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« Defining "working" -- Springfield, MO edition | Main | The Convenience of Killing »

November 09, 2011


Lori S.

Emailing PDF to you, Brent.


The leash plays a role because a dog who feels vulnerable can't run away while restrained on a leash, so he acts scary instead to make the Scary Thing go away. Its a simple "fight or flight" response.


It was once theorized to me that a dog on a leash feels more protective of the leash holder, as if the literal connection made the dog feel "responsible" for the owner. True or not true I don't know.
I also think dogs can be as mercurial as people. Having a bad day makes me want to bite as well.


Lovely summary of the study. It'll be a very interesting read. I was struck by how much the leash did matter - not that I was surprised by personal experience, but it's good to see physical data regarding this phenomena.


Lisa - Well played. That was one of theories discussed in the research study. I'm not sure what the "right" answer is...and it may be a variety of different things that leads to it. But it is interesting nonetheless.

Jennifer Brighton

Our prior female dog was bitten twice as a puppy requring stitches both times. After she turned about 1, she tended to take the offensive and jump other dogs--never biting but making lots of noise and acting like a bully. As an aside, she was not a pit bull mix which is what our two current dogs are. They both get along famously with 99% of the dogs they meet, whether they are leashed or not.

Ironically, my husband quit taking her out because he swore she did it more often with him than me. I guess this study supports what he claimed. I always accused him of being a wimp and just using that as an excuse not to walk the dog.

Jennifer Brighton

P.S. to Lisa C: I used to work a very stressful job and I definitely noticed that when I walked Mocha after having a bad day, she would act out more than if it was a weekend walk/hike and I was in a good frame of mind. I think she picked up on my bad day and acted on it.


I read the article a couple of days ago and found it very interesting, but maybe also incomplete. I personally have had no experience with other leashed dogs being walked by men or women so I have no real life experience to compare that part of the article to, but I think it's more about the emotions and mindset of the person holding the leash.

Also, re: the "leash aggression" toward an off-leash dog, I concur that it's because the leashed dog does not have the option to flee. I see this all of the time while walking my dogs daily. They will politely accept initial sniffing from the random, errant, wandering, off-leash dogs that approach us, but when those dogs fail to move on or prevent us from continuing on our way, my dogs give them what for. I also don't consider that to be "leash aggression". I think it's more likely that the off-leash dogs are committing a serious faux pas and my dogs are correcting their lack of manners. It doesn't matter what size the dog is, though the behavior definitely contributes. If the dog is being friendly and polite- no problem. If the dog is excited, stress-whining, panting, insisting upon following us, repeatedly sticking its nose up my dogs' behinds, well, those are the dogs that get snarled and snapped at repeatedly until they finally go away. It's a sad thing when abiding by the leash law makes us and our dogs sitting ducks for the dogs that neighborhood residents continue to turn loose via the front door on a daily basis. My dogs end up looking to the rest of the neighborhood like really badly behaved dogs, when usually they get complimented for being the best behaved in the subdivision. All because somebody else just won't follow the rules.

Ted Moore

Fascinating data regarding the gender of the dog-walker. As a 5-year volunteer at a local shelter and as the adopter of 2 "aggressive" dogs that sat in this same shelter for years, I haven't noticed any pattern of this sort.

If anything, it's the opposite, particularly when women volunteers, especially those who are smaller or less confident, choose to walk the larger, stronger, or more "assertive" dogs in the shelter's care. As a dog-walker drawn to these types of animals and as a trainer of volunteers, I'd be interested in the insights of others here as to how, or if, the findings of this study could, or should, be worked into what we do. The goal, after all, is to produce well-behaved dogs that the average potential adopter, regardeless of gender, will find appealing.

Thanks for any feedback anyone cares to offer.

Cheryl Huerta

As it has been with my personal experience with my dogs not allowing dogs to be dogs, like they would in the wild, can lead to aggression toward one another. Aggression that more than likely is not helped by the human on the other end of the leash who has convinced themselves based on past experiences with their dogs that their dogs don't get along with other dogs. Their anxiety is picked up by the dog that is already not being allowed to do what it does naturally when meeting another dog and you get aggression. It all makes perfect sense if you choose to view your dog as a dog and learn something about canine behavior. When dogs are forced to 'face off' aggression is imminent. When two people walking their dogs meet typically they refuse to allow the dogs to get close because they fear aggressive behavior so they hold the dogs, facing one another, on the leash and the dogs prove them right. Us humans as usual are the fly in the ointment of pet dog behaviors. Dogs will always be dogs and if we learn about what dogs really are it's much easier to have dogs that are balanced and well behaved. We have monthly Bully Walks in Portland Oregon and thankfully the vast majority of our bully walkers understand that they need to allow their dogs to act like dogs naturally act. We've had eleven or twelve group walks without a single case of aggression. Let's just say a LOT of sniffing goes on prior to our walks. It's a beautiful thing.


