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.