view all puppy resources

Act now to prevent on leash dog reactivity
Dog Reactivity
On leash dog reactivity, particularly reactivity toward other dogs, is a very common problem Many dogs bark, lunge, growl, snap, and drag their guardian toward other on-leash dogs. This makes it difficult to simply walk with your dog around your neighborhood.
The puppy in the video has already shown that he is likely to develop issues with dog reactivity if steps to prevent the problem are not taken. In this session the trainer is rewarding the puppy for following her on a loose leash around another dog – and especially for leaving the other dog when asked. The puppy also gets rewarded for calmly watching the other dog, without pulling toward. If your puppy has shown any dog-reactivity red flags (like over-arousal or excitement around other dogs, pulling toward other dogs, barking at other dogs, inattention to you around other dogs, nervousness around other dogs, etc.) then exercises like the one in the video would be extremely valuable.
What follows are some tips to help prevent on-leash dog-dog reactivity.
    If puppy is pulling toward another dog or dogs that he is going to play with, don’t unsnap him while he is pulling. Instead, ask for attention to you, reward the attention with tasty treats, then release dog to play. Make this a habit. Make a promise to yourself right now that you will never let pulling be rewarded.

    If every time puppy sees another dog he pulls and you correct puppy with verbal or physical punishment, he can form this association: other dogs equal pain in my neck and/or an angry owner. This is an unpleasant association, and can cause your puppy to fear the approach of other dogs. Instead, get puppy’s attention and give a tasty treat every time he sees or hears a strange dog. This helps him form a pleasant association: yippee! a dog! I might get a treat! (This technique also results in a dog who pays attention to you around other dogs – a good thing.)

    Puppy should never be allowed to pull and meet another dog on leash. If sometimes pulling works and sometimes it doesn’t, puppy can become frustrated when he pulls and doesn’t get to greet. Instead, follow these simple rules…

    • Go Say Hi! or some other consistent cue should be used before puppy can greet
    • Attention should be on you before you allow puppy to greet (in other words, before you say “go say hi!”)
    • Short & sweet – on leash greetings should be just a few seconds, then puppy should be called away (and rewarded!)
    • Loose leash – tight leases make it difficult for dogs to communicate with each other and can increase stress as well. Keep the leash loose while dogs are greeting, and don’t drag puppy away, call him away instead (this takes lots of practice with high value rewards!)

    Socializing puppy during this sensitive period is important, but it is also important to maintain this socialization for puppy’s entire adolescence.

    If puppy is in a situation that he cannot handle/get past without pulling or lunging, use a treat transport, tug transport, carry puppy, or move him gently on his front-clip harness to avoid him practicing this behavior.


  • A front-clip harness is the best equipment for a puppy showing signs of dog-reactivity.
  • It is a myth that friendly, dog-social dogs cannot become reactive. Many dogs who play well off-leash become reactive on-leash out of frustration, arousal, and a lack of self-control.
  • Many trainers do not allow their dogs to greet other dogs on leash at all. This keeps things simple for the dog. Being on leash is a clear cue to these dogs that other dogs are unavailable, and therefore they do not become frustrated or confused. The dog’s social needs are met in play groups and meet ups, not during leash walks. It is an option, albeit an unusual one.
  • Take care of this problem sooner rather than later. It will not get better on its own, and allowing puppy to practice barking, lunging, and pulling toward other dogs is something you will certainly regret later.