Dogs are highly social, to the point of compulsion. When most dogs spot another dog on the street, they are highly motivated to approach and investigate. Being on leash restricts their ability to do so. The resulting frustration translates into increased excitement and agitation, which can be alarming to the owner, who may then deliberately restrict access, tense up before encounters or even punish the dog. This starts an association between the sight of dogs and frustration as well as owner tension and possibly punishment. A vicious cycle is then born that often culminates in thwarting-related or "barrier frustration" aggression. This, combined with owner-proximity induced resource guarding, is why so many dogs are more aggressive on leash than off.
Part of the solution is recognizing the inherently abnormal situation of dogs meeting novel dogs with out freedom of movement. Owners can mitigate this by allowing dogs to approach and investigate friendly dogs or allowing them to do so after performing a "please may I" command such as "sit." If a dog has a well-advanced case of barrier-related aggression, a combination of changing the association from negative to positive, obedience proofing and remedial socialization will usually produce profound improvement.
- Aug 04 Mon 2008 23:51