Tag Archives: leash agression

DogDaz Zoo: Loving Fearful Dogs – 4 Control Methods On A Walk

Understanding a fearful dog has its challenges. The more I understand what makes Louise scared, the better I able to help her manage her behavior. But even after 7 years, I don’t know all of Louise’s triggers. Just when I think that she is calm and able to handle a passing dog, she lunges and loses it. For example, we walked by a parked car yesterday and there was a lady sitting in it with her window down. The dogs and I didn’t see the lady. As we started to walk past, close to the driver’s side, the lady said out her open window “hello.” That startled Louise and she reared and growled and barked. It feels like 2 steps forward, 1 step back, much of the time.

Here is my list of Lulu’s fear behaviors:

  • She growls and aggressively barks at people or animals that make her nervous. This includes running the fence line and when people enter the house.
  • She cowers and does other submissive behaviors, like hiding behind me. This is mostly in the house. This is common when there are loud noises, like fireworks, or thunder.
  • She pulls and lunging toward the person or animal that makes her scared. This is out of the house on leash behavior.
  • The worst and most dangerous fear-based reaction she has is that she snaps and bites at people that scare her. It is usually unprovoked by the person.

My theory about why she is so fearful goes back to her possible lack of socialization during that critical sensitive period of puppyhood at 6 to 10 weeks of age (see my recent post on this topic). I think that she was probably left alone in a barn or a field, or under a rock, with maybe her mom and sister and had very little human interaction in her early weeks. Since there was a collar embedded in her neck when she was rescued, clearly someone put the collar on her and then ignored her as she grew bigger over the weeks. I rescued her at about 20 to 24 weeks, so the lack of socialization already imprinted her fear center by that time.

Today Louise is afraid of strange people and animals. I noticed that she is more fearful of men than women (which I understand is common). She definitely does not like people in hats, male or female. She has not been around children much so I don’t know if she is fearful of them, but she definitely is afraid of adults. I wonder about racial differences, but she appears to be afraid of everyone equally. She is fine with dogs that she does not know at the dog park when off leash, but can have a fear reaction to the same dogs when walking by on leash. She has specific dog friends in the neighborhood that she is fine with and then there are certain dogs that just make her see RED. I guess experts would classify her has clearly ‘leash aggressive.’

Managing the Fear

I am a big proponent of avoidance and distraction. When I see someone walking a dog toward us, I try if possible, to turn around and walk the other way. This way Louise never gets close enough to enter what I call her Red Zone. There is a certain distance at which she will start to show stress. She can manage to hold it together only for so long and then she enters the Red Zone from which there is no coming back. The weird thing is that it is not with all dogs or people, so I never know exactly when she is going to blow. She really hates big white dogs, but one of her best friends is a white Shepard mix. She doesn’t like the little yappy dogs around the neighborhood (Havanese, Lhasa Apso, etc.) but she doesn’t mind the old blind pug or the scrappy loose mop that lives down by the river. If she knows certain dogs she can be fine with them, but not all dogs. She is actually fine at the dog park off leash.

When walking Louise I try to be very aware of what is coming and going around us. I try to anticipate what is around the corner whenever possible. The more distance I can have between us and a stranger or strange animal, the better able I am to reduce her fear and stress. When frightened on a walk, Louise tries to make the scary thing, person or animal, go away by growling, barking, and/or lunging. My method is first to try and remove her from the situation. When unfamiliar dogs are coming towards us, I turn around, walk down another street, sometimes, if trapped, I will walk up someone’s driveway and keep Louise’s focus on me. I think it is weird but many dog people don’t understand that when I turn around and walk the other way (with 3 dogs in tow), I am trying to avoid them. Many times those people will follow right behind us or cut us off as I round the street (my neighborhood streets all loop around because we are a peninsula). When I can’t avoid a strange dog there are a few things I do. First, I make everyone sit and look at me until the dog/person passes. Louise is better if the stranger is in front of us (which makes sense so she can see them). Sometimes, I place my body in her line of sight to force focus on me. Then, once they pass, I can move along at a safe distance. When a runner or walker or even a car comes by, I always have the dogs sit and wait until they pass. For me, keeping everyone under control is critical for their safety, mine, and of course, the stranger/strange animal. Having all dogs ‘sit stay’ is my key, not that I trust that Louise won’t lunge if not watched.

A mistake that I used to make was to tighten up on her leash when walking past things that I knew scared her. This was so I could control the lunge if it happened. However, I think that my tension traveled down the leash to her and reinforced her negative behavior. Now I try to be more aware of just moving along and not reacting. I want to believe that the leash is not the control mechanism between me and my dog, but, sadly, when Louise sees red, no words seem to keep calm or control a fearful dog.

I can feel the dog tension when there is an outside cat, fox, or squirrel nearby. I just keep walking and try to have them ignore the critter. Squirrels can be very stupid (as we know) and I have even had foxes come directly in front of the pack without a care. This is not so easy to handle other than using my ‘ignore’ command. When they ‘ignore’ something like this, they get a treat. It really depends on how close the threat. Too close nothing works other than to get out of the zone as quickly as possible to regain equilibrium.

