Hi everyone! 

My name is Orville and my wife and I just adopted a 4 year old male pembroke from a local shelter. His name is Isaac. He's well-mannered in the home and very loving/friendly toward people and other small animals. We don't have any problems at all in the home except when he gets a little nutty and wants to go walking or play ball.

One issue we're having to address right now is his aggression toward other dogs. Whenever we take him for his walk, any dog he sees just causes him to go completely nuts -- barking, growling, snarling, and a lot of jumping/shaking. At this time, we can't really take him anywhere out in public. He plays in our backyard or in the house. 

It was recommended we take him to a trainer, which we do plan on doing in the very near future. We do, however, would like to know if there is actually anything we can do at home to help Isaac with his issue. 

Any recommendations? 

Thank you! 

Orville, Betty, and Isaac. 

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Hi Orville,

It's been awhile so I don't remember for sure...I want to say it was $60-$70 for an hour, but that didn't involve someone coming to our home or anything.   In our situation that was definitely enough to get us started in the right direction at least, after that it was a lot of practice on our own (and since we continued to work with the same person in a group situation we were able to get follow up questions, etc. answered).  

I'd definitely say that watching classes and seeing how a particular trainer works with dogs would be very worthwhile...  It was pure dumb luck that we ended up working with someone who ended up being good.   We've taken a number of classes since and it's only in hindsight that I realize that particular trainer really did have a knack for working with dogs (and also for explaining what she was trying to accomplish and why).   As other people have suggested a behaviorist may end up making a lot of sense, although  i"d guess you have the same problem in trying to find someone...

I would suggest waiting for a behaviorist to evaluate before developing an action plan. For instance, if it's fear-based you want to use food or toys to distract and then reward the dog looking to you after looking at the other dog. If, on the other hand, he's insecure/dominant, you don't usually want to reward dominant behavior in any way. If he's just over-excited and frustrated at NOT being able to get to the other dog, then it's a whole different approach (for instance, a fearful dog is rewarded for staying calm by being allowed to turn and walk away from the other dog. An excited dog is rewarded by being allowed to approach).

Good luck!

Hi Beth! Thank you for responding. I've actually tried this to some degree. At times it works, but more often Isaac just won't focus back on me even with a handful of treats. I may have to switch to little cheese balls or another type of treat. I have a squeaker toy that I use also, but like the snacks, it only draws his attention 50% of the time. At the house, we practice responding to the squeaker toy. I squeak the toy, he focuses on me, I give him a treat. We practice this for at least 15-20 minutes twice a day; my wife helps with this type of training as well. Even with this amount of practicing, it doesn't fully draw his attention away with the presence of other dogs, just yet. More practice! =) Thankfully my job allows me to work from home majority of the time and I can invest a good portion of my day with Isaac beside me. We'll be keeping at it and hopefully things work out. =)

As Beth said, having someone help you figure out the motivating the behavior is the probably the first step...

For us, high value treats were definitely key (thank goodness Chewey is very food motivated!)   The other part that was (and still is) key for us was to make sure we have Chewey's attention _before_ he zeros in on the dog.   Learning "watch me" was helpful for that.    I would just keep an eye out and try to spot any dogs coming well in advance.  Then I would use "watch me" to get him focused on me...   As we got closer to the dog I would tell him to leave it and keep his attention on me.  If we were able to walk by w/out him reacting he got a yummy treat and lots of praise.  

Now for the most part I just have to tell him to leave it when we get closer to the dog.  It's not always 100%, especially if the dog is straining towards him...(and is larger), but it's way better.

Good luck... Keep us posted!

You are on the right track.  They key is building up gradually.  First you get to the point where the dog is 100% with no distractions (I wouldn't use the squeaker if you are planning to transfer the reward outside; it will set off other dogs and become counter-productive). 

Then you start practicing in areas with minor distractions but no dogs.

Then you start practicing when dogs are so far away they would not cause a reaction, and then gradually over time work your way closer and closer.  As DIane says, the secret is getting the dog's attention before it reacts and then holding it.

