Recently adopted 4yo dog with aggression on leash
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Thread: Recently adopted 4yo dog with aggression on leash

  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Apr 2019

    Recently adopted 4yo dog with aggression on leash

    My boyfriend and I recently adopted a 4yo boxer/pointer mix, 40 lbs, from a shelter with no information about her background. We have had her for a month. She has been great (knows basic commands, not food aggressive) but has a couple issues.

    1. She pulls on the leash. Corrections don’t seem to work. She is good with the Gentle Leader, but she goes right back to pulling if we switch to a choke chain (which we had to when she got an ear infection and the gentle leader was rubbing her ear).
    2. She is typically okay with dogs when she is off the leash (only when the other dogs are calm or if she isn’t distracted by a ball)., but on the leash she will charge other dogs, barking and growling with her hair up on her back.
    3. She is not aggressive when I am walking her alone or when my boyfriend is walking her alone, but gets really amped up when it’s the both of us. She gets much more fearful and barks more when it’s the both of us together. She will lunge at another dog and I have to hold her back. Sometimes she will even lunge at people passing by (typically large men).
    4. When she gets really excited, it’s very hard to calm her down.
    5. She is thrilled to get IN the car and then she cries all the way to our destination. She’s way better on the way home.

    I’d like to be able to walk her past other dogs without her reacting and be able to calm her down effectively.

    Any recommendations are welcome. We just want her to be happy and are ready to change anything we are doing wrong to help her live her best life.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member
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    May 2017

    Re: Recently adopted 4yo dog with aggression on leash

    Lots and lots of training. Back to square 1 for leash training (stop, turn away, only move when the leash is loose, but again, I've never managed to teach my dogs not to pull either!!!). One of mine is the same way and reactive on the leash and I hear you.. it's a real pain. She's so bad that no treat will get her attention (she's the same at home if she sees a dog down the street), so I haven't really found the time to really work on it.. I suspect that it would take a LOT of patience. I just avoid dogs in the street and turn away if I have to when I walk her (honestly... rarely. It's NOT relaxing). There are ways to desentisize a leash reactive dog though, I know it's been linked somewhere before.

  4. #3
    Senior Member PatriciafromCO's Avatar
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    Oct 2012

    Re: Recently adopted 4yo dog with aggression on leash

    only a month,, ? You don't know what she knows, or if she even knows anything. or if she even knows how to learn, or if she knows what humans are for, or what you two are for, to get direction, or to feel safe in new situations that she not ready for.

    I've brought in a 4.5 year old and we never left the property for a year. 165lb dog out in public is not where you want to be with no bonding, no communication or working skills, between you and he didn't even know English . I have the environment/property land to do it, and I understand some many don't. I have gone and looked and found dog areas that are lighter traffic then others, or what days of the week are less crowded or times of the days. that's an option as well.

    it's vital in my opinion is to let a dog settle into their home and new family first and develop bonding, and skills from scratch that you will use on the outside real world.

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  6. #4
    Senior Member
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    Jun 2014

    Re: Recently adopted 4yo dog with aggression on leash

    I've had good success with the "red light/green light" game. When the leash is loose, it's a green light. When there is tension in the leash, it's a red light. The dog learns that the way to get what they want (moving forward) is to loosen the leash. I find that it is a lot more efficient to teach the dog to control themselves than to try to control them physically (I find pinch collars and choke chains exhausting). But training loose-leash walking this way can be tricky. If it helps, my big epiphanies were:

    1) Consistency. I always had a "creep" problem, where the dog would loosen the leash sort of, but slowly creep forward until it was tight again. It was this endless cycle of slowing down and lunging, slowing down and lunging. So I changed my criteria. I put something in my hand (a coffee cup or my phone) and made the dog stop whenever I could no longer comfortably hold/use the object. Much clearer signal to the dog (keeping the leash a consistent length helps with this too). And I only shattered three screen protectors!

