Walking Your Dog Aggressive Dog

Walking your dog aggressive dog should not be frightening or even down right disastrous. But for some it is. It doesn’t have to be that way any more.

Before You Walk Your Dog Again


Walking Your Dog Aggressive Dog
Before you walk your dog aggressive dog again and really shatter your confidence, here are 3 “Management Principles” to follow for a more controlled and pleasurable walk with your dog.

Principle #1: Manage Your Dog

If you’ve been walking your dog with the wrong equipment, change it. This is especially critical if you have a large dog that is barely manageable on the leash, which is part of your problem.

“What’s wrong with my equipment?”. If you’ve been walking your big, reactive dog on a flat buckle collar or harness (leash attached top-back) you have no control. Even walking a dog on an Easy Walk harness may be difficult for some owners.

The discomfort of choke chains and pinch collars often cause pain or discomfort when correcting a dog for pulling.

Yanking and jerking on the leash to keep from being pulled might very well cause a negative association with the very dog(s) you want your dog to like.

Change your equipment. Walk your dog on a Gentle Leader. Manage your dog by controlling his head. I have seen big dogs easily managed by small owners with the Gentle Leader. I have also experienced a significant reduction of arousal and anxiety in many dogs while wearing the Gentle Leader.

You must read the instructions and watch the DVD that comes with the Gentle Leader so that you can desensitize your dog to wearing it before using it on a walk. This is not a long process. He’ll be good to go in a day.

Managing your dog also means don’t leave home without high value food treats to make a positive association with other dogs. Also do some obedience training on walks as well. Be prepared!

Be smart too. Invest in a bait pouch to hold your treats so that they are readily available. Don’t be stuffing them in your pocket or have to fumble with a zip-lock bag trying to reach a treat when you need it handy now!

The last thing for now on managing your dog is managing your own emotional energy. Staying calm will help your dog to feel calm on walks with you.

Principle #2: Manage Your Distance to Other Dogs

You’ve heard the saying, “Too close for comfort!” Well that holds true for working/walking your dog around other dogs in the beginning.

Every dog, yours included, has a proximity or distance to a distraction that will cause him to pay more attention to the distraction (dogs in your case) than to you when you are closer than you should be. Stay at a safe distance and work on sits and walking while praising and treating your dog for good behavior.

Backing up a few steps and asking for a sit using a high value food treat for attention is a good exercise. Praise and treat for a job well done. Repeat as often as you can whether you see dogs or not. Practicing on walks with no dogs in sight will help you improve your game when dogs are present.

Only get closer when your dog is under control and listening. If he becomes reactive, simply move back and keep on practicing.

Principle #3: Manage Your Leash

Most trainers know that a dog’s natural instinct is to pull or push against applied pressure. I’ve seen and felt it with our lab, Sammy. He’ll push against me with his body and as I use my hands to push back, he resists by pushing back.

You probably have experienced that with your dog as well. The same thing occurs on a leash walk. When you pull on the leash, your dog instinctively pulls in the opposite direction. That direction is usually towards the other dog.

The lesson here is to keep your leash slack to prevent your dog’s urge to pull. No doubt this will take time to master but including the other principles (managing your dog and the distance) makes all this possible in time.

Do your part for your dog with good management on walks. Keep these principles in mind and make them work for you and your dog. You’ll both be glad you did.

Also remember, the more your dog listens to you inside your home because you have taught him proper manners and boundaries, chances are he will listen to you better outside your home.

I’m always curious about your input – it’s important to me. Do you deal with this situation with your dog?

Comment below with your frustration and fear with this.

Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell has been Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 10,000 clients. Jim takes the science of dog training and makes it work in your home with your family and dog. He gives you the ability to get the same great behavior from your dog.

On Dog Behavior: Is Your Dog Over Protective?

Do you ever wonder – is your dog over protective? 

Some people like their dog to be over protective because it gives them a sense of being protected and secure.

The dilemma comes when their dog is being over protective with the wrong people. Visits from friends begin to dwindle.

