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Is CBD Helpful for Leash Reactive Dogs?

Like humans, dogs are prone to feeling and expressing stress, fear, or frustration. For some canines, being leashed is a trigger for stress, which can show up in a range of unwanted behaviors. No dog owner wants to see their pet in distress, or be walking a dog that is lunging, pulling, or barking every time it encounters a stimulus. 

Leash reactivity is a common behavioral problem among dogs. While leash reactivity can be addressed by dog trainers using methods such as behavior modification, positive reinforcement, and desensitization, these processes can take time to yield results. 

There’s growing evidence to suggest that CBD can help quickly and effectively ease anxiety and stress experienced by leash-reactive dogs. 

What Causes a Dog to Be Leash Reactive?


Leash reactivity occurs when a dog reacts in an unwanted way towards a stimulus–like another dog–while on a leash, or in a very confined environment that restricts natural behavior. This behavioral issue is often caused by fear, anxiety, or frustration. Leash reactive dogs may display the following anxious behaviors:

  • Biting the leash 
  • Playing tug-of-war with the leash
  • Refusing to walk when leashed
  • Freezing while on the leash
  • Attempting to run or hide while on the leash
  • Lunging or pulling excessively when encountering a stimulus
  • Barking or growling when encountering a stimulus

There are several factors that can cause a dog to display reactive behavior. For starters, dogs cannot use their instinctive body language to communicate with other dogs when they are restrained by the leash. In an unleashed environment, dogs naturally greet each other from the side and avoid direct eye contact. When dogs meet while leashed, however, they are forced to approach each other head-on and are usually unable to turn their bodies to avoid direct eye contact. This body language communicates to the other dog that theymay want to fight (when they usually don’t). To remediate the situation, dogs will engage in behaviors like barking, lunging, growling, or even freezing to prevent a fight from happening. Add a stressed, freaked-out owner who tightens the leash even further, and the reactivity can amplify.

Another reason that dogs demonstrate leash reactivity is because they cannot play with other dogs or socialize with them, which causes them frustration. Dog aggression can then occur as the restraint of the leash inhibits the display of natural social behavior, which can be frustrating for your furry friend. 

Finally, traumatic experiences associated with being leashed can also contribute to leash reactivity. For example, some shelter dogs have experienced mistreatment prior to being re-homed, so they may be more anxious or vigilant when leashed.

Pet owners can easily identify leash reactivity because it only occurs when the dog is leashed and not when it is free. For example, if a dog only barks at other dogs while leashed but has no issue with other dogs at other times, this is a clear indication of a leash-reactive pet. 

However, other dogs aren’t the only stimuli leashed dogs react to. Other stimuli can also lead to unwanted or aggressive behavior, including:

  • Squirrels, rabbits, or other creatures
  • Children
  • Wheels on strollers, bikes, or rollerblades
  • Cars
  • Farm animals
  • Loud noises

How CBD Can Help


CBD is already on the radar of many pet parents as a treatment that can ease anxiety and help pets manage stressful situations. There’s a common misconception that leash-reactive dogs are aggressive or are prone to antisocial, destructive behavior, but leash reactivity at its core arises when the dog feels anxious, stressed, or fearful. 

There’s growing evidence from human and animal studies that CBD can help restore calm and ease by diminishing fear or soothing anxiety. For example:

  • One 2017 study found that CBD disrupted conditioned fear and also helped to prevent the consolidation of fear memories in rats via its effects on the endocannabinoid system, including both the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors. Like rats and humans, dogs also have an endocannabinoid system. CBD may therefore help fearful dogs to relax when on the leash. 
  • There are abundant studies exploring the potential benefits of CBD as a treatment for anxiety. Among some of the more notable studies was this 2020 review, which found that CBD demonstrated improved clinical outcomes across a variety of anxiety measures; was well-tolerated; had minimal adverse effects, and therefore represented a promising alternative therapy for the management of anxiety disorders. Other animal research has found that CBD yields similar results to diazepam, a pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medication.

Although the research specifically exploring the effects of CBD as a treatment for pets is scarce, there is growing awareness in the field of veterinary medicine that CBD may represent a helpful aid for anxious behaviors.

