How to Help Your Dog Stop Lunging on Leash

How to Help Your Dog Stop Lunging on Leash

Do you have a playful pup who turns into a barking, lunging maniac as soon as you clip on the leash? It can be stressful for both of you and make walks anything but enjoyable. You may even worry that your dog is becoming aggressive. But fear not, there are effective methods to help your furry friend overcome this behavior and maintain a calm demeanor on walks.

Understanding Frustrated Greetings

When your dog eagerly greets other dogs in the park, they may become overexcited, leading to excessive barking and lunging. This behavior isn’t fair to your dog or the other dogs around them. It’s crucial to address this hyperarousal and encourage calmer behavior, reducing stress levels for everyone involved.

Introducing BAT: Behavior Adjustment Therapy

Behavior Adjustment Therapy (BAT) is a training technique developed by dog trainer Grisha Stewart. Unlike traditional counter-conditioning methods, BAT focuses on functional rewards to handle reactivity. By creating controlled scenarios, you can reward your dog for exhibiting disinterest or disengagement when seeing other dogs. For fearful dogs, the reward is moving further away, while for excitable dogs, it’s the opportunity to move closer. BAT teaches dogs to have lower excitement levels and make more thoughtful choices, much like meditation does for humans.

So, how can you implement BAT to curb your dog’s leash lunging habits? Let’s explore some strategies.

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The Importance of Stooge Dogs in Training

Heading straight to a busy park for training can overwhelm your dog. Helper dogs, often provided by Certified BAT Instructors, play a crucial role in laying the groundwork for polite greetings. These calm dogs create controlled environments, ensuring successful initial setups. Starting with stooge dogs allows your dog to learn proper greeting behavior before exposing them to more unpredictable encounters.

Setting the Right Threshold for Your Dog

Preventing your dog from becoming overly aroused is key to successful training. Once your dog reaches a heightened state of arousal, teaching new behaviors becomes nearly impossible. To avoid this, consider distributing food around the house or garden before walks to take the edge off. Additionally, choose an appropriate distance from the stooge dog to maintain a calm response. This distance should be close enough for your dog to see the stooge but far enough to avoid triggering an overexcited reaction.

Rewarding Calm Behavior for Long-Term Success

The ultimate goal is to teach your dog that calm behavior around other dogs is rewarding. Whether it’s offering yummy treats, playing with a beloved toy, or having the chance to socialize, rewarding your dog for alternative behaviors is crucial. Any time your dog displays calm behavior when seeing another dog, reward them immediately. This could include looking at you, sniffing the ground, sitting, or simply observing the other dog without reacting.

Recognizing Fear in Your Dog

Not all dogs displaying reactive behavior are frustrated greeters. Fear is often the driving force behind lunging and barking. Leashes can intensify anxiety, making your dog feel trapped and provoking these reactions as an attempt to escape the trigger. It’s important to avoid putting your dog in situations where they feel the need to react this way. By working at a distance within their comfort zone, you can prevent reinforcing negative behaviors and gradually change their response to a positive one.

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Understanding your dog’s body language can be challenging, and handling reactivity issues on your own can add stress to the equation. If you’re struggling, consider seeking assistance from a qualified behaviorist. These professionals can help you interpret your dog’s cues, create controlled setups, and guide you through the training process.

If you want to delve deeper into BAT training techniques, Grisha Stewart’s book, “Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0: New Practical Techniques for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs,” provides valuable insight and practical advice.

Remember, with patience, consistency, and the right training techniques, you can help your dog overcome leash lunging and create more enjoyable walks for both of you.