An over protective dog can often become a problem and a liability

On Dog Behavior: Is Your Dog Over Protective?


The problem with an over protective dog is that it can significantly limit your enjoyment of your dog in normal, every day circumstances like when you have house guests. And you certainly can’t take your dog out in public.

Not very many people like to walk into a home to visit a friend only to be confronted with a dog that growls, snaps or worse yet, bites. And, the bigger the dog, the worse the threat. A dog bite from any size dog creates a potential liability on many levels. It can create lawsuits, loss of friendships and can get you and your dog, a reputation you never ever wanted.

Then you’ve got to consider the embarrassment factor as well. You have to admit it’s pretty embarrassing to have to pick up your barking dog or try to somehow restrain your big dog to keep your house guest from being jumped on or worse.

Often times this necessitates crating, gating or putting your dog in the back yard so that you can enjoy your visit. This many times creates non-stop barking which can quickly become a nuisance and also spoil the visit. Your dog quickly begins to dislike visitors because every time a visitor comes over, he gets the boot. Get the picture?

Most friends don’t know how to handle these kinds of awkward and anxious dog situations so they avoid the visit altogether. To them staying away from your home keeps them safe.  Now that’s a bummer.

A better alternative to your dog being overprotective

Wouldn’t you agree the better scenario would be to have your visitor greeted by your tail-wagging, non-jumping happy dog?   Being able to enjoy your friends along with “the company of your nice dog” that sits comfortably by your feet or on the couch next to you has got to be a much better alternative to a growling, biting and over protective dog.  

What creates an over-protective dog in the first place?

Many people get a dog to satisfy their own personal needs. Did you? Did you get your dog to have a companion to love on, be affectionate with and be with you all the time?

If your answer is yes, that’s okay. It’s okay as long as you put structure in your dog’s life so there is a fair and equitable balance of needs. In other words, if your dog wants on the couch with you, he should sit. If he wants love and affection, he should sit. In fact he should sit to earn everything including his food. Otherwise the relationship you have with your dog becomes lop-sided because nothing is earned – it’s all free to your dog.

What does this have to do with you and your dog? Constant free doting and petting satisfies your own personal needs with no thought given to how your dog is interpreting the interaction with you.

Over time the lack of structure or inconsistent structure begins to affirm in your dogs mind that you are a valuable provider of good things for free. Many dogs begin to guard things of high value; i.e. YOU. An over protective dog is born. Is that your dog?

It starts off with guarding you and then often times can and does extend to the house and yard. Here is another common owner mistake:

When your dog is allowed to run the fence line in the back yard, the gate across the driveway or the bay window in the front living room barking at dogs and people, he is able to rehearse territorial aggression. This all begins to complicate greetings at the front door.

And if you have a dog that is fearful because of a lack of socialization to people, that too can further complicate your over protective dog situation.

What to do?

They say that hind sight is 20/20. That always seems to be the starting point when dealing with dog behavior problems. Fixing an already over protective dog problem requires going back historically in the relationship with your dog to understand what caused your dog’s behavior problem in the first place.

In this case, no structure and too much unearned love and affection over time created your dog’s symptoms of growling, barking and over protectiveness. It was his way of protecting you as his valuable possession from intruders (your visitors.)

Changing how you view your relationship with your dog so that you begin doing the right things can allow you to start seeing improvements almost immediately.

What are the right things? Controlled, structured walks for exercise and exploring, learn-to-earn program (sit for everything) and regular dog obedience training sessions 3 times daily for only 2 minutes are all a good start to showing your dog a “different you.”

How protective your dog is will determine whether dog behavior modification exercises will be needed to put the final touches on your newly improved happy dog.

I’m always curious about your input – it’s important to me.  Do you deal with this scary situation in your house?

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 9000 clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have, easy step-by-step process to helping your dog. Be the dog owner your dog needs to be a great dog.  Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.


It’s Like My Dog Doesn’t Care What I Say

Dog Training: It’s Like My Dog Doesn’t Care What I Say

Dog training is critical in successfully managing your dog’s behavior. But, does it seem like your dog doesn’t really care what you say? Does your dog ignore your requests when asked to do certain things?

