Howdy friends, it’s Al the Dog Trainer and welcome to Al’s Dog Training Tips!
My first client of the new year has a dog that’s coming out of a shelter and is having some issues with aggression towards people that are walking by. Interestingly enough, this dog hasn’t really shown any aggression other than just some very serious barking when I walk in the door. Today I decided that after a few weeks of training with my client inside of her apartment, that we were going to head out and actually work in the hallway of the apartment complex, and eventually we ended up being outside.
There wasn’t a lot of people actually running around the apartment complex as there normally were, but, we got the dog out and it was actually going quite well. Then, about midway through the session, another resident came out and the father of my client was actually handling the dog. This is when I saw some really nasty aggression. At that moment, most people are pretty hesitant about correcting a dog for that kind of behavior. I don’t know if it’s fortunate for me, or I’ve just learned over the years, more often than not if you can place a very well-timed, but firm correction at the moment that the dog is becoming aggressive towards other people, it really tends to nip it in the bud. Not always, but usually.
Firm corrections are needed whenever you’ve been working with a dog, diligently showing them that “this is what I want and this is where the rewards are.” Also showing them “this is how this particular drill that we’re gonna do works,” and if the dog decides to start going after somebody, I think the dog deserves a chance at being corrected. That way, you don’t have to keep Mickey Mousing around with this whole thing that they know how to do. I do want to provide a couple of practical tips for anybody who’s dealing with this and how to actually correct a dog and some good ways to deal with it.
The first thing I always tell people is that when your dog gets distracted by anything, especially if they have aggressive tendencies, if you stop and you begin to focus on that thing too, now you’re distracted and you just made your job way harder. I see it over and over again. So the first practical tip is if your dog tends to be aggressive I want you to tighten up on your leash, but I want you to be kind of low on the leash. I wish I could kind of demonstrate or explain it a little bit better, but essentially, I have a knot that’s maybe just four or 5 inches away from the dog’s neck. It’s just where there’s maybe about an inch or two of slack when my arm is fully extended. I’ve got that not in my hand, and when I get a feeling that the dog is going to become aggressive, instead of just paying so much attention to the things that the dog is overwhelmed about, I simply just keep moving and as I begin to do that, the leash tends to take care of the problem because the dog is going to push up against it. I’m not going to stop moving and I’m not going to be distracted from the direction that I’m heading.
That is a really great way to deal with it. Another thing that I have people do is if you’re going to stop you’ve got a demand to set and that’s exactly what I did with the dog I mentioned earlier. When the dog started acting aggressively with my clients’ father towards the other person, I took the leash, then forcibly put the dog into a sit and then I relaxed the leash and continued my conversation with the client and her father. The dog subsequently chilled out. We went back outside after a small discussion and we saw that things actually got much, much better.
We ended up working on a drill and the dog saw more people, and you know what? I didn’t see any more of that nasty aggression anymore. I just saw a dog that was still interested in barking at people, but was now thinking about it. If your dog makes a poor choice after you’ve shown them the right thing to do, don’t be afraid to actually roll out a firm correction because sometimes they really are needed.