On Leash Dog Aggression
When peoplecall me regarding their dog being aggressive on leash to dogs or to people, my philosophy is to give the owners the methods to use rather than train the dog myself because owners live with their dogs 24/7 and can’t rely on me to fix things if I’m not there. Since the surroundings and the people present impact the dog’s learning, it’s incumbent for the owners to learn to do the protocols and use them. If I want to lose weight, simply having diet and exercise books on my bookshelf doesn’t help — I have to implement the methods.
We work on the following areas which serves as a broad foundation on which to build further training:
- how dogs learn
- behavior modification (both for the people! and the dog)
- stop-gap measures
- stress reduction (both for the client and the dog)
For some dogs, one session is adequate, but for others it is not — it depends on how receptive the owner is to the following through on the protocols and whether I have hit the nail on the head in one session on the exact protocols. Since each dog and person is different, I cannot determine how many sessions are required, nor can I give a guarantee that the protocols in one session will work since we may need to revise and adjust according to the dog’s behavior.
I outline what I think will work in most cases and then we refine as necessary in subsequent lessons. Much like when a doctor prescribes a medication, s/he doesn’t know for sure it will work until something happens, either good or bad. If I have the flu and the doctor gives me penicillin, I will die. Did we know that the first time I was given penicillin? No. It was a huge — and immediate — learning curve.
Remember also that changing any habit, whether it’s a dog’s or a persons, takes a *minimum* of 30 days.
Many times, all that is necessary with is simply being consistent in following the protocols, training dogs in a way that the dogs understand (not necessarily in a way that makes sense to their owners), and the passage of time. Many times people think I bring magic fairy dust that I can “cure” their dog’s problems. It takes a dedicated owner to take the time follow through. And no behavior issue — especially aggression — is solved in one lesson.
Many times, owners decide that they are going to pick and choose what they decide to do rather than follow the entire program. With aggression, it doesn’t work — everything has to be done.
Why does on leash dog aggression happen in the first place since the owners have the best intentions? When they initially call, generally speaking, management is lacking. Obedience is nowhere near what is necessary for an aggressive dog. With rescue dogs, people tend to baby them rather than give them clear boundaries and rules. Adolescence is a particularly trying time for dogs since they are testing new behaviors with one foot in puppyhood and the other in adulthood. And breed characteristics play a part as well. If you have an adolescent rescue which is a working or guarding breed and have not given them clear boundaries that *they* understand and have not obedience trained them from the day they came into your home, that’s a recipe for trouble.
The goal is not to stop the aggression — it’s for the dog never to feel the need to aggress at all by satisfying his needs of food, shelter, proper attention, exercise, etc. and know where he fits in in the family structure. That’s achieved by the foundation training mentioned earlier so he regards his owner as the leader whom he can follow and trust. If the dog aggresses, then all the owner can do is damage control, and damage control means that there is something lacking in the dog’s life that he feels the need to aggress — it’s like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. It takes a paradigm shift on the owner’s part to trust me enough that I know what I’m doing. If they decide from the get-go that they won’t do it, then there’s nothing I can do.
After the session, I email the owner the protocols as well as other materials that we may or may not have covered in the lesson for their review. People sometimes work better when they have a physical document in their hand that they can refer to because they either did not understand what I said or what I said and what they heard are two different things.
Some of the tools are very simple and because of the simplicity, people discount their effectiveness and don’t use them. That’s unfortunate because the tools and protocols do help. One of the tools I use for on leash dog aggression is the Gentle Leader.
Read more about solving Dog Behavior Problems.
I’d love to hear what your comments are on how you work with on leash dog aggression whether you live in Los Angeles or anywhere else. Please share your experiences with your dog or ask a question so we can begin a dialogue to help each other.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog behavior consultant or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.
If you need help with dog training or puppy training in Los Angeles, please contact us. We would love to work with you!