If your dog has reached a point in his dog training with you where he seems to think any command you give is optional and subject to how he feels right that moment, then just maybe it’s time to take a look at where to begin to regroup your thoughts and your approach to your dog training.

I have found that for most dogs like that, everything in life is and has always been, free for them. Their toys are on the floor accessible for play and with a demanding nudge, love and affection is available on demand 24/7.

Unlike their ancestors who had to forage for food, most domesticated dogs just keep one eye on the door and the other on the clock just waiting for your return so they can do the one thing that may be the highlight of their day: EAT. Worse yet they may not even have to work for their food. Some dog owners even free feed.

It’s no wonder that dogs don’t find their human owners “relevant” at all. And when it comes time for them “do what you say,” they just don’t “care what you say” enough– to really do what you say.

This can be very frustrating, can’t it?

It all starts with a Primary Resource

So let’s start with the basics and that’s a scheduled feeding. Food is instinctively thought of by most all dogs as a “Primary Resource.” Even if you think your dog is a finicky eater, it’s still true.

Controlling your dog’s food is an excellent way to become relevant to your dog. And it’s a really great way to teach your dog that listening to you and obeying your commands like sit and down is a good way to earn his food. If you are consistent with your feeding ritual twice a day, it can teach your dog that good behavior matters.

You are now relevant to your dog!

If your dog is a finicky eater, then you’ll have to spice things up a bit. Let me explain because it all depends on how serious you are about becoming that relevant force in your dog’s life.

If every morning for breakfast your mom put a box of cereal on the kitchen table and said, “The milk is in the refrigerator,” that’s not very appealing, right? And you probably would care much about breakfast.

On the other hand, if you knew your mom was in the kitchen cooking a hot breakfast every morning and each morning she surprised you with something different, WOW! Your mom would suddenly have relevance and you would know that she cared.

For the finicky eater (that’s also a trouble-maker by not listening) spice up his meal. Add some canned food to his dry kibble. Put some beef or chicken broth (warmed from the microwave) over his food. Or, add a dollop of yogurt to his food. Keep it interesting. We add chopped spinach, chopped broccoli or sometimes a piece of sweet potato to our dog’s food to make it interesting and they love it. Leila and I do have relevance at our house, do you? Well, you can!

On the other hand, if your dog is highly motivated by food then count your blessings. You have a highly trainable dog.

 It’s Like My Dog Doesn’t Care What I Say

Other benefits to a scheduled feeding program

 It’s easier to monitor whether he feels well. You’ll know the instant your dog goes off his food as a possible indicator that he is not feeling well. It’s impossible to do that with free feeding.

Food guarding opportunities are kept to a minimum. Picking up his bowl after each meal helps to eliminate the possibilities of food guarding. Continuous feeding allows your dog to develop guarding instincts of his food bowl and the surrounding space. Don’t forget to pick up the bowl after 15 minutes.

A scheduled twice a day feeding also keeps your dog from running on empty for half a day and helps to stave off hunger tension which could create other behavior problems.

Everyone wants a dog that listens because they know you have relevance and well, they just care about you and what you say. Try it I know you’ll like it.

So, come tell me on Facebook what you think? I truly hope you found answers and hope for helping your dog. Did you think the fix would be this easy?


“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have easy, step-by-step process to helping your dog. Your dog must and wants to understand what you expect of him. But you have to empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you must empower him to be successful at living in a human home. Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.


Aggressive Dog

Aggressive Dog: What Steps Do I Take to Make My Dog Better?

Dealing with an aggressive dog can be frightening at best right? It’s also embarrassing and extremely anxiety producing for you if you have to walk your aggressive dog but feel you can’t.  It actually puts you in a stale-mate position.

You don’t want to walk your dog for fear of him becoming reactive and you wonder exactly what you can do to make your dog better. While at the same time you know you need to walk him to get him better.

You are probably skeptical at best with the information on the internet on dog aggression. Some of it may even be harmful to your dog, making matters even worse.

