The #1 Practice or Habit That is Derailing Your Dog Training Program

Our 99 pt win and Fury getting her Title!

People tell me all the time that they can’t get their dog under control; after all I am a dog trainer so I kind of expect to hear this time and time again.

Sometimes I just have to take a step back and try to figure out what’s going wrong what are people doing that will make a big difference and is easily corrected.

Most often the problem is easily fixed with a little ingenuity and thinking more like a dog than like a person.  After all, when you are having problems with your dog understanding goes a long way!

At the root of most problems I see?

I like a Soft Leash

Misuse of the Dog Leash

A dog’s leash is a tool; and a very important tool at that!

Leashes are critical to controlling your dog and also for teaching him what is acceptable.

Most often when I am answering questions asked of me on the message board I go back to saying.  Put a leash on your dog and TEACH him what you want.

Although leashes are invaluable tools, you have to know how to use them.  There is no such thing as a magical dog leash or one that does all the work for you!  For more on leash training click here.

Problem #1

People don’t know how to use a leash.  They snap it on and let their dogs take control.

It is as if the leash is a tool for your dog to pull you from place to place and get what he wants.

This is one way a leash is misused.

The leash is for YOU to learn to control and teach your dog and then it is only used as a backup in case of emergency.

When I walk my dogs, I don’t even want to feel the slightest tug on the leash!  I want to be able to put it around my waist or around my little finger and never need to use it.  It is there for peace of mind in an emergency and because the law demands it, but it is not something for my dog or for me to pull on.

For more on getting your dog to respect the leash and walk nice for you read my articles here on leash manners and walking.

Problem #2

People never use a leash in the house.

It is like the leash itself was only designed for outside dog walking and nothing else.

We invite people into our homes with our dogs jumping around flying toward their faces and their backsides and no one ever thinks to simply put a leash on the dog to control his behavior and teach him obedience as a coping skill.

Or worse, people are invited into the homes of aggressive dogs who rush, growl and bark at these friends like intruders, some even bite, when I leash could be used to gain control of the dog and take his ability to scare and bully people away!

Leashes are more important to me INSIDE the home (where they spend most of their time) learning how not to chase the cat, how to stay out of the trash, and what manners are expected prior to complete house freedom.

If everyone whose dog was chasing the cat, stealing food off the counter, or whose dog was nipping them put that dog on a leash until the behavior resolved we would have much fewer problems.

Even a leash used menially but when needed is better than it not being used at all!  Dogs need to learn manners and we need a way to teach them; a leash is the easiest way.

Problem #3

People use a leash as a correction or compulsion device.

The leash is a control device not a “correction device”.

There is a big difference from using the leash to keep your dog from jumping on other people and dogs; and correcting your dog with all of your force and body weight when he does the same thing.

Too often we don’t “TEACH” our dogs what our expectations are; instead we use our bodies and force to hurt or correct our dogs when they make a mistake.

This correction in the dog’s mind can go hand in hand with the situation.

Imagine for a moment a young puppy who is out on a walk and sees another dog getting ready to walk past.  The young pup jumps and pulls, he may even bark or put his hackles up because he is unsure of the situation.

Owner #1

  • Gets his attention with a treat, and instead of letting him pull toward the other dog he teaches the young puppy that giving him (the owner) attention is what rewards the puppy.
  • Once attention is gained this owner can now ask the puppy to sit or lay down for a treat therefore teaching the puppy what to do when other dogs appear.
  • If the puppy does not pay attention, this owner turns around and goes far enough away from the dog to get his puppy’s attention successfully, therefore not rewarding the puppy for being over excited, barking, and pulling at the other dog.

Owner #2

  • Grabs the leash and YANKS or pops his puppy, causing a painful and negative stimulus; the puppy may even cry or continue his negative behavior.
  • More pulling results in more corrections and anger from owner #2, and the puppy learns that it is bad and painful to meet new dogs on the street.  Within a few short sessions of seeing other dogs and having this same reaction happen over and over again, the puppy begins to become very defensive and dog aggressive.
  • Now when he sees another dog he goes crazy, because he knows that corrections and pain are involved.  He doesn’t know what else to do!

Owner #3

  • This owner lets the puppy bark and growl and lunge and slowly tugs the leash as the other dog passes, almost ignoring the pups behavior and hoping it will pass.
  • But the tight leash and movement from the other dog causes frustration and builds some prey drive causing more aggression and irritation from the dog.
  • This dog also will likely develop some dog aggression issues.