Comment Part 1:

I'm gonna have to jump-in and say, with vast experience in this area, it's all a bit moot, to me. When dogs are well-socialized, they don't feel threatened by normal, everyday things, like people or other domestic animals passing by, the mailman, the paperboy, little girls selling cookies, etc. (My own dogs all but yawned on leashed walks when encountering others. They got so much exercise, they'd probably be a bit tired. They met so many strangers each day, it lost its excitement long ago and, if anything, they were saving their energy for the off-leash area.)

Responsibly-owned dogs are also well-trained in the basics: sit, come, heel. I absolutely loved when my Danes would excitedly spy a squirrel while heeling, and muster all their composure to stay heeling; the string-like, purely-for-legal-compliance leash dangling in the breeze between us.

So, while I received many dogs for retraining, who had these socialization and obedience problems, they were usually solved, or vastly improved, within a matter of a few days. Since I mostly worked with very aggressive dogs, the socialization part usually took a bit longer. But in all my years, I never needed more than six weeks with any dog.

I'm retired now primarily because I find that most dog owners aren't interested in doing the right thing for their dogs and neighbours. Sure, they're not reading a dog activist's blog, but might be otherwise perfectly nice human beings. But I find, for example, neck yanking completely unethical. So, if we consider that as a point of reference, imagine how often I wince when I see the typical dog owners in my area walking their dogs. Let's just say throttling is par for the course, and sometimes worse. The dogs aren't trained, and aren't particularly well-socialized, nice dogs though they may be. When the dogs do behave inappropriately upon meeting others, they get their throats yanked or worse. ...Nothing that will improve the next meeting.


Part 2:

So....what I'm getting at is, studies like these are fine, but they don't address perfectly normal, appropriate behaviour of domestic dogs raised to be productive members of human society. ..You know, with owners who expect their dogs to be good canine citizens...just as they intend to raise their children to become productive members of society. I'm happy to say I know a grossly-misrepresentative number of responsible dog owners whose pets would heel through a hurricane, if need be. And whose dogs are well-socialized enough that they can get along perfectly well with any other dog they meet; whether that be calming signals for a diffident playmate, or simply ignoring a bully's attemts to incite a fight. And not one of these (mostly women) are "into" obedience training. They simply respect their dogs too much to throttle them continuously, and respect others in the community enough to ensure their dogs aren't ever a nuisance. Like me, they know that well-socialized, obedient dogs have the most freedom, and the least stress. They can go anywhere, with confidence and ease.

The study results show the behaviours of dogs that aren't properly raised and trained. The description of the behaviours is indicative of dogs who've been restricted from normal, healthy interactions with other dogs, and people in the community. The study results would be different if more people would raise their dogs properly. The study results would be even more egregious in regions where dogs are never walked, never socialized, and only raised to behave aggressively. In short, the old saying holds true, "You get the dog you deserve."


Part 3:

As I've long pointed out, restrictive leash laws tend to have that effect. Moreover, novice dog owners may even believe they're doing the right thing, by never allowing these vital, social experiences. Now, with actually well-socializeded, well-trained dogs in the seeming minority, these aberrant dog behaviours are not only viewed by many as normal, but even expected. (...Like the classic advice not to touch any dog when it is eating or sleeping. In reality, the dog's adult owner should frequently touch the dog, in all sorts of situations, so it learns to accept it...dare to dream, even enjoy it. When we teach dogs they have the power and the right to dictate when people can and can't touch them, we set them up to develop all sorts of inappropriate behaviours, many of which will lead to the development of aggressive behaviours.)

We truly do get the dogs we deserve.

Jennifer Brighton


I just read your parts 1-3 and agree with you totally. My two dogs don't even flinch when an off leash dog runs up to them if they are on leash except to wag their tails. I credit this to taking them into every dog friendly store and to every dog friendly event I can. They are socialized with big dogs, small dogs and in-between dogs. They greet all dogs and humans as friends.

I also note your comments about touching your dog often. I always laugh when I think about the advice never to bother a sleeping dog as I "maul" my dogs with hugs, kisses and surprise massages when they are fast asleep. They love it. We often pet them or put food in their bowls while they are eating or even pretend we are eating out of their bowl too. They know full well they won't miss a meal and essentially have no reaction at all. They even share food bowls back and forth. While I would never do this with an unknown dog, I believe my dogs are so laid back because of doing these types of things at home on a regular basis.

Your insight (and experience) is spot on. The more we handle our dogs in all situations, the better canine citizens they will be in unexpected circumstances.

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