Aggressive Dog


What steps can you take to make your dog better?

Cases on aggression certainly vary but, taking action now instead of later is always the best decision.

These are just some generally accepted guidelines.

These are proven techniques that have worked over time and have become an integral part of getting good dog behavior and fixing issues with dogs that need help, especially with dogs with aggression.
Control the training environment. In other words, do not set your dog up to fail by allowing him to become reactive to dogs. You will compromise your training program if you place him in a situation he can’t handle.  Every opportunity he has to become aggressive makes it that much harder to work on his issues. This is especially important with dogs living in the same household.

Supervise your dog. If your dog is aggressive do not leave him outside to run the fence line or driveway gate to rehearse his aggression on a daily basis.  If he has territorial issues, the practice he gets at the driveway gate can also be used to address huge front door issues. Remember, supervise your dog and manage the environment.

Constantly manage your dog. This gives him quick feedback which helps him make better decisions the next time. Too much freedom allows your dog to form bad habits.

Learn to read your dog’s body language to better help you anticipate his every move. Good communication between you and your dog will be one of the keys to your success in life, including training and rehabilitating your dog.

Assess your dog’s lifestyle.

Usually in aggression cases there is a lot of room for improvement. I can usually pinpoint these three areas needing work:

Structure: Placing limits on your dog’s behavior is a good thing. It begins to set expectations of how you want him to behave. It starts in the house and eventually continues outside. Setting rules, personal space boundaries and expectations begins to create an air of cooperation. No structure creates an insecure dog. Is your dog earning everything by doing at least a sit?

Exercise: Many of these dogs are bossy and in need of lots of exercise. Those that have fear-based aggression would benefit from lots of exercise as well. It is a known fact that rhythmical, aerobic exercise can be a buffer for stress. The less stress the better.

Training: Practice daily on obedience training in your home first and then around distractions that are relevant to you, like other dogs. Don’t rush this work.

Remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg and some dogs can take as long as 18-24 months or longer to see progress. You have to be willing to go to bat for your dog.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “2 years!?” Will it ever get fixed?

Here are just three possible outcomes when considering your path of rehabilitation, depending on your dog because not all dogs can be rehabilitated:

1. Complete rehabilitation and integration into play with dogs.
2. If rehabilitation is not possible, then manage the dog for life.
3. With a willing and committed owner, strict management of the dog will be required while undergoing extensive rehabilitation.

Find a trainer or behaviorist that is experienced in working with aggression cases like yours and can help you work your dog in a way that works in your real life scenarios. Get references of clients that have used the trainer successfully and begin the process.

So, what did you think?  I truly hope you found answers and hope for helping your dog.  This is a tough one I know.  But remember, I’m here to help.

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog. 

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in with you.


my dog bit my friend

Yikes! My Jeykll and Hyde Dog Bit My Friend

“My Jeykll and Hyde dog bit my friend and I am beyond embarrassed!” This is, as it should be, a serious concern for my clients and their adolescent Boxer mix, Gus, who is about 18 months of age.

my dog bit my friend

They said that, “Most or a lot of the time Gus is a baby – real sweet. You know, nudging you for attention. He loves to get petted.”

That’s why Bob and Sue were having a hard time understanding why Gus, who was seemingly sweet most of the time and then, like a Jeykll and Hyde personality, he would strike and bite a visitor.

In these types of lessons, I always make it a practice to have dogs on leash and controlled by the owner when I first arrive. During our first visit – once we were seated – I purposely leaned forward and gestured with my hand as I began to ask a few questions. Gus moved forward to the end of the leash and snarled at me. Since Gus was on leash, no harm, no foul.

Bob quickly and gruffly pulled Gus back to him. Gus’ tail lowered, his ears went back as he softly whined. Bob remarked, “See, he’s really a baby at heart, but don’t try to pet him. He bit my best friend a couple of weeks ago. That’s why you’re here.”

About that time Gus turned his attention to Sue, jumped up with his two front paws on her lap and began to lick her face. Bob pulled him down and Gus rolled on his side.