The dogs from owners 3 and sometimes 2 are often not aggressive when the leash is removed, because the frustration and correction is also removed from the scenario causing the dog no negative feelings toward the other dog.

That is why some owners will say

“my dog is aggressive when he is on leash, but not when he is at the dog park”.

The leash is giving him negative connotations.

Obviously we want to strive to be owner #1.  The leash simply gives us physical control over this puppy, but it should not be used as a correction or compulsion device, that will only make negative behavior worse.

Learning how and when to use your dog’s leash is key and is something that you will need for your dog’s entire life!

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  1. Christa says:

    Thank you for this additional information, although I have not experienced this problem with my dogs in the past, it will be useful when I receive my rescue dog in the next few days, as I believe this dog has had no training.


  2. Coral says:

    @-year old Rafael, whom we adopted 4 months ago is a lovely young Schnauser, but he is so excited when I clip on his leash, knowing that an outing is imminent that he rushes off when the door is opened pulling me
    hard after him. I would like him to wait and then walk without pulling me after him.


    Minette Reply:

    Put the leash on him often and don’t take him anywhere; just clip it on and let him drag it around the house.

    Do this many times a day, so the leash begins to lose its meaning to him.

    Then open the door when he is on leash but don’t take him out; again several times a day.

    Eventually he will learn that the behaviors are not always connected and you will be able to teach him leash manners.

    Leashes aren’t always for “outside” only!


    Miki Reply:

    I adopted a stray Great Dane, and one of the things I’ve done to keep him from trying to drag me around is to teach him “wait”. When we are at the door he sits to get the leash on, but he has to wait while I open the door, lock the handle, put something in my pockets, etc. Then I open the screen door to the outside and he has to wait until I let him go out, then he has to wait on the porch while I close & lock the door behind us. I don’t use “stay” because that’s the command I use when I am going in and out the door and he doesn’t get to come at all. By teaching him “wait”, he has learned that he will get to go outside when I am ready. He loves to go for rides in the car, but if I am putting my purse in the front seat first or unloading my hands, he has to wait and I will let him in the back seat when I am ready. It helps him know when he gets to do something, but needs to be patient vs when he doesn’t get to do it at all. If he doesn’t wait when commanded and pulls me around, we don’t go out right then at all. A few minutes later we will try it again and it only took him a few times to figure out to pause and look at me and wait for an OK to do the next thing. We wait at corners before crossing the street too. I am more likely to find myself wondering why he’s not coming out the door with me ~ and remembering I didn’t say he could ~ than being dragged out the door!!


    Minette Reply:

    Obedience is always a good cure to bad behavior 🙂 That is exactly what you are doing, teaching him what you want and what is acceptable!!

  3. carla brown says:

    I have a 3 year old Jack Russell whom I adopted in late March and he has leash aggression. I have tried numerous ways to keep “Bull” focused on me when we need to pass another dog on the street. I have tried spraying him in the face with a water sprayer when he goes nuts, i have tried treats to distract him from getting into the red zone, etc. but nothing is working!! I understand that Terriers are prone to this type of behaviour due to their breeding (or so I am told by all internet sources) but I believe that somehow / somewhere I should be able to break through this silliness.
    I even bought an auditory / vibration / shock collar but I am a little leery on using it at the moment as I need to hone up on my timing.
    DOES ANYONE have experience with Terriers and could you give me some hints as I am running out of ways to deal with this problem. sigh.


    Vicky Hurley Reply:

    I have a Pom and he is the same way. I have tried everything from different types of collars (except a shock collar) food, Levi started this aggression at 6 months he is now 2 years old and still doing it. The only thing that comes close to working is a rolled up paper. I spank him lightly on the behind. My mother in law said he was just spoiled. As long as I walk with the paper he behaves. If you hear of any sugestions please email me. Good luck


    Minette Reply:


    Read this article

    Spraying him in the face and using a shock collar is only going to make the behavior worse you are teaching him that passing other dogs is something to be fearful of and get aggressive about!

    Think about it…when it happens not only is he aggressive and perhaps apprehensive you are adding pain and negative to his already bad experience.

