Resistance Training for Leash Reactivity

This technique can be helpful for dogs that are leash reactive for various reasons.  Most notable reasons are barrier frustration and fear aggression.  However, it is a good technique to help a dog hold a stronger command for any reason.  The video is highlighting the technique mostly on a "sit" command because it is the most practical for most situations and allows a shorter leash for extra safety reasons.

Some things to note about this video:

  • Affection is being used as the main reward.  A good bond with the dog and a foundation of leadership exercises are necessary for the dog to appreciate this as a reward.  If the handler does not have a good bond with the dog and/or the affection has not yet been established as an earned reward you can use a high value food reward when the dog decides to not lunge.  Please refer to "leadership section" to maximize the value of affection.  Ideally affection will be best to promote the bond between dog and handler, but high value treats can always be used to supplement especially just AFTER the distraction has passed.
  • Notice in the video we are allowing the dog to focus on the dog distraction and make a decision.  We are NOT distracting the dog away with a treat or our affection before the dog notices the other dog.  We want to make sure the dog clearly is making a decision and knows exactly why he/she is being rewarded or corrected so maximum learning can take place.
  • Resistance training should ideally be used for about 30 days AFTER the dog seems to have broken the habit of lunging at target distractions.  This is when the dog is making less decisions and has formed more of a new habit of not lunging.  Then, it can always be used in a milder form as a reminder to the dog around certain potential triggers.  Technically the resistance training is a type of prompt to help teach the dogs how to restrain themselves, but ultimately it should be faded and only used to help when necessary.
  • Highly reactive dogs may need to proceed to phase 3 training.  But, be sure to follow through with these exercises in phase 2 to teach the dog the rules of discipline.  Be sure to maximize the GOOD parts of obeying through affection and food reward and exhaust all efforts in phase 2 before moving to phase 3.
  • The dogs in the video are using starmark collars and prong collars.  You can also carefully use halti-style collars for this.  Just be sure to use the proper technique for your collar choice to use least amount of force with most amount of motivation.  Not all dogs do best on the same collar.
  • This technique is for stationary dogs only.

Prerequisites before attempting this exercise (all found in our video section or youtube channel):

  • Leash Ninja
  • Phase 1 Sit, Down, and Climb
  • Phase 2 Climb (easiest for initially teaching resistance training)
  • Phase 2 Sit and Down (if do the down exercise) (phase 2 with halti found on youtube, but prong technique only on the video section on this site)

Any questions be sure to put in the comments:

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  1. HELP HELP !!!!!In this video you pull the dogs leash towards you and then pump leash when the dog stand form the sit. I’m confused I thought I wanted my dog to give in to leash pressure? I have a very reactive Pitt bull. I rescued her 2 yrs. ago and struggle to walk her past other dog. She is not aggressive but dose Bark and lung uncontrollably towards other dog especially smaller dogs. Currently we are in a group doggie positive obedience class. Although she gotten better at her obedience in distraction since the glass started, walking past or near another dog on the side walk is almost imposable. The purely positive trainer’s at the class seam to thing this excitable behavior is cute. Trust me having a lunging pit bull on a busy side walk is not cute!! I am currently not using a prong collar because I have been told by many dog trainers it may over stimulated her and turn excitement into aggression. Anyone thoughts on this matter are appreciated.

  2. Hi Brain, I’m not sure if you have already found where to find the vid on “leash Ninja” but in the Video Instruction under “dog behaviour lessons and tips” the 17th vid down is where you will find it. My understanding is we are working with the dog’s nature and instincts by what is called opposition reflex. To put it simpler, when a dog feels physical pressure, they oppose the pressure with counter pressure. If you’ve ever tried pulling your dog towards something, they usually resist by pulling away.

  3. Mike, when in the downstay, is there resistance training being utilized? It looked like a simple downstay with foot on the leash in case they break (short but not enough to be in constant ‘resistance’ or also not correction unless they break). Also, the dynamic seems in the sit: resistance (not loving up first), if they hold the sit, love up, if they break, sit correction, then resistance, then love up. Dynamic in down is: step on leash (not pulling or resistance), love up continuously while dog is not breaking, but not resistance, correct?
    Are they purposely different? Or am I not observing closely or correctly enough? Thanks!

  4. This reminds me of modified version of, one stressor alleviates another stress. Don’t remember which german trainer recommended it.
    An example was of Ace on spiral stairs as a puppy. Became stressed half-way down and wanted to go back up. Had him go into a sit, then a down.
    The sit and down were secondary stressors which took focus off the primary stress of the stairs. When released from the down his confidence on the stair was manifold higher.

    In that context of leash reactive k9 aggression it would seem the stress of the approaching dog is the primary stress while maintaining the sit, and resistance against the leash to hold are the secondary stressors which redirects focus relieving the worry of the primary stress. Which not only increases the strength of the commands but gives them confidence in their handler and themselves.

    Is that kind of along the right lines?