Sweet Josie is lead reactive when outJosie looks like a little fox and I have no idea what mix she is. She is divine.

She lives with a lady who has some mobility problems who got her from Wood Green Animal Sanctuary six months ago. At home Josie is the perfect companion, sweet natured and undemanding.

In a way Josie’s case is a bit similar to the last one I went to – German Shepherd Storm. Both dogs are no problem at all at home and friendly to people, but become insecure and very reactive to other dogs when out.

Lead reactive

Josie’s problem is more specific in that she’s only aggressive to dogs when she is trapped on lead. She’s lead reactive. When out running freely with dogs in a field she is absolutely fine.

She needs to build up some faith in her lady so that instead of feeling unsafe and vulnerable, trapped on the end of a lead with an uncomfortable head halter held by an increasingly nervous owner, she feels comfortable, protected and safe.

We looked into equipment that would be suitable for walking Josie comfortably beside the mobility scooter. She needs to stop pulling.

The lady is fine walking short distances so will initially work in the front garden. A popular dog walk is down the road and dogs frequently go past the end of the drive. They will also go out to the road and just stand and watch the world go by so that lead reactive Josie learns to relax.

Building trust

As soon as a distant dog appears – the road is long and straight – the lady will work on Josie on lead as demonstrated by me, always remaining within her threshold; she will retreat up the garden, increasing the distance. She will use encouragement and food to associate dogs with only good things (a technique that can only be used when the dog is sub-threshold, before the barking and lunging begins and her brain goes into a different zone).

Similar to Storm, Josie has been able to perfect her ‘barking at dog’ skills from home, barking at the front window; everything must be done to reduce opportunities for barking at passing dogs. Any barking there is gives the lady an opportunity to react in a positive way instead of scolding her. A good ‘dog parent’ is the protector.

Josie needs to trust her lady to look after her around other dogs in order to become less lead reactive. As in many cases it is largely about how the humans behave.