    2) Overstimulation. Leash manners are difficult because the situations in which you want to train them are generally not under your control. You never know when you are going to turn a corner and come face-to-face with someone walking their taxidermied squirrel or whatever. But even though it is hard, there is a lot of benefit in controlling those situations as much as possible. Start loose-leash walking training inside the house, with no distractions. Then do it in the yard. Then take to the streets. Etc. A dog can't learn anything when she's bungee-jumping sideways into traffic. When the dog is acting super reactive I just lie back and accept my fate (internally). While removing the dog from the situation. Sometimes putting a parked car between the dog and the stimulus is enough to help them settle down.

    3) Keep moving. When the dog really really really really really wants to MOVE, making him sit or stand still is a much more expensive behavior than, say, running in the opposite direction from the stimulus. I've had some success using "running pace" as a reward for moving away from other dogs or squirrels or random scary trash. BUT it can also really backfire if the dog decides to Marmaduke across a four-lane highway. Just pay attention to how the dog is acting and recognize that being still does not necessarily mean being calm.

    As for some of the other things you mentioned...I have seen that same phenomenon where the dog acts completely different when someone comes with me on the walk. I do not fully understand the reason for this or what would work to make it better other than just time. It does seem to get better over time as the dog gets used to walking with multiple people. For general overexcitement, you can train the dog on impulse control. Any time the dog wants something, you make them wait. Teach them a "leave it" command or just "wait." There are all kinds of impulse control games you can play where the dog learns that he gets good stuff by controlling his impulses rather than giving in to them. This makes it might easier to get his attention in other situations where he's distracted.

    For the car, you'll probably want to look up desensitization and counterconditioning. Start with low levels of exposure to the car and work up.

  7. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2019

    Re: Recently adopted 4yo dog with aggression on leash

    (One) “On the leash she will charge other dogs, barking and growling with her hair up on her back." (Two) “She gets really amped up when it’s the both of us. She gets much more fearful and barks more when it’s the both of us together. She will lunge at another dog and I have to hold her back.”

    On this forum I've noticed you can barely mention the word “pack” because people go bananas remembering a particular celebrity trainer’s (negative) use of the “theory of dominance” and punitive action! This is (instead) about incentivizing and rewarding! But the suggestion will also not be a quick fix. Know that when she is off leash with dogs of equal temperament she is comfortable enough not to be aggressive, not having a need to demonstrate confidence versus insecurity (which means "rank").

    Your statements (one) & (two) shows the same basic attitude/reactivity, just to a matter of differing degree. Know that you are the most important element in your dog’s life (you supply food, exercise and protection). Therefore you are her “resource” (sorry, it’s not just about love) and it means that she is protecting (or valuing) what you mean to her. With your husband she is that much stronger with two, than you alone. Which gives her more confidence to ward off (or warn) intruders into her space when you are together. With the addition of your husband, the group increases and she is further emboldened. Her group has now become even more formidable for whatever she encounters on the street. Regarding her personality, as a dog (on leash) she has no requirement to mingle, even though you might wish to be “friendly” with others.

    While this won't be a quick fix, it's a good investment of time for all things going forward! Training takes time and consistency because it’s actually about “shaping” behavior incrementally. Corrections only tell a dog there's a penalty for what they've (just) done. To some degree a dog “seems” to react, but that's only because there’s a change in your voice/scent and body language. However they can’t build a constructive pattern (solution) to avoid the correction (without a demonstration from you). Corrections can seem to work through intimidation, which makes an insecure/sensitive dog avoid discomfort by shutting down. However an overly confident dog will continue to test the situation until such a road-block occurs that it devalues the attempt. And the payoff is no longer worth it. Unfortunately some dogs never submit.