Here’s what was very apparent


Gus was being cleverly submissive with Bob.
Gus was dominant with Sue—- and don’t forget,
Gus had made an aggressive threat to me – the intruder.

Because Bob and Sue are not giving Gus consistent structure within the pack dynamics, Gus is getting confused about who is controlling the relationship.

So Gus began to try his best to take control of his owner’s activities with almost artful manipulation.

No Owner Control

That’s only part of it. Much more was lacking in Gus’s life.

Let’s take a look


No consistent obedience training
Free feeding dog food with cheap carbohydrates
Lot’s of lap time while Mom and Dad watch television at night
Not enough dog walks or “healthy interaction” via games of fetch, etc.
In the back yard all day while they are at work (allows Gus to rehearse territorial aggression by barking at mailman and others passing by.)

Along with the concerning and growing aggressive threats towards outsiders, I also saw that Gus had some dependency issues noted by his licking Sue (care seeking attention) – possibly carried over from his time with his litter mates.

A Solid Foundation is Critical

Gus’s story is why it is so critical to develop a solid foundation with your puppy or dog. Without this critical foundation, Gus is struggling to satisfy a need to function as part of their pack. His way of doing this is to begin controlling the pack. Without a strong foundation providing clear guidelines, Gus does not have any way to function as a part of the family or pack.

Gus is also over-dependent on Bob and Sue’s affection towards him. He cannot be left alone without problems nor can Gus tolerate visitors as they interfere with his interactions with the family.

He considers the family – Bob, Sue and their daughter his property which he does not want to share with anyone.

Sue confessed later in the lesson that it was also difficult to talk on the phone because Gus barks constantly for her attention.


Ground Rules for Great Dogs

It was clear to me what to recommend – Ground Rules for Great Dogs. Gus desperately needs a way to function in and for the pack. Ground Rules will provide him with the following:

Consistent rules to follow
Boundaries to respect and,
Expectations of what to do and when to do it

I pointed out to Bob and Sue that they have had, all along, the capability of “controlling” all the elements that have caused all of their problems with Gus – his food, your personal space, love and affection, activities and more.

It is time for them to re-take control by providing Gus a road map to success on how to function within the pack. I told them to take their time and enjoy the ride. Don’t focus so much on the outcome. Focus on the journey with Gus and his understanding of your relationship with him – more importantly, understanding his new role.

What Do You Think? Let us know your thoughts on today’s issue by commenting below and remember “Sharing is Caring.


“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.  

Dog Bites Reporter

Dog Bites Reporter. Who’s at Fault?

I caught a minute of the news mid-week and learned of a terrible accident involving a Colorado news anchor that was bitten in the face by an 85 lb. Argentine Mastiff. It happened during an interview with the dog’s owner and the firefighter who rescued the dog from an ice pond. If you have not seen the news spot, click here.


Dog Bites Reporter


Last week, when this happened, I posted it on my Facebook page and asked folks what they thought the reporter did that put this dog in a no-win situation.  Lots of folks gave pretty good answers on what the reporter did, but not many were able to tell me what signals the dog gave that were a clear message to the reporter to back off.

It is disheartening to see that even today, so many people – adults and kids alike – assume that all dogs want to be hugged, petted, kissed and are okay with this kind of behavior by humans. If there was one extremely clear message to the contrary, this unfortunate accident in Colorado spelled it out with no if’s, and’s or but’s.

Let’s take a quick look at what happened to create this terrible incident. Are you aware of what mistakes did the news anchor lady make with the Argentine Mastiff resulting in a bite to her face?


 Here’s a short list that I noticed just with the short clip aired by that station

  1. She didn’t know the dog
  2. She didn’t read the dog’s body language signals – warning signs that he was stressed
  3. She got on her Knees with the dog cornering him between her and his owner
  4. She made constant direct eye contact up close – almost face to face
  5. She constantly petted him overhead and then under his chin with the other hand
  6. And I think I saw another video with her kissing him on top of the head

A dog’s body language signs can give you a lot of information and save you or someone a lot of pain and heartache.

