My Dog Will Not Listen

Problems walking on a leash

In the last week, I’ve been with 3 different clients whose common complaint was dog aggression.  One dog was a female lab mix, another was a male golden and the last was a female Corgi.  The female lab was definitely territorial and lacked proper socialization.  But, the Golden and the Corgi’s behaviors could clearly be defined as being caused by “BOHS”, or Bad Owner Handling Skills.  All of them were having problems walking on a leash. The owners clearly and consistently communicated incorrectly to their dogs by keeping their leashes tight when they encountered other dogs.  The Owner’s anxiety traveled down the leash to the dog – and the dog reacted.

So, what did I do?  With each, not knowing what to expect, I initially muzzled the dogs in each lesson, put them on a flat buckle collar and a 12-15 foot “SLACK” line.  I had taken two of my dogs with me to the lessons to use as distraction.  One at a time I approached one of my dogs with the owner’s dog.  Always from behind (a non-aggressive move in dog language) for a friendly butt sniff.  When neither dog reacted, I then removed the muzzle from each respective dog.

The interesting thing was that both dogs showed absolutely no signs of aggression at all with or without the muzzle on.  I then proceed to “mix up” my approaches with pass-bys and frontal approaches.  All again, with no signs of aggression from the client’s dogs.  I had each owner do many practice runs with my supervision, showing them how to let their dogs approach another dog.

Key:  To avoid problems walking on a leash, learn to walk your dog on a slack leash and try to check your anxiety at your front door before the walk.  Be confident in your handling skills and read your dog – also always control every training exercise so no one and no dogs are injured.

So, what’s your definition of an aggressive dog?  One who barks at other dogs, one who snarls at other dogs, one who pulls on leash when they see other dogs?   Aggression means different things to everyone.


17 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Make sure you get a positive reinforcement trainer that does this for a living NOT a hobby and has a minumum of 10 years experience. Get references from your vet

  2. Shar-Lee
    Shar-Lee says:


    I adopted a 3 1/2 year old Cockapoo from CAP a couple of weeks ago. We recently discovered that she has severe dog aggression issues. She walks on the leash just fine until she sees another dog, then she goes berserk. She barks and growls and tries like crazy to get off of her leash and get at them. It doesn’t matter what size, breed, or sex the other dog is. She goes after all of them and doesn’t calm down until they are out of her sight.

    Unfortunately, the previous owner did not provide CAP with any details regarding her upbringing but I suspect that she was never properly socialized as a puppy. Besides taking her to a behavioral trainer (which we intend to do as quickly as possible), is there anything else that we could do to help socialize her with other dogs? I took her to PetSmart once and she did okay but I think it was because she was in a unfamiliar place and there were a lot of distractions.

    I’ve had dogs all my life but there were all raised from puppies by me and my family. This is my first shelter dog so this aggression issue is very new to me. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


  3. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Using a gentle leader is a great first start. I don’t really have enough information however here are a couple of things you can look at:
    1. Always walk your dog on a loose leash, a tight leash encourages pulling
    2. When she pulls simply stop and do not move forward until she comes back by your side, do this repeatedly until she learns pulling gets
    her the exact opposite of what you want.
    3. Another exercise is to immediately turn around and walk the other direction when she pulls. HOWEVER do not do THIS exercise on a gentle leader, use a long line
    attached to a collar.
    You can hurt the dogs neck doing this exercise on a gentle leader.
    4. Also, look at your leadership role when walking, maybe you need to start doing a structured walk where you control the walk 2/3 of the time and the dogs get their time to sniff and potty
    for 1/3 of the walk.

    Without seeing what is going on it is impossible for me to give you a suggestion that will exactly fit your situation.

  4. Kristi
    Kristi says:

    Hi, I have a 50lb., goldendoodle that I use a gentle lead collar on. I have taken her to two classes and tried several methods, including the one you suggest on your website, on training her how to heel. She pulls constantly – to the point that my hands are in pain when I sleep at night. I also have a second Doodle that I walk with her her that walks perfectly, unless a squirrel comes along – then they are both out of control – so I use the gentle lead collar on him as well (he is 85lbs.).

    Any suggestions to help get the smaller doodle to heel better? I walk them both everyday for 45-50 minutes and she pulls THE ENTIRE TIME! By the end we are both exhausted, by I can’t imagine her not getting her exercise (or me for that matter)!


    BTW – they are both almost 2 years old.

  5. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    A good trainer who has excellent skills in behavior modification would be best. They must only use positive reinforcement. That way you won’t be getting bad information from all over the internet.
    You MUST be consistent, if you’re not you’re actually making things worse

  6. Mitzi
    Mitzi says:

    Thank you so much. I am still concerned with the aggressiveness towards people. Should I look into a personal trainer for fixing this? Is there a way I can do it myself? I have tried some things I have read on different sites or in books, but nothing seems to work. I agree with you that the issue is me. I haven’t been consistent. I just hope it isn’t too late. She is 8 years old now.

  7. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    I would say based on the information you have written, that your dog is resource guarding your yard, your home and you.

    What this means is that your dog thinks these things belong to HER—-instead of belonging to the humans in the home.

    Your relationship with your dog is upside down. Your dog is leading the relationship instead of being a follower in the relationship.

