Trainer shares the one mistake you want to avoid if your dog is leash reactive

Jack Russell Terrier barking
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Reactivity can be challenging to deal with at the best of times, but leash reactivity is especially complex.

An involuntary emotional state that overwhelms your dog and triggers their flight or fight response, leash reactivity causes your dog to overreact to certain stimuli and may result in behaviors such as excessive barking, lunging, or growling.

Learning how to calm a reactive dog is key if you want to be able to enjoy stress-free strolls with your canine companion. 

And while it can be easy to think that simply dishing out the best dog treats is enough to shift your dog's focus, food isn't always the solution.

In fact, according to expert trainer Adam Spivey the secret to managing reactivity when you're out and about comes down to correctly positioning the leash.

In a short video shared to Instagram which you can view above, Spivey says the one thing pet parents must stop doing if they have a reactive dog is wrapping the leash tightly around their hand.

"You are literally telling your dog to get on guard," Spivey explains. "This is the message that travels to your dog and your dog will often react as a result."

Instead of holding the leash tightly, Spivey says it's important to work on keeping your dog's leash nice and relaxed down by your side.

"The only time tension should hit that lead is if the dog goes forward. That's when you pull up. If the dog lunges, that's when you pull up."

Spivey explains that all dogs have a threshold. "Recognising that moment in time and then creating some space before your dog explodes will help you massively."

Reactivity can be incredibly difficult to deal with and what works for one dog may not work for another.

If you're struggling with your pup's leash reactivity we highly recommend reaching out to a professional trainer for some 1:1 support.

Check out our guide to how to spot dog trainer red flags to ensure you're working with someone who is appropriately qualified and has experience dealing with this issue.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.