Let’s take a look at the “distance increasing signals” the dog was giving that expressed his concern about this stressful situation – but no one tuned in to the dog:

Here’s what the dog did to try and tell her he was uncomfortable and for her to back off.

  1. His ears were flat against his head
  2. He was licking his lips
  3. There was tension in his face
  4. His lips were drawn back looking long and showing teeth – incisors, canines and molars.
  5. Ridges of muscle evident at the corner of his lips and near his jaw
  6. Wide-eye look with fleeting glances away from her – then back to her

When a dog gets stressed, anxious and concerned about his environment and potential threats, some dogs will put distance between themselves and the threat by leaving. If leaving is not an option, biting becomes their only other option to create the distance by “making the threat go away.”

Now, let’s take a look at other contributing factors that “kicked that dog into defense drive” resulting in this terrible accident:

  1. The dog was in a new and strange environment
  2. His owner had a tight grip on his dog’s collar – eliminating the dog’s flight option
  3. The dog was pinned or cornered between the owner and the news anchor on her knees and on the other side of the dog further eliminating all flight options
  4. Any stress/anxiety the dog experienced in the last 24-48 hours can sometimes carry over and impact the current stressful situation pushing the dog to his bite threshold.

This dog was set up to fail. Pushed to his bite threshold with all other options eliminated, he simply bit.  Many people and children hug dogs or puppies too tightly and expect tolerance but instead get growled at, snapped at or worse – bitten. Dog gets the blame.

 Is there a lesson here? What good can come of this horrible accident?

Educate your self and your children about dogs. Learn about how they think and relate to this human world around them – which is like a dog. We bring them into our homes and expect them to be “Lassie.”  Not every dog is Lassie. The responsibility falls on you to:

  • Socialize your puppy or dog.
  • Desensitize your dog to people and other dogs to avoid dog behavior problems
  • Train your dog – enroll in a dog obedience training class
  • Educate yourself about dog body language and how to read any dog.
  • Teach your children how best to interact with your puppy or dog.
  • If you don’t know hire a positive reinforcement trainer
  • Set rules to follow and boundaries to respect in your home and elsewhere

No person or dog should be put in a situation that causes injury or harm to either.  If it does happen, it’s probably the fault of the human but the dog will get the blame.

What Do You Think?  Let us know your thoughts about what went wrong here by commenting below and remember “Sharing is Caring.

 “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

Dog is Aggressive on Leash

dog aggressive on leashDisclaimer:  When working on leash aggression, Make sure to consider all options carefully before deciding on how to begin working on your dog’s leash aggression.

Following is a reader inquiry to one of my blogs about her dog that is aggressive on leash.

Hello, my name is Mary

I am in need of help with our 75lb hound mix. She is 5 yrs old and we have had her since she was 4 months. Within the last year, she has demonstrated aggression when on a leash, toward other dogs. She is not aggressive toward other dogs when off leash.

I need suggestions on how to walk my dog.  I don’t walk the dogs much anymore because I am afraid of what the Hound will do as she can pull me and, more than a couple
times she almost got really close to the other dog and it was very unnerving.

Any help or direction you can provide to stop her aggression on leash, is appreciated.  I am thinking of getting a shock collar to use when she displays this behavior, but would like to find an alternate training mechanism/technique before I resort to the shock. Thanks so much and look forward to hearing from you.

Dear Mary,

Thanks for your email regarding your dog’s leash aggression issues. My advice is to not get a shock collar to correct your dog when she gets aggressive on leash.

It is a specialized tool that requires knowledge/experience, finesse and timing. If you correct your dog without conditioning her first, it would, most certainly, cause her to associate the correction with the dog(s) to which you are trying to desensitize her and that will make everything worse.

Instead, here’s what I would recommend:   Use a gentle leader which can significantly reduce arousal and anxiety in many dogs.

Develop a stronger leadership role with your dog putting your dog on an earn-to-learn program – everything your dog wants from you she must earn by performing at least
a sit and down.

