L is for Lunging on Leashes

I’m adding this post to Blog the Change, because there’s not enough information online about the benefits of using a leash with clips on both ends. I recently had a lengthy online conversation with someone who “hates” clickers, harnesses, and head collars. He insisted that the best way to stop a dog from pulling is with a prong collar. I strongly disagree and challenge anyone struggling with a puller to try attaching a leash to the front and back of a harness, or a Halti and a harness, and see if they don’t get better results than they would with a prong collar. If you find the gear confusing, I recommend finding a force-free trainer familiar with Tellington Touch.

I played around with a couple of working titles for my memoir about Isis before I realized that obviously, I had to call it Bark and Lunge.

I don’t like to overuse descriptive phrases, so if I find that I’ve used an expression more than twice, I start looking for synonyms. There are no sufficient synonyms for barking and lunging, and since those words so perfectly described the behavior that challenged me the most, I decided to embrace it.

I don't have pictures of Isis lunging, but here she is wearing a Halti and a "balance" lead that helped me teach her not to lunge.

I don’t have pictures of Isis lunging, but here she is in 2009 wearing a Halti, harness, and a “balance” lead that helped me teach her not to lunge.

I’ve written before about clicker training, but another key element to alleviating Isis’s anxiety and leash-reactivity was using a leash that had two points of contact. We used a Halti head collar on Isis, but if your dog doesn’t go for that, you can attach a two-ended leash to the front and back of their harness. This can be done easily with a Freedom Harness or Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Harness.

Ironically, Isis was in an “off-leash obedience” class when she first started showing leash reactivity. The trouble was, a good portion of the class was still on-leash.

Funny thing about barking and lunging: I wasn’t even aware it was a thing before I had a reactive dog. As often as Isis did it, I don’t think I even had the words until I sought help from a trainer and needed to decribe her problem behavior. The way I initially perceived the lunge was straining against her leash.

Everyone knows what barking is, and all dogs do it. It’s not even necessarily problem behavior.

Lunging though. That wouldn’t exist if we didn’t keep dogs on leashes.

What a lunge would look like without a leash.

What a mighty lunge looks like without a leash.

I’m not arguing against leash laws. I have fairly strong voice control over Mia, and I’d still prefer to walk her on a leash in populous areas, but that’s because she’s not reactive.

For a leash-reactive dog like Leo, what would happen if he tried to lunge, but he wasn’t on a leash? He’d just find himself running, and then, because there was no barrier holding him back, he wouldn’t experience any barrier frustration. I don’t even think he’d bark… and the vicious bark and lunge cycle would be broken. Maybe.

Speaking of vicious cycles, I suspect Leo’s leash-reactivity stems back to his formative months when we tried to get Isis to tolerate him. We paraded Leo past her on a leash, while she barked and lunged at him. Is it any wonder he lashes out at stuff when he’s on leash?

L is for Lunging on Leashes

L

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7 thoughts on “L is for Lunging on Leashes

  1. Leads can definitely cause more problems than they solve, but unfortunately they are still necessary at times.

  2. Alma’s a bit of a lunger. Not so much with the barking – heavy breathing is more her thing. Maybe the odd growl – she’s a play-growler, so it’s something that comes out when she’s super excited. Which happens occassionally when she’s on-leash and sees another dog on-leash. It’s definitely improved over the years, but off-days do happen.
    And, like you say, the leash is a factor. Off-leash? Hardly an issue.

  3. The only time I’ve had a lunging problem, so far, is when the two dogs see certain “prey” while on leash – raccoons are the worst (and yes, also the worst were they to ever get close!) — leashes 100% necessary for that! I think their confidence is heightened because they are on the leash “attached” to me, but I don’t ever want to test if that’s true. 🙂

  4. Can you put the part about no prong collars in larger print, please? (j/k) Lunging is a frustrating behavior to deal with, and the average person in particular tends to gravitate toward the solution with the fastest results. Not necessarily the smartest, kindest, or truly most-successful choice. You provide some interesting options here, and most importantly – open a dialogue about leashes, harnesses, and collars. I’d like to think we all want a kinder approach in managing our dogs’ behavior.

    Thank you for blogging the change for animals,
    KimT
    http://www.btc4animals.com

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