    It’s much like raising children, when children control the show you get unbalanced, out of control kids. Dogs like kids must ask for things they want, earn the things they
    want, and understand just because they want them does not mean they get them upon demanding them.

    The way to do this is through leadership. Here’s a link to an article on my site that should help you understand what you need to do to be a leader to your dog.

  8. Mitzi
    Mitzi says:

    Hi! I have a Miniature Schnauzer who is extremely aggressive towards other people. It doesn’t matter if she is in our yard and they are next door or coming to visit. If it is an adult, we can usually calm her down, but she follows their every move. If they come near me or her room she is aggressive. When it comes to children, it is awful. She used to love kids, but something happened that changed her. She now will attack children that she is around. She has not bitten anyone yet, but I know the day is coming. What should I do?

  9. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Obedience training is always used when you are trying to change a behavior in positive reinforcement dog training. However, obedience training is not going to find out what is the
    underlying cause of your dog’s behavior. Dogs can act very differently on leash and off leash. Not being able to see or evaluate your dog I would say it could be some fearfulness
    on his part, there could also be some territoriality concerning you—there could be a number of factors. My suggestion is to work with a good positive reinforcement dog trainer who has
    a good reputation for behavior modification and begin changing your dog’s behavior which will include you learning about leadership with your dog. This is not about dominating your dog
    but leading your dog to be balanced, well behaved and a relationship based on mutual respect.

  10. LP
    LP says:

    My dog turns into cujo when he is on a leash and sees another dog, not all dogs, mostly big dogs like labs. He is a rescue and was close to a year old when I got him. I used to take him to the dog park all the time, but he got to be too bossy. Jumping on other dogs, growling to show them who was boss. He never actually bit another dog but needless to say other dog owners got very upset, so I stopped taking him.
    Have taken him to two different obedience classes, where he did fine as the other dogs were small and non threatning.
    Talked with a behaviourist and seemed she just thought the dog should be obiedence trained to the point where he would not be aggressive because I told him not to. I think behaviour modification should be used so that he doesn’t want to be aggressive. Since it is usually large dogs that set him off I feel that part of the aggression is due to fear and that he can learn to not be afraid.

  11. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Tanna: You must get professional dog training help with your dog as this behavior, as you can see, is progressively getting worse. No one can solve this problem in an email. Find a
    well seasoned trainer who only uses positive reinforcement and begin to do the work it will require to address this problem

  12. tanna
    tanna says:

    hi there,
    I’ve got quite a big problem with my dog. He’s a 2 1/2 year old pitbull that I rescued about a year back. someone left the poor thing near a very busy intersection. I decided to take him home, but as soon as I introduced him to the other two dogs in the house he became extremly violent. They would fight constantly and I tried about everything to break them up. Hes alot more calmer around dogs now but hes turned his aggression on people. Im ashamed to say that he has bit a few people. It happend while my step dad was watching him for a few months. Luckly the guy was ok and “blue” let go pretty quick. I now have him living with me but hes acting aggressive to my boyfriend, whom I live with. hes really getting out of hand and im afraid that i’ll never be able to bring him anywhere or always be on edge if someone happens to come to the house or near the gate. His biting people really alarms me, what should I do?

  13. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Thanks for your email. In answer to your main question re: walking on leash. A wonderful, non-aversive tool for that is a Gentle Leader. We use that on our black lab Sammy and he
    walks beautifully by our side with no problem. You can purchase one of those at PetSmart or PetCO BE SURE TO GET THE ONE WITH AN ENCLOSED DVD. You must
    understand not only how to fit it correctly, you must get the dog used to wearing it – they initially do not like the very very think piece that goes over the bridge of their nose. We did that
    with Sammy and now when we get the Gentle Leader out he runs and puts his nose through it because he knows only wonderful things happen when he wears that.

    The Gentle Leader is used by positive reinforcement trainers because there is little need for correction. Where the head goes, the rest of the body follows. When we walk our lab Sammy
    we do a controlled walk which sends him the message “hey I know you love your walks, but guess what, this walk is on my timetable and my terms” I control 2/3 of the walk, he gets
    his “free on leash time” for 1/3 when I say ok.

    So you are dealing with a couple of things: a good way to control your dog i,e The Gentle Leader, leadership on your part so your dog will listen to you better (which is not anything
    about dominating your dog) and prey drive with squirrels. They all 3 go hand in hand to get a nice walk from your dog. It all begins with leadership and is complimented by the
    Gentle Leader.

  14. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I have an eight year old German Shepherd/Lab mix that I adopted from the SPCA and he’s mostly wonderful. However, I am really unable to walk him on a leash. He drags me down the street and will chase squirrels if given any opportunity. More than once I’ve had to drop the leash to avoid being face down on the sidewalk when he sees a squirrel. How can I get him to walk on a leash.

    He does well on other commands. He has no health problems. He does mark when we visit homes where other dogs have had accidents. He’s never had an accident in my home.

    Thanks for any advice.

  15. Shawn Saxton
    Shawn Saxton says:

    Help! I think I may have an aggression problem with my dog. The other day my husband went to walk our dog and the neighbor walked up to my husband and dog and the dog lunged and growled at her when she tried to pet him. He is 7 years old and never had a problem before, but here lately his tolerence for people is short. He has no health problems. Thank you

  16. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    So what is the best to to be prepared when you’re not sure if the dog will react badly to another dog if the leash has a slack. Thanks for the help.

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