Bad Dog on Walks!

by Pam

From Pam... We adopted a 2 year old terrier/border collie mix about a month ago. She showed no signs of aggression at all when we met her - she happily jumped on our laps and played with my son.

We brought her home and she's been a delight -- affectionate and well-behaved. No chewing, only a few accidents.

I work at home 3 days a week and take her to the dog park for at least a half hour a day, where she plays happily and well with the other dogs. She goes to doggie daycare two days a week. Once again, no problems.

However, she is getting increasingly aggressive when we walk her or when someone enters our home. If she sees another dog on the other side of the street, she goes wild, jumping and lunging. Today she even saw a dog she plays with regularly in the dog park and got aggressive with him when they met on the street, growling and nipping.

She leaps up at people walking by, and apparently broke the skin on a dad we know. We assumed that obedience training would address the problem, as she learned to respond to us, but if anything the problem's getting worse, even as she gets better and better at responding at home.

We are at our wit's end. We are working with a trainer, but are now thinking we may need to give her up, though it would break our hearts, as she is such a wonderful dog with us.

Any help you could give would be appreciated. We haven't tried a prong collar yet, which I suppose is our last resort.

Shannon Says...

Hi Pam,

Thanks for your questions! Aggression is often a very stressful and frustrating problem to deal with as an owner.

You often don't know why your dog acts in the way that she does. Obviously, I can't give you an answer to that as it could be any number of reasons.

Obedience training was a good place to start. It sounds as though you are working with an all-positive trainer from what you said. It's not my mission to run down other trainers, and I realize that all-positive training can work.

However, from experience, dogs who are trained using a balanced approach (both rewards and corrections) are more reliable and consistent in their behavior. This is especially so with aggressive dogs.

That being said, a prong collar shouldn't necessarily be the "last resort"! Used properly, there is nothing harmful or inhumane about a prong collar. Just as with any training collar, it should never be tight for longer than one second on your dog's neck.

Training Your Dog to Heel

This means that you need to train your dog to heel at your side on walks. Start by having her sit at your left side, while you hold the leash end in your right hand and grasp the leash several inches away from the clasp with your left hand. Say "Rover, heel!" and then begin to walk.

Whenever she gets more than a couple inches ahead of your left ankle, loosen the leash for a split second to create an element of surprise, pop straight back so that the leash goes horizontal with her spine, and then loosen it again.

Remember, just a quick, one second correction! And say nothing when you correct - your actions speak louder than your words.

Your arm should be straight as you correct - don't bend your elbow as you pop back or you'll end up popping on an angle up instead. A great rule of thumb is that you need to pop opposite of the direction that your dog is pulling, lunging, or jumping.

Of course, you need to be just a quick to praise as you are to correct. When she is walking nicely at your side, verbally praise her. If she ignores another dog, praise her!

So what should you do when she lunges at another dog or person while walking her? SAY NOTHING. Simply loosen the leash, pop back fast, firm, and on time, and then loosen the leash again. Remember, pop in the opposite direction she lunges in. If she jumps up on someone, pop down.

Praise her when she stops jumping. It would be a good idea to correct any barking or growling as well. Same idea here - loosen, pop straight up, and loosen the leash again. Praise when she's quiet!

Mastering the heel will go a long way to giving you back control on your walks. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to give a physical leash and collar correction for all of these unwanted behaviors - simply ignoring it or say "no" won't do a thing to make it stop.

Exercise as a Solution

One other thing I wanted to note is that she is probably very high energy (the border collie/terrier mix). The more exercise she gets, the better behaved she will be.

Have you thought of using a treadmill to supplement her daily walks? I have a great article about dog treadmills you can read.

I know it's a lot of work, and it will take a lot of practice, but I also know you can tackle this problem!

Stop looking at the prong collar as a scary last resort, and instead look at it as training wheels for your dog. Training a dog without a training collar is like driving a car without power steering!

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