Set aside 2 minutes, 3 times a day to work on sits and downs – it should be easy to carve out 6 minutes of obedience training each day.

This work will begin to help her know that you are in charge of situations when you go for a walk and she need not be concerned.

It will help you build focus and teach her to listen to you better when other dogs approach or pass you by.  The last thing I would say is to not get her too close to
other dogs.  Get good at sits and downs beyond her threshold distance before getting closer to other dogs on leash.

Gradually get her closer to the other dog and redirect to a sit, down or both. Don’t forget to praise/treat for doing a good job. Also pack along plenty of patience. It won’t
happen over night.

Sharing is caring, if you liked this article please share by clicking on the Facebook thumbs up button.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks.  Join me on FACEBOOK now!

Review: Fearful Dog

My story starts in November 2010 with the search for a dog.  What type of dog and do we want a puppy or a rescue.  We decided on a rescue Miniature Australian Shepherd.

She was shy and barked for a long time and then she warmed up just a bit.  The foster mom said she was not ready for adoption yet.  To make a long story short, I just thought about her all the time and in April we saw her again and brought her home to Houston to see how she would fit into our lives.

She is a sweetie and well mannered.  She is a fun dog BUT, walking was almost impossible. – she is fearful of strangers and especially other dogs.

We had a high energy dog before – a Jack Russell Terrier and I thought for sure that we could handle her – wrong!

In walked Jim Burwell into our lives.  He helped me get on the right track with her training and was very supportive during the first month that we had Chelsea.

It was like bringing a new baby home – NOW what do I do?

He gave me all the essentials handling skills and knowledge to get her started on the right track to being a less fearful, aggressive dog.  The weekly homework helped both Chelsea ME  make huge improvements with Chelsea AND me!  The homework was very doable and clear.  Jim’s email support was invaluable.  He simply had me take step by step till until both Chelsea and I lost our fear and could go on walks!   YES!

With his help we have made big steps in that direction.  We can now walk Chelsea.  He is very kind, and knowledgeable about dog behavior.  He is so tuned into dogs and good and patient in helping us learn how to help Chloe

Rescue or puppy he IS a great asset to have on your side when raising a dog.

My Dog Bit Me! The Story and The Cure

My Dog Bit Me My dog bit me –Please help!   She called our office in tears, emotions flooding out over the phone.  Here’s her story

She put her dog’s food bowl down in the laundry room (that’s where her pup eats her meals) then she left to bundle up a load of clothes to be washed and    returned to laundry room.

She approached the washing machine, when suddenly, with no provocation, and out of nowhere, her dog lunged and bit her on the leg. BAM – like lightening!  Even weighing no more that 20 pounds – soaking wet – it was quite a bite!

She was shocked. Her beloved family dog, the one she’d raised since he was an 8 week old puppy, bit her on the leg for no apparent reason.

Think this couldn’t happen to you?

Unfortunately in some homes with dogs, the dog biting the owner, is replayed at least twice monthly (sometimes more) in varying degrees of seriousness.

It’s not always food bowl guarding either. Sometimes it is space on a couch, a chair or a bed which results in a dog bite.

I’ve been called to help with dogs that are guarding their own personal space on the floor. Or dogs who begin growling at an unsuspecting child who approaches to try and pick something up in the pup’s personal space.

This lady’s 3 year old mutt had grown up in the family since about 8 weeks of age and the owner admitted that she had always been a bossy little dog, from the minute she strolled in through the front door and parked herself on the couch.  With no structure in the home at all for the dog -the family was headed down the wrong path of life with her.  The consequence- the dog bit her.

What We Did
We began by putting this dog on an earn-to-learn program – sitting and downing for everything. All family members participated.

  • There were 4 family members: Mom, Dad and two teenage kids.
  • Each family member began one dedicated 3 minute training lesson of sits and downs each day with their dog, and each picked a time that fit their schedule for this dog  obedience training.
  • Limiting the dog training to 3 minute sessions made it very easy to commit to the training.
  • I then split the family into teams: Mother/daughter and father/son to do one more thing. Each team had to pick a time to do come, sit and down between each team member for only 2 minutes.
  • We used the back yard and the family room at first then began to call the dog room-to-room between team members.
  • This began to give the dog a sense of – who is doing what for whom.  This developed a new awareness of all family members.
  • There was a significant reduction of stress and anxiety.

