By Dr. Becker

A recent study conducted by scientists at a Czech university revealed some interesting findings about what factors shape dog behavior on walks.

What the research set out to explore, according to lead researcher Petr Rezac, an associate professor in the Department of Animal Morphology, Physiology and Genetics at Mendel University, was whether dogs behave differently with one another depending on who is at the other end of the leash.

According to Inga Fricke of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), dog-to-dog aggression among leashed pets is probably the result of frustration. Dogs have innate greeting behaviors they can't express when on a leash.

Given the option, dogs will run around each other when they first meet. Per Lisa Peterson of the American Kennel Club:

"They can't do this run-around behavior when on a leash and they likely feel more threatened. They are also more inclined to resource guard, with the owner being the resource. It's as though they are communicating, 'He is my owner. I don't want you to have him because he feeds and cares for me.'"

Many pet owners find their dog is actually better behaved off leash than leashed.

The same is often true for dogs that are crated or behind a fence. Confined, they demonstrate aggressive behaviors like barking or growling that they don't exhibit when able to move around freely.

Being confined or leashed and therefore unable to fight or take flight if necessary very likely feels threatening to some dogs, resulting in aggression. Many animals, including humans, become fearful and hostile when they feel they aren't able to make decisions for themselves.

It may not be obvious, but your dog is picking up on your mood and energy whenever you're together. Dogs also tend to mirror the behaviors of their owners.

So if while walking your pet you feel distrustful or wary of other owners and their dogs, your canine companion will pick up on that energy and become hyper alert and 'on guard' as well.

Some men are more likely than women to remain aloof and avoid eye contact with other dog walkers.

Women are more apt to smile, nod or say hello, and generate friendly, non-threatening energy toward oncoming humans and their dogs. Their dogs, in turn, don't learn to view approaching dogs as a potential threat. Women who do perceive other dog walkers and their pets as potentially dangerous generally have a fear-avoidance response. This energy has the potential to create the same fear-avoidance response in an otherwise calm, well-adjusted dog.

No matter your gender, if your walks with your favorite furry friend aren't pleasant, it's a good idea to check your own emotions – conscious and unconscious – and take note of what kind of energy you're transmitting to your pet.

Don't walk your dog when you're feeling anxious or angry. Make a conscious effort to view fellow dog walkers as friends vs. foes, and make it a practice to smile or exchange a few friendly words with passersby whenever you're out with your pet.

If you encounter a dog behaving in a threatening or unpredictable manner ... be relaxed and take calm, firm control of your dog so he knows he can depend on you to control the situation.

Ignore the other dog while making your way past him, and consciously return to a calm, relaxed state of mind.

Remember, it's all in your energy!


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