Your Dog's Opposition Reflex

The Dog Trainer discusses handling your dog's opposition reflex.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
1-minute read

Your Dog's Opposition Reflex


You might have noticed that sometimes your dog doesn’t hear a word you say. Chances are, it’s not that she’s suddenly gone deaf, and it’s not exactly that she’s ignoring you, either. Often the problem is as simple as a tight leash.

Dogs have an “opposition reflex,” which basically means that if they are pulled in one direction, they will automatically pull in the other direction. You’ll often see a dog straining at the end of a tight leash while the handler says her name over and over, more and more sharply, then finally resorts to yanking the dog away.

If I’ve just described you and your dog, try this: Next time you find yourself trying to get your dog’s attention when the leash is tight, take half a step toward her, just enough to relieve the tension on her neck. The moment the pressure’s off, say your dog’s name in a happy voice. (But if your dog basically never looks at you when you say her name, she doesn’t know it, so make a kissy noise instead. Teach her her name another time.)

Chances are very good that without the pressure on her neck to make her opposition reflex kick in, your dog will look your way. Shower on the treats and praise, and enjoy your walk!

Puppy Walking photo from Shutterstock

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).