standard poodles

Why must a Dog Act-Out?

Question:
I walk my 2 year old standard poodle on a trail. He’s a great dog. When he’s on a leash he often rears up and barks at dogs we meet who are on- leash too. I need to keep the leash on (he gets free runs at the dog park). The rearing and barking make him seem like a dangerous dog, but he’s not.

Dr. Nichol:
The simple answer would be to drop your leash. Just letting your high energy dog run amok would be great fun for him but it would be impractical and unsafe in some situations.

The canine brain is genetically hard-wired for social interactions with other dogs. Encountering a stranger naturally involves asking about the other guy’s astrological sign and swapping body signals regarding his intentions and politics. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and their IDs on their rear ends.

But when a dog is restrained by that @#%&!!^ leash they’ve had their choices taken away. They can’t posture, maneuver, engage, or escape because their movements are hindered. Dogs who are anxious when away from home are prone to react with frustration because they’re trapped by the 6 foot radius of the leash. This often leads to bizarre body signals toward other leashed dogs who may respond in kind. The result can be aggressive lunging and barking. These antics are so unnecessary.

In our so-called civilized society we can’t allow our dogs to enjoy life au naturale except in safe spaces like a dog park or a kennel with a play yard. That’s too bad. The barrier frustration your good poodle has demonstrated on-leash can also occur behind fences, windows, and the walls of a house. Some dogs adapt, others only get worse.

You are doing the right thing by taking your good dog for off-leash play and cavorting with others of his ilk. You would have better on-leash control of him with a Gentle Leader head halter. It is the greatest teaching and management tool for dogs who may act out. Punishments, jerking, and cussing would be counterproductive and acutely embarrassing for your sensitive dog.

During the corona virus crisis Dr. Jeff Nichol will conduct behavior consultations with pet parents by telephone (505-792-5131) and video rather than in-person. Each week Dr. Nichol shares a blog and a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.