We added two structured walks each day.

  • Each family member was assigned to a day so as not to give anyone the feeling of being over-burdened. If only one family member did all of this they would be overwhelmed with the task.
  • Next we started a gradual desensitization to family members and people around his food bowl, chew bones and space.

The final chore was to put all of this on a calendar that spanned two months and posted it on the refrigerator. And of course, Mom made sure everyone did their fair share.
I’m happy to say that there is no more food bowl or article guarding and the family could not be happier!

The key to their success
The key to their success in modifying their dog’s behavior was commitment.

The family committed (110%) to working their dog on the program.

It makes me one happy dog trainer to work with clients who recognize that only a serious commitment to working the plan will turn their dog around – and it has!
Consistency and repetition will begin to breed habit, so keeping structure in his life and expectations high is the key. They decided to continue their daily rituals with their dog indefinitely.

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Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”    [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]

Is dog aggression increased by tug of war

Dog Aggression: Does Tug-of-War Increase Dog Aggression?

I frequently get asked the question, “Will playing tug-of-war with my dog increase his aggression?”

Every dog, to a greater or lesser degree, has predatory instincts or prey drive  – that’s their inherent characteristic to chase moving
objects. This prey drive activity includes running, chasing, biting, dissecting and chewing.  Some behaviorists would say that engaging in a good game of tug-of-war, if done correctly, can help to strengthen the bond between owner and pet because it could be interpreted by the canine as a rehearsed team effort to rip and tear prey apart versus a competitive game of winner-loser as we humans may perceive.
Is dog aggression increased by tug of war

But is playing tug-of-war a good game to engage in with your dog? Can you play the game without creating an aggressive in your pet?  It partly depends on how the game is played.

Let’s break it down and take a look at how it makes sense to play tug-of-war.

Before you start:

It will be important to make sure your family pet can respond to the following commands before beginning your game of tug-of-war: sit, take it and drop it.

This will insure the game goes smoothly and to your benefit as you will want to control all articles of play. As you work on these commands, your leadership is consistently being reinforced. Who knows, you may be able to use “Drop it!” to get him to release something of yours he has just picked up.  See, you’re already ahead of the game! Besides that, dogs like rules and expectations. Knowing what to do and when can significantly reduce stress and anxiety in them.

How you play the game:

How you play tug-of-war is very important – especially with bossy dogs.  Always keep interactive toys up and away from your pup or dog so that they know you control them – until you are ready to play the game.

  • First, require a sit.
  • Then say, “Take it!” as you offer him the opposite end of the tug toy.
  • Then play the game until you are ready to stop (always on your terms).
  • When it’s time to stop say, “Sit,” then “Drop it,” and take the toy.
  • Always put it away until you decide when to play the game again.

Who gets to play:

It is important to set house rules on who gets to play the game. Playing tug-of –war with the dog should be limited to adults and   Only those who can follow the rules listed above and always win the game should be allowed to play.  Parents, no small children, please.

Benefits of tug-of-war:

There are some advantages to playing this game with your dog. Let’s have a look at some of the benefits:

  • Playing tug helps your dog burn predatory energy similar to natural activities – like running or walking – although it’s not a substitute for walking your dog. There are just too many other benefits associated with walking.


  • It gives your dog something on which to reflect in your absence. So, a good time to play tug is right before you crate or leave your dog for a period of time.


  • Proper play of the game becomes a consistent reminder of who is in control of articles of play and what the expected rules are to earn a place in the game.


  • With each “sit, take it and drop it” you are reinforcing fast command response from your dog which, in turn, can foster faster responses in other situations where you need your dog to drop something he might have of yours.

Most importantly, have fun, teach and train your dog every day and continuously set rules, boundaries and expectations.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”