    Instead, find his motivator!! All dogs have one! And, if he is not interested in it (whatever it may be) go farther away from the dog he is getting aggressive toward.

    If he can’t be within 20 feet of another dog, go 50 feet away and try to keep his attention, if he can’t be within 50 go farther until you can get and keep his attention.

    There is no magic cure. Dogs like this need to be desensitized and learn they can function around other dogs.

    Eventually, in his own time you can work closer and closer to other dogs until you are right next to them.

    I work my dog outside a dog park or outside of a boarding kennel so that he/she learns to pay attention to ME and not every other barking, running dog that is near.

    It takes time, but it is workable.

    If you need help seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist who can set up a training regimen and see your dog’s exact behavior and give you tips and guidelines for your dog.

    Some of these behaviorists also run classes for dogs like this where they do controlled massage and teaching dogs to relax around other dogs.


    carla brown Reply:


    Thank you so much for your much needed information.
    I understand when you say to work at a distance where my dog is most comfortable. That never popped in my head – great concept.
    Guessing I was pushing dog before he should even be there.

    And the idea of doing a negative to dog at the time when I need him to be calm and to look at me – eesh, didn’t think of that either.

    Thanks for the tips. I’m willing to work with Bull and even if it takes years, I’m in it for the long haul.



    Robert Reply:

    I have a rescue Corgi / mini Australian Shepard mix that, after 18 months of age, became aggressive to other dogs, especially dogs that were considerably larger than him.

    I went from avoidance to giving him treats when he didn’t attack to a citronella collar to pinning him to the ground to a shock collar but nothing seemed to work.

    I bought a number of books and tried a number of other methods described but not until I got a book written by William Khoeler in the 60’s, a book that is tagged as a dinosaur in the dog training community today, did I get any results.

    Khoeler says to take a piece of cut off garden hose and bring the aggressive dog, while on a leash, over to another dog. When Mr. aggressive shows the first sign of aggression bring the hose down across the middle of his muzzle. Then pull him over to the other dog and if he continues, apply another correction.

    The dog now can make the choice on his own. Do I want to continue this aggressive action and continue to get bopped or would I rather stop, sniff and play with this other dog?

    After just one session described above, my dog now sniffs and plays with new acquaintances on a regular basis.

    I was not mean to him with the hose, I may have saved his life. Twenty pounds of dog verses sixty pounds of dog can become fatal quite fast.

    Sometimes “old school” wins over modern technique and in this case it certainly did.


    Minette Reply:

    That is horrific!

    This could also result in death of the dog or the owner if the dog was bigger than the owner. Imagine doing this to a really aggressive Mastiff, the odds may not be on your side.

    I know I am always safe to recommend positive methods and actual work. No one is going to get bit or mauled from helping their dog understand and work for a motivator.


    Shelly Mally Mummy :-) Reply:

    Let me think about this for a minute – so : example: an old lady is scared to walk past a group of teenagers – you do what? You either walk with her saying it’s OK and reassure her for being so brave and she discovers that they are actually quite a nice bunch of kids after all ….. Or : you wack her across the face and basically say to her – well if they don’t get you – I will!!! Yeah – nice concept 🙁


    Wendy Reply:

    Many years ago my family was asked by the Animal Welfare to adopt a dog who was being abused by the owner. This little guy had been beaten across the snout so many times that the nerve ends had been severely damaged and resulted in partial blindness. I’m happy to say that Bobby became a lovable and loving dog and was with us for many years.


    Mimi Reply:

    I have a terrier and we began our lives together with the same problem. As soon as I see a dog or feel my terrier change mood, I whip out a treat and start talking about it and the DOG and give the treat. I may have to give out several treats each time. Funny what happens finally: dog spots other dog and starts looking for the treat, which, of course she receives. No pulling or yanking. It took about a week to ten days. Mimi


    Petra Reply:

    Excellent idea! Thank you for this. I have a 14 week old Miniature Schnauzer. If this works with Mitzi I’ll let you know! It makes perfect sense (to me at least!) Wish us luck… Petra and Mitzi


  4. David M Eichenlaub says:

    Loved this and other articles. Please add me to your mailing list. Thanks


  5. Diva Rigney says:

    I have a 8 month old puppy she is not leash trainned at all she pulls and tugs at the leash and I hate walking her because she is horrible at walking on a leash so wish me good luck.