    The first thing a dog has to learn is engagement and focus with you. This is really, really tough to teach when not learned from a young age. The goal is to make you more important and exciting (rewarding) in your dog’s life than anything else she can imagine! To that purpose, you are going to manage all her pleasures. This is going to take time. Lots of time. So build the relationship inside the house at first. Maybe don’t go for a walk for awhile until you fix this relationship. You can do it as described below:

    Marker trainer doesn't mean you need a "clicker" but does mean the immediate (positive) stimulus a dog gets in return for a behavior. Dogs ALWAYS, always act for a payoff. And in your dog's world remember that you represent safety, protection, confidence and security. That’s her “pack” (group or family). And her instinctive loyalty is to you for all those reasons. To teach engagement and focus, you must capture her attention! First you have to “charge” the mark (meaning to promise the payoff). Start simply, by teaching “come” (she does) and instantaneously give a treat! And I mean instantaneously. If she comes and sits (all in one move) treat that combo behavior! And only reinforce that combo behavior. Don't confuse between the two (a come with no sit). Never verbally correct, either ignore a failed behavior or reward it. Pick a HIGH value treat, and you may feed a portion of her meal. Do this 20 times in a row. When she comes/sits, treat. Ideally you want her eyes to meet yours, which is called focus! Eye contact is meaningful in the dog’s world. You want it to be a positive link! "Come/sit/eye focus" treat. Spread the training randomly throughout the day. So she learns that every single time she comes/sits/eye contact, she gets a treat! Super yummy treat! Wow, she is going to be at your heels (if she really likes food) all day long.

    Eventually you can shape her behavior, not only to come/sit, but to slide over to your side. You might have to nudge her side gently to lean against your leg. She might start accidentally offering that behavior. So build on it! To make it one smooth action, come/sit/eye/at your side. When she snuggles up against your leg, then that’s a huge reward (jackpot means double treat, happy voice!!). And you can gradually change your “come” word to “side” (come/sit/eye/side .... in a waiting position). You'll create a release word "done" which lets her return to whatever she's been doing! Always, always release her when you're done or interrupted.

    Next you build in duration, come/sit/eye/at your side (one, two, three beats) treat. Repeat 20 times, as you add a beat. Build up the duration, so she’s learned to WAIT for her reward! Do this for about a week. (You're teaching & establishing trust). When that behavior is met, teach come/sit/eye/side … then walk 2 steps with you. Build up the distance (which is duration) …. 5 steps, 10 steps. You're trying to teach her to be "glued" to your side. When you stop for the final time (training session) and your last treat, don't forget to release. So that what you’re really teaching is the value of focusing on you, walking at your side, and paying attention to your directions … to earn a reward! And to be rewarded with praise and happy talk! Which will all eventually lessen her anxiety out on the walk.

    Once that behavior is nailed, teach during distractions. In your yard. She may have to be a little more hungry just to ensure her attention. To teach that you are a more important person than outside noises, smells, squirrels, cars, people (whatever). You can make the exercises even more fun, by alternating the routine with a little playtime (like running in the opposite direction). Or working in some playtime with a special tug toy (reserved only for training time). Or whatever makes her most interested in interacting with you! Use a happy, enthusiastic voice, which is confidence building, and spending all that attention on her. Positive training ... is bonding with your dog!!

    Because - this is key …

    You’re going to want to take this “reward system” on the road with you!! You spot a potential distraction up ahead, you engage your dog, and expect her to focus on you. Ideally to sit at your side. When she does ... treat. If you’ve built in duration, you can solicit her patience as you walk a few steps (then treat), repeat. And eventually, if you’ve transitioned well enough, (hopefully) can offer that “tug toy” to distract her from her distraction, because you’re offering her fun time!!! Which means, you’re also replacing her previous feeling of anxiety (which was that threatening, stress producing situation) into a particularly fun, playful, REWARDING, happy interaction with you! Now she’s become a “good” dog for positive behavior (and you’ve eliminated corrections) which had been turning the walk into a struggle for both of you.

    Later on introduce the word “heel, go, proceed, forward” (whatever) meaning the cue for her to move forward with you, at your side, when you’re ready to walk ahead! Make sure she's keeping an eye on you, because training is an ever ongoing work in process!
    Last edited by Pacificsun; 04-17-2019 at 09:26 PM.

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