My Australian Shepherd Is Leash Reactive

by Mimi

We adopted a 3 year old Australian Shepherd approximately 7 months ago. She is a sweetheart, loves everyone, adults and children, and is very quiet and gentle, (and on the shy side) but needed a lot of TLC as we were told she was kept indoors using pee pee pads (she's 39 lbs.) to eliminate. We needed to house train her which she took to almost immediately with me taking her out every 1/2 hr for a few days.

She was also very afraid of all the outside noises, cars, wind, birds and was not leash trained and would drag me on our walks and lunge at any animal, insect or bird. Still working on the leash walking but she is 90% better than when we brought her home.

The one BIG problem is her leash reactive/aggression when she is on leash walking and we see another dog being walked. She turns into Cujo, lunging, flipping crazy barking. I have tried everything I've read on the subject and she's not quite as bad but it's still a big problem and very embarrassing.

If she is let to meet and sniff the other dog, though not everyone wants to trust a dog with this behavior, a few times (she does not growl, snap or try to bite) then if she sees the same dog a few more times she is defused but she can't always go up to and sniff every dog we see.

I occasionally take her to doggie day care and there is no problem at all there but there all dogs are off leash.

I believe she was never socialized with other dogs. We have been taking her to Petsmart and also Fresh Markets where there are always a lot of leashed dog walking and she does really well but there is so much going on at these places that she can't complete focus on an individual dog.

I do walk her everyday 4-5 times a day. Does anyone who has had this problem have any suggestions for me? Thank you!

Comments for My Australian Shepherd Is Leash Reactive

Click here to add your own comments

Reactive Aussie
by: Kathy

I have a male Aussie that all of a sudden had leash aggression. It was hard to get a good walk in without him freaking out at another dog typically medium to large in size.

I took and online course from Udemy, a Growl Workshop for leash reactive dogs (Dr. Ian Dunbar). They had a sale on their courses and it was only $10 in August. I learned a few tricks and it has helped. Treats and getting them to focus on you are key. Also, you need to keep relaxed. If you tense up when you suspect there will be a flare up, your tension is felt through the leash and the dog senses fear/ anxiety and then reacts.

My dog isn't 100 percent perfect but we work on "training" every day. Also, I will warn people that my dog isn't friendly so their dog doesn't come too close.

Remember, relax and be persistent!

Good luck!

Leash Reactive
by: Mimi

Thank you Kathy! I definitely will check out that course. The 1st day we brought her home she did this with both me and my husband so I think it was something that she has been doing all along. I do try to get her to focus on me but once she is in the zone it's impossible. I have tried to get and keep her attention if I see a dog before she does and that hasn't worked either. i think it may be something that is going to take work.

Leash reactive
by: Kathy

It does take work and hopefully you Aussie is good motivated. I use Cheerios since they are small and non-filling. Sometimes it takes one tip that will work for you and your dog!

Stay Calm
by: Ann

I've been dealing with that recently too with my 10 month old, and I realized that I used to pull up on the leash and tense up when I saw another dog coming... which I can only imagine fed into Kodi's desire to investigate the other dog. It's not aggression, but just wanting to meet the other dog. I couldn't even distract him with good treats, which I heard about trying.

The biggest thing that has helped me is to just stay calm, and also trying to distract him before I see his ears perk up. Sometimes that involves me having him sit, then just praising and cuddling him, or sometimes I'll just tap his rump which distracts him from his alert stage just enough to prevent the crazy barking and pulling. :) I think the biggest thing is just trying to keep him from getting into that alert stage, and it's still a work in progress, but much better than it used to be.

Leash Reactive
by: Mimi

Thank you Ann! We have had our rescue Aussie for about 9 months now (she is almost 4 years old) and is still a work in progress. We are constantly working on her leash reactiveness. It seems to mainly be when 1 dog is walking toward her and there is nothing else going on around her to capture her focus. I did have a trainer (of course he just gives me the tools and I have to work with her) for 1 hr a week for 6 weeks and he kept mentioning that I had to relax while walking her and that was hard to do as the 1st day we brought her home and I got out of the car to walk her before bringing her into our house and we ran into another dog and she did her crazy pulling, flipping and barking even before we were near the other dog. It really took me by surprise and scared me as she is 40 lbs and very strong (she also hadn't been taught to work on a leash and was not used to being outside at all and she wasn't socialized with people or other dogs). We still have a problem, and it's not quite as bad but I know I can handle it. Getting her to focus on me at these times remains a problem and I've tried everything but I continue to work on it and try to socialize her by going to doggie day care, petsmart, outdoor fresh markets and she is so worth all the work!!

Reactive leash
by: Anonymous

This will take time. A trainer told me with Aussies because they are so smart that you have to anticipate their actions and ward it off. So if you see another dog eyc PRIOR to them going into behavior cause the distraction. What I did was my pup is very treat motivated and I decided to implement a command or two with treats. Dog passed while focused and she gets tons of praises. She can now pass MOst frogs but there are some that I think body language wise I think she interprets as a threat to me. Constant training and each year it gets better.

Leash Reactive
by: Mimi

Anonymous, Thank you so much for your input. I am realizing that there is no quick fix. We adopted Skye at 3 yrs of age and have had her for 9 months and the improvement in everything really is amazing (wasn't potty trained, couldn't walk on a leash at all . . . 38 lbs of pulling me down the street . . . was afraid of everything outside i.e. cars, leaves blowing, trees blowing in the wind, any kind of outside noise, didn't sit, down, etc) But the worst was the crazy jumping, flipping, crazy barking when another dog on a leash approached and we never expected it because she is a very quiet, shy dog. She is really a lot better and I am realizing by everyones helpful comments that this is going to take a lot of time and patience . . . and she is definitely worth it to me.

Not alone
by: Anonymous

It comforts me that I am not alone with a leash reactive Aussie. Ours is a 5 year old mini who weighs in around 32 pounds of strong little dog. Her reactivity started around age 2 after she was attacked by two separate German shepherds while she was on a leash. I wish I realized then how traumatic it was on her. We have just started a 6 week class at the SPCA for reactive dogs. I am encouraged by all of your progress. Good luck everyone!

Leash reactive
by: Mimi

I’m sorry to hear that your mini was attacked by 2 German shepherds. That must have been very traumatic! Because we adopted Skye at 3 years of age I don’t know if anything similar may have happened to her. She is now 5 yrs old and still reactive mainly to larger dogs (she’s 40 lbs now and very strong) but doesn’t react anywhere near how she use to. If we are walking on the sidewalk and encounter a dog coming toward us, I either reverse direction if I can or walk off into the bike lane on our road to pass. She will still react but if I keep her moving and as far away as I can to the other dog it’s not too bad. I work with her all the time but have come to realize that she will probably never be that dog who loves all other dogs. Sometimes she is allowed to meet the other dog and then after that she remembers them and doesn’t react anymore. If I take her to an outdoor art show and there are lots of people and lots of dogs she doesn’t react but I think that is because all the movement around her keeps her from focusing on 1 dog. Getting a few pointers from a trainer is very beneficial. Let me know how things go.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Australian Shepherd Q & A. icon

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Have Dog Training Questions?

Check out these introductory dog training videos...

I want some help training my new puppy.

I want my dog to stop barking at everything.

I want my dog to walk nicely and calmly on the leash.

I want my dog to listen and come every time I call!

I want my dog to stop being aggressive.