    Bev. Reply:

    I got my little puppy,Shu-Tzu/Bichon at 3 mos. of age. After he settled into to the routine of our home, I started putting the collar & leash on him in the house, just to get him use to it. At first he didn’t know what the in the world is going on here, but it didn’t take long at all, not even a few day’s, and he didn’t mind the collar & leash at all, and then when I took him outside with collar & leash on to potty, I had no problem all, he did good and was fine with it.
    He’s now 10 mos. of age, and have been for several mos. now, walking him all around our yard with collar & leash, with no problem’s.
    Took him on his very first walk off the yard, a few week’s ago, and being something new to him, he did tug & pull on the leash, but after only a few time’s, he walked just like a good doggie should, and our walk together was most enjoyable for us both.


  6. Corinne Vuignier says:

    My 3 yr old French Bulldog is EXACTLY the same. I have tried laying him down, standing in front of him, “shushing” him as I poke at his neck, his favorite treats to get his attention, his favorite toy, etc. etc. etc. And still, as much as he is perfectly behaved any other time and respects all of my other demands, when he sees another dog, he turns into a totally different dog. I try to be “calm and assertive” as Ceasar would say, but my frustration is starting to take over. I also need HELP!!!


    Minette Reply:

    Read this article, you need to back up away from the other dogs and work on lessening his response and sensitivity. If he can’t function within 3 feet of another dog, maybe you need to go 10 feet away or further at first until you can control his behavior.

    Poking is never going to work, it is only going to make things worse. Looking at another dog is a privilege if his behavior is bad, back up and don’t allow him to look. Head the other direction.

    And, find his motivator


    Ursula Reply:

    Corinne, timing is everything! If you poke him when he is already in a state it won’t do you any good. Stop the behavior before it escalates. If you see a dog coming towards you make him sit with his back towards the oncoming dog. You have to consider that being on a leash takes the flight option away and leaves your dog with the fight option. You have to teach him the ignore option. Make him sit until the dog passes and be patient it might take a while to graduate to being able to walk by another dog.


  7. Lorri Turner says:

    I experienced the same when I a adopted a Schauzer/Russell/Terrier. I enrolled in a dog behaviour class. When approaching a situation you know your dog will react to ( in an aggresive way ) I was tought to do u turns before the situation gets out of control. I had my radar working over time and did u turns BEFORE any indication the dog was aware. I also watched ALOT of Ceaser (the dog whisperer) I carried liver treats on our walks, talked to the dog as we walked. If you have someone with a bomb proof dog that is willing to work with you and your dog it helps you and your dog gain confidence. I do realize “now” that if your uptight it seems it travels VERY quickly through the leash. Good luck, wishing you great success.


  8. Debra says:

    Hello I have a 6 month old Beagle pup. We live in an appartment so we do alot of walking him on a leash. I have been working with him to learn “leave it” and “come on” but when a person walks by he wants to have major attention. He jumps and licks and is just soo excited to see someone. I have tried to walk away and get his attention with bacon treats but he wants their loven. When a dog walks by he hops up on his back legs until the other dog is close enough and then he lays down and/or rolls over on his back. Once they are greeted he jumps up and runs and wants to play. Im not sure how to solve this cause he pulls me when we first go out and then across the street to get to the potty area and then he just wants to track things. Drives me nuts, tracking rather than going potty.
    Help me. 🙂 =^_^=


    Minette Reply:

    A beagle’s brain is in his nose!! I would allow him to track by teaching him to track, then he doesn’t feel like he can’t do what he has been bred for! But it will be on your terms.

    Then you can ask him not to pull you on a regular basis by teaching him to give you attention instead.

    Pulling and jumping at people and other dogs should not be rewarded. It sounds as if when he pulls he is then allowed to jump on and greet people. The opposite should be true. Tell people he cannot socialize if he is pulling or jumping!!! No if ands or buts about it!! Pulling equals the loss of what he wants, and then he will learn to not pull and to sit or lay down for affection!

    Look up my other articles on Nose Work for him to have some fun!


  9. Pat says:

    I knew I was right not to punish my dog for something I neglected to know. I was told to jerk his leash, and hold it tight, it is probably painful. I tried that and he quickly snapped his head out of the collar and I was standing there with a leash and collar and no dog. Found a halter collar and another leash and he proudly walks beside me, I have a slack leash, when other dogs are curious and are walking past, since my dog is huge, I ask him to sit and when they pass we continue. I have him sit because it is intimidating to other owners whose dogs are smaller and they do the jerk the leash thing and often make their dogs cry out in pain. I am so sorry for them. Thanks for the words of encouragement.


