The Pack Leader April's Paws & Read Blog

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High Expectations, the Cure to Leash Reactivity


As a trainer, one of the things I hear most often from clients is that their dog has become immune to working with them on a specific issue. “Leash Reactivity” tops the list for me.

If you are struggling long term with this issue, then this blog is for you!


Let’s start with the most important aspect of working with your dog to correct this issue.

Number one being – getting professional help. Often the handler only calls me when this has become a major issue. At times they have dealt with these behaviours for months and sometimes years, and they want it fixed right now.

Let’s turn this around into another situation. You built a house and did your own plumbing. Ever since you completed your DIY there is a slow leak in the upstairs bathroom. No one corrects this issue for a year. Realistically you may not see major damages on the outside but the inside will need major reconstruction to correct this issue.

Now think of that as your dog's brain – it takes time to fix the dog and time to fix the house… and this all could have been fixed if you simply called the professional for help.


Now let’s talk about you!

I know you love your dog to pieces but yet you are so embarrassed by their reactions. You’re not alone: every single time I pass a dog – on a daily basis – it's rare I don’t have one that reacts. 

I love this quote to help me get through: "Embarrassment lasts a moment; regret lasts a lifetime.". This quote has pushed me through those moments when I’m downtown with a dog lunging, all teeth and a whole lot of snarling. In turn many times I felt like a failure after all the hard work I put into this dog.

However, it was times like these when I realized that what we both needed was motivation to move forward. Perhaps I’ve become immune to reactions because they don’t even bother me now. So please know whether you’re in my class or out on a walk and your dog reacts – I’m proud of you for being there and showing up!

Changing how you perceive this may take extra help. Life coaches and, even in extreme cases with some owners, anxiety counselling for yourself can help your dog more than you ever thought! Most of you send me your success stories, but I also want to hear the not-so-successful attempts and please know I’m always here to pick you up and help get you back on your feet for success!


Why exactly has Leash Reactivity become the most common issue?

The most problematic thing I see in the dog population is fear. People purchase a puppy and may not fully realize how important socialization is. They walk the same block, leave their dog at home most of the time and throw balls in the backyard.

Once you’ve passed those priceless age milestones where you’re going to make your mark — it will take you 10 times the amount of work to see progress. Major socialization is required for a dog to be a good canine citizen.

If you don’t have time for puppy class with a trainer who focuses on socialization, then seek private sessions to help prevent you from dealing with an adult with disastrous fear reactivity.


Now let’s talk about one of the more interesting effects; Genetics.

Most breeders and regular pet owners have no idea how much genetics comes into play but recent scientific studies show genetics can play a role of up to 50%. So what am I talking about here?

Potentially you could acquire a dog and do all the right training, socialization and the dog grow up to have aggressive or reactive tendencies. This occurs in all breeds. It can happen in a mixed breed dog and a purebred and is usually most prevalent in backyard breeders as education and care in temperament are usually lacking.


Right now in our world, we seem to be fixated on positive only training.

While I am very grateful we aren’t stuck in a world where we feel the need to solely use negative style training like the 70s — I can’t help but notice the rising epidemic of ‘bad dog’.

Balanced training is scientifically proven to work most effectively with the highest rate of client satisfaction. Sometimes ‘saying no’ (I don’t mean use the words but using the training to communicate this) is necessary. 

Being an open trainer who has taken some of the top courses in the world on all types of method – I can tell you they all work. However how long you want to spend working on it is your choice. I’ve spent 6 hours getting the same thing I can get in an hour - without EVER being rough or angry with a dog.

The choice is always the client’s and I always respect that. Never let anyone make you feel bad for how you train your dog – it’s your life and your dog!


Lastly, the effects of experience can create the reaction.

Now, most people look at this always in a negative aspect but let’s look at it in a positive first.

Our newest canine companion is not like any dog I’ve really had in the past. He is very outgoing, eager for attention from anyone, adores dog introductions and is ready for anything happy occurring in his life. If I allowed him 5 times to approach people or dogs in an out of control manner (Meaning he pulls me to greet them) I am creating an out of control dog who with time could then start barking and becoming ‘reactive’ from excitement within months.

So not all reactions are negative based. There are dogs I have seen who have been brutally attacked and required lots of assistance gaining their confidence back to not react out of fear towards passersby.


Final Words

Generally, there are many factors in achieving harmony on a leash and lots of things come into play. 

You can’t expect a perfect loose leash or an amazing recall if you can’t even get your dog to sit properly — those of you who train with me know the level of expectation I require.

If you’re training to achieve success, then find a trainer who is going to start at the foundation and move on from there for the best results!

Looking to take control and achieve the result you want with your dog, contact April today!



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Thursday, 13 June 2024