I must say though that evaluating the dog is still a good idea.  My Madison will go bonkers if she sees another dog that is either barking or straining; she'll have a fit of barking with a little growling and lunging (if I don't control her behavior that is).  But she is honestly not dog-aggressive; she just gets wound up by movement or the potential for movement from other dogs.  Her unorthodox greeting behavior CAN set other dogs off so greetings need to be controlled, but she is perfectly capable of happily playing off-leash in a large group of dogs.

I'm not suggesting you try that, but just wanted to point out that things are not always what they seem.  We were in a class once with a dog that the owners said was dog-aggressive.  Sure enough she'd bark and lunge at the end of the leash when a dog walked too close.

But my male Corgi Jack, who is really good at reading other dogs, decided she was not aggressive at all.  He calmly walked up to her and they had a nice sniff and she wagged her tail at him.  Again, her behavior was inappropriate and she could cause a fight with another reactive dog, but she was not aggressive, just excited and did not know how to say "hi."  

On the other hand, I've seen other dogs that would have tried to kill one of mine given half a chance.  And some of them DO bark and lunge.  The worst ones in my own experience never make a sound, though: they get deathly still and then just launch, which sometimes comes as a shock to their handlers who never expected the move (if they are not particularly experienced with this type of behavior).

So do try to find out where he is coming from before you continue actual work with dogs.  In the meantime, continue to build your relationship at home where he can relax and learn to trust you.

And thank you for being willing to work with him!

You bring up a good point Beth, our doberman is very reactive when leashed but off leash is very good with other dogs. I think she is basically an insecure dog that wasn't socialized well when she was young. After having her for several years I have trained her to be less aggressive acting but I still don't trust her when we are out walking and an out of control dog comes racing up. At a dog park she is just fine and runs away if approached by a pushy dog. Even my cats with no claws can boss her around in the house.

Do you have any friend's with well behaved dogs? Poor social skills can only be solved by socializing. I agree that your dog needs to just more confident that you are in control of the situation as well so maybe wait a bit. But eventually, if you have friends with a dog ask them to help you out, both dogs on leash and force them to get comfortable, acquainted, and get them sniffing from a distance rather than just barking at a super far distance. Start with doggy friends within that comfortable safe environment and then move out.

I would only take walks, not close together, with another calm dog if your dog is reactive. No nose to nose greets until several days of calm walking. A dog that has been attacked by another often ends up fearful of dogs and what a terrible thing to pass on to any friends with calm dogs!

I believe if you find the right class and the trainer is willing to work with the dog in the class with other dogs it is a good thing. Our AKC classes would pull in a 2nd trainer for this one rescue who had major issues. It did work (she was good) but they needed the extra person who did know what she was doing. Your dog may always need to be leashed with other dogs but at least if they can work on the  aggression and that he can walk past other dogs and ignore would be good. When/if you start walking him...please use a martingale collar for everyones safety...so he can't get loose.

I am just posting on the thread to complement you and your work towards getting your rescue trained! My rescue dog Ralph has been having interdog aggression (though never with Pippy, ever, he even tries to play with her) so I am posting to bookmark this thread for more reading. Thanks everyone for posting.

We used trainers from "Bark Busters" who come to you and then will work with you where they need to for your dogs training.  One fee covers the lifetime of the dog and goes with you when you move.  We were very pleased with their services and have continued to be as time has gone on.


Hi everyone! 

Thanks for replying and I'm sorry for the late reply. Isaac is still working on a few things. Right now, his aggression has improved quite a bit. We can go to the dog park and play with the other dogs so long as we don't encounter another dog that's aggressive. We did have a few incidents there where Isaac got into a scuffle. One instance was where Isaac approached a border collie playing with his owner -- the border collie apparently didn't like other dogs interfering with his play time with his owner -- Isaac was snapped at then chased away. Another instance occurred when Isaac got a little nippy with a very large Labrador mix -- he basically tried to herd the lab =/.... you can guess what happened next. The latest incident was when Isaac and a cockerspanial mix were sniffing each other -- the cockerspanial decided to take a nip at Isaac's neck -- Isaac goes red zone. 

Things aren't perfect, yet, but we're continuously working on it. I'm still trying to find the perfect treat for Isaac that completely draws his attention away -- this is something quite important for us right now, especially while out leash walking. When those other dogs are nearby, the craziness still happens -- and none of the treats I currently have won't even grab his attention.

Eventually, we'll get there =)


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