  10. Wendy Dek says:

    Thank you – this is what I am always trying to get across to my students. They are part of the problem BUT that also means that they CAN also be part of the SOLUTION 🙂


  11. Linda A says:

    My little “smarty” Marty is a 11 pound terror when meeting a new or larger dog. He is a rescue dog about 9 months old. The trainer (uses your techniques) says he has leash aggression and it will take a lot of patience and work. He is quick to learn and very affectionate otherwise. He has actually cornered daughter’s 70 pound lab behind a rocking chair. I have found only two other dogs I trust him with…they are his size. And sometimes the Lab for a short duration. He is the aggressor.


  12. Want to know if someone could help me solve a problem with my 7 month German Shepherd-he will jump and bark at me off and on during the day! Thank you


  13. Ambrish kant says:

    i hv brought up lab pup now 2 yrs.since 3rd day i hv never needed use of leash while i walk on roadside footpath or in a park ,But at home it is without leash for 2 hrs in morning ,2 hrs afternoon & 3 hrs in night time & w/leash in its allotted area at time of our breakfast, lunch & dinner. we make it a point that my lab does not see any of my family member eating something. 1 hour before going out it is w/ leash , then when i say command “stop” it stays & waits to get removed latch of its looks at me & understands that now we’ll just go for walk. it then walks by my side on command “walk” or “Go to park” & does not bark on other dogs or sniffs on passer-by on way to park .When a guest comes home & i greet him , it senses intimate gesture & starts sniffing guest. if by chance it starts jumping on guest, i just say “leave it” , & if it delays i go to hanging leash then immediately it will leave it & sit in its area. It hs grown like this & consistent in this behavior for last 2 yrs. I advocate for use of leash against pain but to the comfort of our pet & to train it that leash use is to signal pet that owner means obedience at his commands on a required occasion.


  14. MARY BORG says:



    Minette Reply:

    She needs more exercise.

    When you get home put on the leash, strap up your shoes and take her for a walk till she is too tired to bark or jump!


  15. Karl says:

    I have a similar problem with my 2 year old Malinois. It’s not that he is aggressive towards other dogs, he wants to get over to them and meet them and play. Even if I cross the street his favorite ball or toy is not enought to get and keep his attention until the other dog is far away. When it comes to him spotting a cat or possum then “forget it” he just goes nuts.


    Minette Reply:

    You have to work at that a place that is far enough away that you can motivate him.

    Also, if you never play ball with him regularly at home then the ball is not rewarding enough.

    I teach my Malinois and build their drive with the toys, then I can use the toy above all other things to keep their attention on me and nothing else! But it requires some time and work to condition them.

    If you need to use a gentle leader to control his face and not allow him to pull and if he pulls and gets out of control just stand there and wait for the behavior to pass.

    He will learn that pulling and lunging toward other dogs equals going the other way, or not getting what he wants.

    They are smart. He will figure it out!


  16. Beverly Blonder says:

    Thank you, Minette, for all the training advice and “tools” you have provided for me through the information on your web site. I have an 8-month old intact male German Shepherd Dog. We have completed Level I training, and signed up for Level II. Although he won 1st place in his class in the indoor agility competition, his performance was only possible because all the other dogs had been taken outside! While he can be dog-reactive, there were other dogs in this class that were far worse. According to our instructor/trainer, it was the worst combination of dogs she had encountered in all her years of training (she is known to be the best in the county).

    I am now continuing the training in downtown areas where we are working to improve heeling, as well as “polite greetings” with people (no petting unless he’s sitting), and dog-reactivity. Your advice on the leash and its misuse has been very helpful. Also, I’ve been using the treats as you suggested, in order to walk past other dogs while maintaining his focus. It is still too early for me to try the meet-and-greet with people who have other dogs, but I now think it will eventually be possible as I continue desensitizing him. We actually passed a man who had a couple of little poodles on leashes. The poodles barked hysterically at Dutch, while the man was yelling at them saying, “No! No! Stop! Bad dogs!” and pulling them away. Although Dutch looked at them, he didn’t even bark back, and didn’t change his pace as he continued to heel nicely past them with me (as I offered him tiny bacon treats along the way!).