Finally, I practice what I call the ‘look at me’ technique. Giving her a treat when she focuses on me. When she looks in my eyes. Every chance I get, I try to reinforce her ‘looking at me’ for guidance and direction. My hope is that by her focusing on me, which is safe, she can calm down enough to move along.

Distance, avoidance, distraction, and focus. These are the tools in my Louise bag.

If your dog is leash aggressive and fearful you might want to consider a professional trainer to help you with getting control of the situation. If a walk is not fun for you, it surely no fun for your dog.

Just another DogDaz morning at the zoo ❤


Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Animals


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DogDaz Zoo: Leash Your Dog – PLEASE

Just the other day I posted about how people need to not let their dogs approach other dogs on leash, even if they ‘think’ their dog is friendly. There is a good reason for that! Not every dog is friendly or wants to meet you. So, what do you do when your neighbor won’t put their dog on a leash at all and it runs at you and your reactive dog on leash?


Yesterday my dog walker, Rachel, came in all shaken up after taking Louise for her morning walk. As you know, Lulu is nervous and leash reactive. There is a lady in my neighborhood who never walks her beautiful white golden retriever on leash. This dog, Carmel, runs all over lawns and poops wherever it wants. I have watched this for years (and it has always ticked me off – but that is for another blog). Usually, if I am walking the dogs and I see this dog (or any dog except one we know) coming, I turn around and go another way.

Rachel was having a nice walk with Louise but then bounding out of someone’s yard from behind some bushes comes Carmel. Straight toward Rachel and Louise.

The owner was several yards away paying no attention to her ‘at-large’ animal. Rachel yelled at the dog to stop and placed herself between Louise and this approaching train.

Whether Carmel is friendly or not does not matter.  No animal should be allowed to menace my dog walker, my dog, or me. The owner finally called her dog but not after it was right up on Rachel. If Louise had bitten that dog, it would be Louise they take away. Rachel is a wonderful dog walker (Simplifido is her company)  and she takes protection of the dogs in her care very seriously. Seriously enough that she put herself between Louise and the approaching dog to protect Lulu. Rachel yelled at the lady to have her dog on leash and that it was the law, but I don’t think the lady cared. Rachel said she did not hear an apology or anything from the woman.


Now here is my question to you, dog lovers and blog friends:

(1) Should I talk to this lady about the situation? I met her once about 15 years ago (she lives about 20 houses away). I see her in the street with the dog often but always keep my distance, for obvious reasons. Not knowing her personally, this would definitely be an uncomfortable situation. Sadly, I doubt she would care or change her behavior even if I talked to her.  (But, I was thinking of doing this.)

(2) Do I file a complaint with animal control?  The county doesn’t make filing a complaint easy. I would have to send a notarized affidavit of complaint to the county. They will, upon verification and at their discretion, send a notice to the alleged offending owner. This lady could ignore that notice, since county animal control is never around the neighborhood to see. (Rachel thought this might be a good idea if I took pictures of the dog running loose.)

(3) Do I write a letter to the lady myself? This feels kind of like a cowards way out but it would let me express how unsafe letting her dog run loose is. Though it has not happened to her yet, the chance of her dog getting bit, or worse, might scare her into leashing her dog (NOT!).  (My sister thought this was the way to go. Safer for me and still expressing my concerns.)

(4) Do I post an open letter in the Community Newsletter?  This would be cathartic for me, but I don’t know if anyone, besides me and the people that write it, reads the email from the neighborhood association.

(5) Do I do nothing?  Carmel is old (maybe 14 or so) and will probably die in the next year or so (I know that is a terrible way to think). The problem will ultimately solve itself, so why bother. (My spouse’s non-confrontational method.)

(6)  Here is Nine’s answer:


I’ve included a link to an informative article on dealing-with-off-leash-dogs. When I read stuff like this at least I don’t feel like I am the only person going through this. I don’t mind turning around to avoid other dogs, but it is so hard when pet owners are clueless of what that action means and just keep walking toward us. And worst, of course, is when they have a loose dog.

Years ago I was a clueless pet owner too. My first few dogs were docile and easy going. Like most people, I had no reason to think about unfriendly, anxious, or aggressive dogs. I had never heard or experienced reactive dog issues. Education is key. We need to help people understand that in a community setting, dogs need to be leashed and kept at a distance unless otherwise discussed.

What would you do?



Just another DogDaz morning at the zoo ❤


Posted by on April 13, 2016 in Dogs


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Monday Mischief: What To Do If Your Dog REACTS


Lulu and Mojo playing

Lulu and Mojo playing


I love the idea that you get what you reward.  With Louise I am always anticipating every situation in the outside world so that she does not freak out, and with Sofie, it is just the opposite, I have to anticipate everything inside to keep her anxious OCD world manageable.

What mischief did you get into today?



This is a blog hop. I hopped it from MYBrownNewfies. Check them out for more mischief.

Just another DogDaz morning at the zoo ❤


Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Dogs


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