Why do some dogs behave better off leash than on lead? Is there a connection between leash pulling and heightened reactivity to people and other dogs? The answer is yes, and understanding the fascinating psychology behind it can help you manage the behavior.
In the long, intertwined history of people and dogs, the leash and leash walking are relatively new inventions, designed for convenience and safety. Humans walk in straight lines, confident in the belief that they are in charge because they are holding the leash. But restricted, linear walks are unnatural to dogs, who prefer to meander and explore. Dogs pull on the leash in an effort to increase the meandering. Humans pull back to increase the restricting. This combination of pulling away and pulling back puts pressure on the dog’s collar and he starts to choke and feel very anxious.
Though I hate having to leash dogs at all, cooperative walking skills are a necessary evil. Learning how to condition and redirect your leash reactive dog is easier than you might think: when walks are associated positively your outings will shift from frustration to a cause for mutual celebration.
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