    I love your advice, and have printed excerpts that pertain to my issues for training Dutch. He is the sweetest, most loving dog, and now through Obedience Training supplemented with your help, I believe that everyone else will soon see that, too!


    Minette Reply:

    I am sooo glad this is working for you!!

    It sounds like you are a wonderful team.

    It does sometimes take a lot of work but after some time you can make the situation harder and harder and your dog will have the firm foundation he needs to succeed. He knows what to do and that he will be rewarded for good behavior.

    That is much better than worrying that he is going to get smacked for bad behavior!


  17. Minette says:

    attach the leash to her and let her drag it around for a while first, then lighting put pressure on it but don’t pull.

    If she chew on the leash put some bitter apple on the leash so it tastes bad and she doesn’t want to chew on it!


  18. Jen Buscall says:

    I have found your advice invalauable. Ranger (Golden Retreiver), now 2 1/2, we adopted 3 months ago. When off leash he is very good with other dogs & always ignores the “yapping & aggresive ones”. On leash, he used to just pull & pull although I was giving him daily leash training. So I’ve started to use the “eye to me” & it is working! Still have a way to go but he’s improving. What we have learned with him is that he wants to learn. As a result, we are working with “the special treats” & eye contact & the results are very good.

    With the every day training sessions Ranger has calmed down. He is hyper active to the point we had to put him on an extra calorie diet. On a normal diet from the Vet he was losing weight on 2 cups per meal. Now, with the new food, he’s on 3 cups per day, gaining weight slowly, is calmer & happier. Therefore his training is going forward by leaps & bounds.

    BTW, he’s solid muscle, & gets at least 2 romps per day (20-30 mins. each plus a throwing romp in the garden (another 20 mins) @ evening. We go swimming for 3/4 – 1 hour 2-3 times per week depending on the weather.


  19. fran says:

    i taught ‘leave it’ first – and i pay attention to dog’s body language – what has he noticed (cat? another dog? squirrel?) ears up very intent ? i then make sure he is tighter to me – no lose leash – and we turn around or zig zag walk – never a direct approach head on….constantly telling him “leave it”…works like a charm – lots or praise of course. Negative training NEVER works for long or w/out future behavior issues. pinning the dog down – certainly NEVER. wouldn’t you rather the dog decided on his own to do the desired behavior rather than being forced or from fear.


  20. cynthia says:

    Thanks for the mail, my lab/retriever dog not yet 2years, jumps on me from behind when I am in the garden she does this only to me , I think she wants to play, but it is quite annoying


    Minette Reply:

    So, exercise her before you go gardening! Play ball, take her for a walk, she needs exercise and interaction too!


  21. Cynthia says:

    I have a 9 month old border collie who goes crazy at any passing vehicle. I have tried making her “look at me”, sit, clickered and treated but it is impossible to get distance between us and passing traffic and I have to grip the leash really strongly as I can only guess how horrific it would be if she got away! Also in the car we have had to crate her and cover the crate to keep her calm. Please can you help as I am unable to take her for proper walks and can only drive her, covered up, to a nearby dog park. She is sociable and friendly with dogs and people and can tolerate slow moving cars to a degree.


    Minette Reply:

    Read this

    She needs exercise and work in a place with very little cars at first, like in your house or drive with her in the crate to a big park.

    You have to work from a long distance and then work closer and closer to the distraction.

    There are no “easy” fixes, only obedience and lots and lots of desensitization and work!


    Cynthia Reply:

    Thank you so much. So happy to find someone who can thoroughly answer our questions with so much understanding.


  22. Kay. says:



  23. KBullard says:

    Re: Getting your dog used to cars, bikers, etc.
    I’ve owned several GShepards during my life and I’ve found that once you are doing fairly well with the lease(no pulling, and semi-slack leash) that as you walk the dog, introducing them to traffic lights/intersections/people walking, etc. there comes a point where they are simply overwhelmed by all the activities going on, so much so that when you get them to sit at a light, they simply look everywhere at once. I’ve found that when my pups/dogs have been exposed to this, it seems to create an effect that there is activity but not always danger(triggering aggressive behavior by my dogs).

