Leash Aggression: At Home Impulse Control Exercises for your Dog

Leash Aggression: At Home Impulse Control Exercises for your Dog

As a disclaimer, I am not a professional dog trainer. These are just tips and tricks I'm learning from trainers and professionals in my quest to deal with Jordi's leash aggression and impulse control issues. 

When you start out training your leash-aggressive dog, it's important that it's done in a controlled environment. This helps you set your dog up for success. It gives them the opportunity to focus on and master core behaviors before they're put in front of stimuli that can make it harder to learn. These are some at-home exercises you can try to reinforce that your dog's biggest reward is achieved when they check in with you, and they can trust you to make good choices when they feel scared or anxious. 

For these you would just need some smelly treats (we use cheese or turkey) and your dog's leash. 

1. The "leave it" game: 

For beginners: 

  • Grab some delicious and smelly treats in the palm of your hand. Show it to your dog, and instruct him to "leave it" (n.b. this will be the only time you say leave it during this exercise). When your dog starts trying to get the treats, close your fist and keep them closed until he stops trying.

  • Open your hand again and repeat.

  • Once your dog goes into the down position and stops trying to get treats from your hand, happily say "yes" and give him one of the treats!

More advanced: 

  • Once your dog shows repeated success with the previous version of the game, you can move the treats to the floor. If your dog tries to get the treats, cover them with your hands.

  • When he stops trying to get them and offers the down position, you say "yes" and give him a treat!

What success looks like: 

Dog ignores the piles of treats, and waits in the down position to be given one. He's learning that rewards will come if he waits for you. 

2. Lunging: 

Lunging is probably the most common leash aggression complaint. In this exercise, we practice not lunging in a controlled environment. It's a great way to get your dog focus and calm, and his mind will be active thinking about what you're trying to get from him. 

  • First put your dog on leash. Place piles of treats along your hallway or living area in locations where you can walk by with your dog, and he would be able to easily see and smell them.

  • Walk with your dog past the piles of treats. If he tries to lunge towards the treats, gently tug his leash and say "let's go."

  • Once he's successfully walking past the treats 2-3 times, choose one of the piles, point to it and instruct your dog to "take it." You want to make sure you set your dog up for success, so make sure you point and say "take it" before they would usually lunge.

What success looks like: 

Dog walks past the piles of treats, but stays focused on the walks. They don't try to lunge or start walking towards the treats without your permission. 

3. Treat Toss:

This is assuming your dog already knows the "stay" command. We're taking it up another notch here. 

  • Get your dog in a sit or down position while on leash.

  • Put his leash on the floor and step on it. Make sure you're leaving room for your dog to comfortably get up.

  • Instruct your dog to "stay," then take some treats and toss them a safe distance away.

  • If he tries to go after the treats, say "leave it" and wait until he stops trying to get them.

  • You can use your clicker or a "yes" and treat your dog when the offer the down position.

What success looks like: 

Your dog stops trying to go after the treats when you throw them. He offers the down position and waits to be treated. 

These are the exact exercises we're using with Jordi. We're going to be practicing these for the next two weeks while going on shorter walks. The goal is to decrease his exposure to stimuli that makes him fearful or anxious, and stimulate him in ways that build his skills and confidence. 

Let me know how these exercises work for you. The dogs and I will be sending you all good vibes as we work on these together 💕

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