Any time this big boy sees another dog (and sometimes a person as well), he reacts very strongly. I have used a choke collar, and he is getting very good at walking with it. However, when he sees another dog, it is all I can do to control him.
He is a 6 yr old, neutered male Pitbull. We live alone. Besides this problem, he is very well behaved.
I have had him since he was 5 weeks old. When he was young, I had a live-in that may possibly have been rough on him. I'm not sure about this, though.
Thanks for participating in our helpful online dog behavior forum!
The first thing I want to address is how much socialization your dog gets on a regular basis (I'm guessing not too much since this problem has started), as well as how much he got as a young pup.
The most important time in a dog's life is between 2 and 5 months, or even younger. Whatever happens during this period of time is what will shape the dog's future behaviors and attitudes.
If a puppy doesn't get the opportunity to see many new dogs, people, and places, the chances of him becoming aggressive are increased.
Also, an older dog with a "stagnant" social circle (i.e. sees less than 10 - 15 new people/dogs a week) is prone to become aggressive as well.
Other reasons for aggression in dogs include rough-housing or rough play as a puppy, abuse, or a history of being bitten by another dog or traumatized in some way.
The latter two reasons will show themselves as fear aggression - the dog is afraid. In which case you will need to teach the dog to overcome that fear.
In all cases of aggression, I recommend to have a wire basket muzzle on the dog to keep everyone safe until the problem is solved.
Never attempt to break up a dog fight with your hands! The best way to break it up is to carry a small boat air-horn (Walmart) and press and hold the button while pointing it at the dogs. The extremely loud noise will scare them out of it.
If by choke collar you mean a choke chain, you should swap it for a small link, round tip prong collar. They are much more effective and are more humane.
Links can be added or removed as needed. Always open the prong collar in the middle, not at either ends. Do not slide it on over the dog's head!
A proper fit should be like your watch bad - snug, but you should be able to place a finger between a prong and your dog's skin.
Make sure the collar is up high under his chin and behind his ears. This is called the "tender zone", where he doesn't have as much muscle as low down on his neck. This means that your corrections will be more effective.
As soon as your dog displays aggression (staring, growling, barking, lunging), loosen the leash, pop straight up and loosen the leash again. This correction should only take one second.
Make sure that your correction is fast (you want to catch him in the act), firm (he needs to feel a good correction), and on time.
The quicker you are with your corrections, and the firmer your correction is, the sooner he'll learn to avoid that behaviour. You won't hurt him - his neck is the strongest part of his body!
When he stops growling, barking, etc., be sure to praise him immediately! Verbal and physical praise are going to work better for you than food praise for this problem.
This is called balanced training - rewarding the right behaviour and correcting the wrong behaviour. The more consistent you are with it, the better.
I hope this is helpful for you, Dave. Let me know how it goes!
- Shannon Pennings