    After a period of time, they just enjoy being along side you, knowing you will let them know by your scent/actions if you are apprehensive about a situation. At this time with a slack leash you both can enjoy your walks together.


    Minette Reply:

    I get my dogs to pay attention to me when there are distractions around. But I have never found that to be a problem for me or my dogs (prior to getting them to give me eye contact).

    Perhaps it is a lack of confidence and trust. Dogs need to be comfortable knowing that you an protect yourself and them and it relieves a lot of their stress.


  24. KBullard says:

    Our current shepard @ 7months,78lbs. is probably the most aggressive pup I’ve eveer had(we got himn at 8weeks). I think either his momma didn’t have enough time to educate him or that perhaps some bad memory about people approaching him…we were supposedly to get the pick of the litter-AKC cetified. Small litter 3-males to chose from.

    He walks with a slack lease, right along side. When he sees some people coming toward him, regardless of catching his eye and corrections on the choke collar, he smells fear and reacts. This is normally when I take up the slack and begin correcting him…he’s getting better, but is really stubborn and independant like his ownere.

    Becasue our area is highly infected with the parvo-virus, our vet had us delay in letting us take him out until he ran the full series of shots. I’m wondering if we should have introduced him to the world earlier and if it would have made a difference in his current attitude?


    Minette Reply:

    I believe that dogs are born with a “genetic” personality, just like we humans are. Even though we may be raised in the same environment, siblings are still often very different.

    I have seen puppies at 5-6 weeks show signs of fear and aggression. It may be that you got a puppy that already had some fear/aggression issues.

    Although not socializing early might have had some kind of impact (the do most of their learning and associating during this time) it is doubtful that it would have mad a HUGE difference, although it is possible.

    Next time, you can socialize in “human place” the coffee shop, shopping centers, etc. where other dogs are not likely to be; or you can carry your puppy while socializing and not put him down on the ground to eliminate the chances of parvo.

    Chances are that he is associating the “corrections” with the appearance of people. People=Pain so he is getting more and more aggressive and reactive.

    Instead get him to give you focus and eye contact, first at home with no distractions. He cannot “learn” in the face of people he doesn’t know so you must work hard on building a firm foundation before you expect him to be able to listen! read this article

    Also I want you to read this article about building his confidence and the problem you might also be creating when you correct him and dont allow him to bark etc.

    Next once you have established some ground rules and have taught him some eye contact and focus, I would enroll him in a class. Classes are full of “dog” people who wont push his buttons so he can socialize without you worrying that someone is going to get stupid with him.

    It will also raise his confidence. He needs to have his confidence built and trust in you as “mom” in order to let this behavior go and so that you can learn to control him.

    He may never want to “socialize” with people he doesn’t know, but with lots of work you can learn to control him and recognize his triggers.


    Maggi MacGregor Reply:

    Hi, Although I agree that genetics (nature) play a large part, I also think the environment (nurture) has a big part to play. Yes, there will always be the influence of genetics, but there is evidence the ‘nurture’ can influence genetics. Rather than one thing being the dominant factor, it’s becoming clear that things are INTER-DEPENDENT rather than INDEPENDENT! Maggi


    Minette Reply:

    I agree. Nurture is also very important. However I believe through my experience that nature is more of a factor.

    I have seen very aggressive 6 week old puppies that would gladly bite and draw blood; and I have seen horribly abused dogs who do not become aggressive and still love people and even starved dogs that do not become food aggressive.

    Nurture is certainly important but I also believe that we are born with differences and personalities that are inherent, both people and dogs.

    My sister and I although raised the same are very different people!

  25. Gent says:

    I have a to year old German Shepard and Chow \cross that I got six weeks ago. Everytime he gets off the leash outside of my fence yard he runs away and doesn’t obey one word to come back. Yet, when he is on a leash and in my back yard he obeys most of the time to commands such as come here, sit down, stay, lay down. I just cant seem to make him come back once outside of the fence yard. Any idea to help this frustrated and tired of running after him down the street man?


    Minette Reply:

    Read this article!

    It takes a lot of work to go off leash!


  26. Tina says:

    We have a very well behaved Staffy Cross that we rescued, but her one bad habit is licking! I would like to find a way to break her of all the “kisses” especially since most people don’t like it. (especially my 92 year old mother!) I find these posts so interesting and helpful and good training for me as well as the dog. Thank you!


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