Why dogs may act differently on a leash

Why dogs may act differently on a leash

Dogs bark. We all know that. Some bark more than others, and there are numerous situations that increase the likelihood that a dog will bark. A friend asked me, through Finchley Dog walker, why his dog was different on the leash and barked more, so I thought I would share my experiences when dog walking, and explain why it is that dogs act differently on the leash.

Barking is a form of communication. Most dogs will bark when they feel threatened, or when they feel that something that ‘belongs’ to them is threatened. This could be you, their dog walker, your property, their food, their toys etc. They bark to warn of danger, to alert humans to intruders, and they may also bark from boredom or anxiety. Barking should not always be discouraged of course, but it can become a problem if it’s persistent and it can indicate that a dog’s needs are not being addressed.

Dogs also tend to react differently when they’re on a leash rather than when they’re running freely. Many dogs will lunge and bark whilst on a leash – because this behaviour will keep other dogs away. This can be because a dog is not very well socialised and/or has a fear or dislike of other dogs, or simply because he feels threatened.

Many dogs feel frustrated whilst on a leash because they are being restrained. Dogs behave very differently when off the leash when faced with other dogs – they approach each other slowly usually with their heads bowed, and they avoid eye contact initially. They sometimes have their tails wagging and display signs of friendly interest. In contrast, dogs on leashes are in an artificial situation; they are forced to approach each other head on at a faster pace, and are thus more likely to make eye contact with each other.

Eye contact is a threatening gesture for dogs, and this coupled with both dogs straining on their leashes adds to the tension that frequently results in the dogs barking and lunging at one and other.

Dogs always want to approach and investigate each other, but if a dog is showing aggression and their barking whilst on a leash is becoming a problem, then the issue can be addressed by remaining calm and not conveying your own tension to the dog, moving away from the approaching animal. Giving your dog treats when it does not focus on the approaching dog is also helpful, and it sometimes helps to ensure your dog has not been fed before its walk, as hungry dogs are more likely to obey commands in order to get treats, which makes them more co-operative.