I leash up all three of them, and we walk together on a specially chosen route that sometimes has no other dog walkers along it. 

And lo and behold, sometimes--like when there are no other dog walkers--we do just fine! All three are pretty calm, not that much pulling, and most of the time OK when we pass people of different sizes, shapes, ages, and speeds, on bicycles and with strollers. 

When we do see another dog? Utter disaster. Usually I am frantically trying to distract Fozzie's attention, with some success until one of the others looks at the other dog and barks. Fozzie then inevitably looks, then rears, lunges, barks like a crazy man, and grabs the nearest leash and tugs at it furiously. Sandy or Lamar is now being dragged by the leash, and responds by snarling and trying to get away (Lamar) or getting into the tug too (Sandy). 

I've known other leash tuggers, but none quite so intense as Fozzie. The metal leash is a great solution, but not on the multi-walks when there are other nylon leashes available to grab. 

Our friends at In Black & White have written eloquently of Alfred's similar favorite game of leash tug. I am wondering who else out there struggles with this one, will admit to being reduced to a flustered frazzled whimpering yelling or sputtering Bad Dog Owner at those moments--and better yet, who has a solution? 


  1. Two Pitties had a guest blogger on Tues 11/8 that talked about this very thing and had some good tips. Did you see it? Fozzie always looks so chilled out. Hard to imagine him giving you fits on a walk :)

    The Road Dogs

  2. While with a lot of effort a very anxious dog (hunting and fighting breeds are the hardest to bring about usually) can be made social ... a very scared or 'damaged' dog may struggle the whole of their life to be helped.
    dog walker


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