Why behavior on the leash is not the real problem.
When our dogs pull like crazy or loudly scare other dogs away, almost knocking us down, it’s a very obvious sign that something is wrong.
But the obvious is not necessarily the real problem.
I often see leash manners being trained with a dog that pulls (usually in puberty). Or in the case of a dog that flips out, as much training as possible is done on encounters with other dogs.
And in rare cases, this is the only necessary path.
Much more often, however, so much of the real reason behind the problem is missed out on, that the training is useless.
We need to go deep instead of scratching the surface to really make a difference for our dogs and give them a carefree life. If we can do that, the problems will go away and we will be able to enjoy our time together again.
So let’s take a look at the most common root causes.
Cause 1: Stress
Especially young dogs have an increased stress level. This happens simply due to hormonal changes and brain development, without us having to contribute anything.
However, this fact often gets lost in everyday life and the special needs of a pubescent are not considered appropriately.
Thus a constant fight develops between annoyed parents and pubescent dogs. Both feel provoked and screwed by the other. This usually leads to stricter handling, which in turn drives up the stress level.
You see, it creates a vicious circle.
But not only pubescent young dogs experience such an increased stress level.
Often, a far too full daily routine with far too little sleep is the cause. We quickly forget that our dogs have a much higher need for sleep than we humans (well, with the exception of strength athletes, they come closer to it).
Therefore, guessing is not a good idea here either. We really need objective facts. And we get them by simply recording when the dog rests and sleeps.
The result is often frightening.
Then we still need to consider that stressed, old, young, and sick animals need more sleep. So if we have a dog that is constantly pulling or freaking out, there is a high probability that he needs more sleep.
The same is true for puppies, who get their sleep and rest time shrunk often due to the pressure of socialization time (he needs to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible). This also leads to a teen dog who is completely out of it and can’t participate at all.
So what can we do?
We look at what stresses our dogs (this is where courage and honesty are needed) and cut back on everything we can first. Certain things will remain, that’s life. But by reducing significantly, we can gain a lot.
By the way, physical and mental health also belong to this category. So if the dog has diarrhea every now and then, smells, or goes/sits somehow awry, a specialized veterinarian (not the primary care veterinarian) should do a thorough examination.
Mental health then leads us right into…
Cause 2: Fear
Again, this is an extremely underestimated cause. And the bigger and stronger the dog, the more it is underestimated.
When we think of fear, we see a dog running away in panic or cowering in the corner, trembling. Fear, however, has many faces, and not every one is so obvious.
It may be fear in the situation. The dog approaches a fellow dog on a narrow path and does not quite know how to act. After all, the other is walking very straight and fast towards him (very rude).
This missing plan makes a bad feeling. In this case, many people speak of insecurity. However, this is nothing else than fear.
The dog will pull himself together until he can’t stand it anymore and then explode. The other dog passes by and our dog has a feeling of relief and success… after all, his freak-out has driven the other one away (our dog doesn’t know that he would have gone on anyway).
In the same way, our dog may find the weather or certain sounds or smells a little uncomfortable. He can not understand them and is worried.
Again, fear is behind this and it most likely manifests itself in pulling on the leash.
But it can also be general fears that do not necessarily have anything to do with the situation.
So if a dog is afraid of thunderstorms and it is thunderstorm season, he is generally more tense and more easily irritable.
We may not notice the fear, but the irritability when brushing or the tension when pulling on the leash.
An unsafe living situation can also trigger such permanent tension. This often happens when dogs live in households with violent people. But also in households with children, if there is no meticulous care that the dog remains “untouched”.
And often underestimated is, that such permanent insecurity also occurs when certain training methods (eg, corrections, blocking, jerking, etc.) are used.
However, the most common and severe case in terms of fear is separation anxiety. Here the dogs go into a feeling of panic as soon as they are alone and remain in this emotion until relief (i.e. someone comes to them) occurs.
Again, the symptoms do not have to be obvious or noticeable.
There are dogs that suffer silently and the only symptom is irritability, which manifests itself, for example, by rioting on the leash, growling about food, or the like.
You see, we have to look closely to be able to really help our dogs in a sustainable way and to change the emotion of too much excitement or fear into relaxation and joy and thus solve the problem once and for all.
All that sounds a bit overwhelming? Let’s book a free discovery call and see how I can get you to where you wanna be with your dog, faster.