A recent survey of veterinarians found that 69.1% of owners who initiated conversations about CBD were asking about CBD as a treatment for their dog’s anxiety. The same survey found that 77.1% of the veterinarians surveyed believed that CBD was very helpful, or somewhat helpful, as a treatment for pet anxiety. The most common side effect that was noticed was that CBD sometimes had a sedative effect.

How to Give Your Dog CBD


If you feel like your canine companion could benefit from CBD for leash reactivity, there are several ways you can administer the cannabinoid. Tinctures or liquids, like High Falls Hemp CBD Pet Tincture, represent one of the easiest and most efficient ways of giving CBD to your dog. Tinctures allow you to control dosage incrementally as needed using the dropper. Administer the drops directly into your dog’s mouth if they allow as this is the most effective way to get CBD into their system quickly since there are no other ingredients for their digestive systems to metabolize.

An alternative option is mixing CBD oil into dog food. For dogs that don’t like their mouths being touched, this may represent a much easier option (because what dog doesn’t like to eat?) Adding a spoonful of peanut butter can enhance the bioavailability of the CBD thanks to the fat content of the nuts.

A third option is adding CBD oil to a porous pet treat. If you’re planning a walk on the leash to the local dog park and it’s not yet dinner time, a CBD-soaked treat may be the ideal alternative to a full bowl of kibble. Use the dropper to deliver the desired amount of CBD on top of the dog treat and allow it to soak in.

CBD tinctures can take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour to start working on your dog. If you’re planning on heading out somewhere on the leash, make sure you give your fur baby the treat, meal, or drops in advance so the therapeutic effects can settle in and take effect.

The High Falls Hemp Difference

Here at High Falls Hemp, we strongly believe that CBD can be a helpful, effective natural aid for dogs dealing with anxiety, stress, and fear when leashed. Increasing numbers of pet owners, researchers, and even organizations like the American Kennel Club, are starting to discover the benefits this non-intoxicating cannabinoid holds for general dog anxiety, separation anxiety, and more. The demand for CBD-infused pet treats and tinctures is undeniably growing.

However, that doesn’t mean that every CBD product is effective, or even safe. Just as you take precautions when shopping for CBD products for yourself, so must you take the same care when purchasing products for your pet. To be assured that you’re receiving the best possible formulation for your canine companion, opt for full-spectrum products that have undergone rigorous third-party purity and potency testing:

Full-spectrum Products

One of the most important features to seek out in pet CBD products are formulations created using full-spectrum CBD. Full-spectrum CBD products contain diverse terpenes, minor cannabinoids, and other beneficial compounds that work together to create the entourage effect. At High Falls Hemp, all our pet formulations are full spectrum to ensure your dog benefits from this unique whole-plant synergy.

Third-party Testing

It’s also vital to choose pet products that have been subjected to the same rigorous testing procedures as human formulations. Third-party/independent purity and potency testing ensures that products are free from harmful contaminants and that cannabinoid levels are labeled accurately. High Falls Hemp CBD products all undergo triple lab testing with the results easily accessible on our Lab Reports and Compliance tab, or via QR codes on the label.

The High Falls Hemp Pet Range

The High Falls Hemp pet range currently includes a CBD Pet Tincture and a Large Dog CBD Tincture, specially formulated for bigger canines that may benefit from a more concentrated level of CBD. These tinctures are both formulated from CBD grown on our farm in High Falls, New York, using organic farming methods, all-natural ingredients, and a cruelty-free, vegan formulation. 

Our ingredients are super simple: full-spectrum CBD and hemp oil (which is rich in beneficial fatty acids)both sourced directly from the hemp plant to promote relaxation, boost overall health and wellness, ease discomfort, and keep your furry friend’s coat healthy and hydrated. Best of all, our products are safe to use on a daily basis. In the near future, we’ll be releasing a wider line of pet products, including a mobility tincture for small dogs, a mobility tincture for large dogs, and delicious, wholesome, pet chews.

If you’re interested in using CBD as a potential treatment for leash reactivity, or even an adjunctive treatment for your pet, then we always recommend talking to your vet first. If you’d like to learn more about how to dose CBD, check out our dog-friendly guide here, which offers dosing advice determined by weight.