The call came from an old client. Her dog had bitten and attacked her best friend. The dog knew this person, knew her very well. My client and her best friend live in the same complex and spend lots of time together with their dogs. The friend is ok, but my client is devastated and feels betrayed by the dog attack on her friend. She immediately called me for help.
I looked at my records on this client and saw that her dog was a leader type, strong personality and required consistent structure and boundary reinforcement. In other words, the dog needed to truly understand who the “parent” was and the dog needed to respect boundaries and earn what he got. When we first did dog behavior training with her and her dog, she was extremely good about practicing leadership with her dog.
Once I got to the house I quickly found that leadership and boundaries had been instead, very very relaxed for some time. The owners had not been working on obedience commands with the dog in a long time. The dog had been allowed to fence line bark, bark at the windows, food was left down all the time, free access to furniture, the dog charged up and down the stairs in front of the owner. Most of this allows the dog to rehearse, on a daily basis, territorial aggression that is very likely to surface in another context. Which, is exactly what happened.
Here is what spurred the dog attack. My client’s friend reached down to pick up a banana peel that the dog had plucked from the trash moments earlier. The dog decided that it was his and lunged to bite and proceeded to aggressively chase the friend until refuge could be safely taken behind a door. It was over in literally 1-2 scary minutes until the dog could be crated.
Aggressive situations such as this can be avoided by providing adequate structure for dogs by keeping them on a learn-to-earn program of simple sits and downs for everything. Being consistent with your structure for the majority of your dog’s life may be required. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel. I applaud my client for stepping up to the plate and assuming responsibility for the dog’s actions instead of immediately thinking the dog was beyond salvage. I always try to help clients look beyond the obvious and see what part their actions or in-actions have in the dog’s behavior. It’s usually a large percent of the problem.
Jim Burwell, founder