How to Train Your Dog to Not Attack Strangers

Hard
2-3 Months
Behavior

Introduction

We have often heard it said that dog is “man’s best friend”,  but in the case of an aggressive dog, not so much! Most dogs will bark to warn you when a stranger approaches, this is a natural part of their role as a member of your “pack”, and most pet owners appreciate that it is part of their job as your pet and companion. However, some dogs take this protective, warning behavior too far, showing aggressive behavior towards, and even attacking strangers. 

Unless you live in an extremely remote location or are a hermit, your dog is going to come into contact with strangers on a regular basis, on walks, in public, and having people such as servicemen and delivery people approach your home. If your dog attacks strangers, this is going to be a serious problem! Not only is it dangerous for the innocent stranger that you come into contact with, but most municipalities have laws against having aggressive dogs, and a dog that attacks strangers can be apprehended and euthanized if it becomes a problem. Getting control of a dog’s aggressive behavior towards strangers is a critical safety issue for others and for your dog.

Defining Tasks

Why do dogs get aggressive towards strangers? Sometimes it is due to territorial or protective tendencies--the dog is attempting to protect his territory, which could include your premises, your home and yard, and you. This can cause them to react aggressively to strangers approaching you while on walks, at home or away from the home. Other dogs are aggressive towards strangers because they are anxious and fearful. These dogs perceive the stranger as a danger to themselves, or you, and are attempting to defend themselves by lashing out and attacking the source of their fear, a stranger. 

You can often determine which type of aggression your dog is manifesting by observing their body language. A fearful dog will adopt a submissive stance, may often tuck their tail, crouch or otherwise try to avoid contact with the stranger,  then suddenly lash out quickly, at an ankle or from behind. A dominant,  territorial dog will adopt a dominant stance, lunging towards visitors, barking, making eye contact. Before corrective training for aggressive dogs begins, owners should rule out medical conditions that may be contributing towards aggression such as endocrine conditions or medical conditions causing pain, which may be contributing to aggressive behavior.

The best way of treating aggression towards strangers is to prevent it by socializing your dog when they are young, exposing your dog to lots of different situations and people in a safe, controlled environment, and teaching your dog that strangers are not a threat to you or him. If an older dog exhibits aggression towards strangers or has attacked someone, immediate training and work to prevent someone being hurt is required. 

You may need to engage a professional trainer if you have limited experience in training dogs, as this behavior is critical to stop for everyone’s safety.  Training to curb aggression involves desensitizing your dog to the presence of strangers and establishing control and leadership of your dog so that you can direct your dog to respond in a  calm accepting manner when a stranger is present.

Getting Started

Many trainers working with aggressive dogs use a head halter, which allows the handler to control the direction of the dog’s attention and direction and exert authority and leadership over the dog without causing pain to or injuring the dog. If using a head halter, you will need a short lead, as a dog using a head halter with a long lead can get a neck injury if they run and are suddenly stopped on a long lead. A well-fitting collar that will not slip over the dog’s head or a choke chain may also be used. 

Also, when working to teach a dog not to attack strangers, you may want to use a basket muzzle, which will prevent the dog from biting anyone during the training period. A basket muzzle may not work if you are desensitizing a frightened dog and using treats as positive reinforcement. The tools you use will depend on the training method and the risk of harm to handlers in the situation in which training is being conducted. 

This type of training should take place in a controlled setting; having an unplanned stranger approach during a training session can sidetrack your training. You will need to establish firm control, so ensure you have a plan before starting a training session to keep yourself, your dog, and everyone else safe.

The Desensitizing Method

Most Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Ue an assistant
In a controlled environment, such as your home, where the dog is less anxious, engage an assistant to help desensitize your dog to the presence of strangers.
Step
2
Prepare dog
Put your dog on a leash, with a head halter or well-fitting collar to help control his movements and prevent the dog from attacking your assistant.
Step
3
Approach
Slowly, have your stranger approach your dog. When the dog shows signs of fear or aggression, have your assistant stop and wait.
Step
4
Reward calm
Wait until the dog relaxes. Do not pet him or reward him for his frightened state, but talk calmly and firmly to him until he relaxes. When he is relaxed, then reward him with affection or treats.
Step
5
Approach closer
Have your assistant approach closer. The assistant should approach from the side and with their body not directly facing the dog, which a dog finds threatening. When the dog again shows signs of aggression or fear, stop and repeat previous step.
Step
6
Repeat and vary
Repeat until the dog tolerates the presence of the stranger without aggression or fear. You will need to conduct this with different assistants, daily or a few times a week, for several weeks. Eventually your dog will learn to tolerate strangers and be calm.
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The Establish Leadership Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Take authority
Conduct training exercises with your dog that establish your leadership over your dog, so that they do not view themselves as the dominant pack leader. This will establish that in a perceived threatening situation, your dog is not the ultimate authority. Teach your dog to heel and follow you reliably on a leash, with either a head halter or another appropriate collar such as a choke chain. Do not use a flexi leash, which is not useful for exerting control.
Step
2
Have assistant approach
Once you have established a leader relationship, arrange to have a strange assistant approach you, while walking your dog. Stay calm and exert positive energy. Use a muzzle and head collar if deemed necessary.
Step
3
Exert control
When your dog reacts aggressively to the presence of the stranger, jerk quickly to the side on the leash or in an upward motion. If your dog is wearing a head collar or choke chain, this redirects your dog. Tap your dog on the side with your leg or a training device that is an extension of your arm such as a stick. Do not hit your dog, you are redirecting him and reminding him who is making the decisions for “the pack”.
Step
4
Proceed
Have the stranger proceed on by, at a safe distance, while you remind your dog you are the leader and continue on your way without reacting. Have your dog follow your leadership.
Step
5
Practice
Repeat, having the stranger repeatedly walk by at a safe distance while you signal your dog to follow you without reacting. This procedure will need to be repeated many times with different assistants over a period of days and weeks. Do not become agitated or aggressive with your dog. Firmly distract him by redirecting him and commanding him to follow you when approached by a stranger. Eventually, your dog will take his cues from your leadership, calmly walking past strangers and not reacting.
Recommend training method?

The Alternate Behavior Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Teach 'down-stay'
Teach your dog to respond to a 'down-stay' command in your home, without strangers present. Give your dog the 'down-stay' command repeatedly. Your dog should lie down and stay for several seconds, then be provided with a treat. Gradually increase the length of time and alter how often a treat is provided versus praise and affection as a reward.
Step
2
Practice
Start giving the 'down-stay' command to interrupt unwanted behavior. Gradually increase the length of time your dog is able to hold this behavior.
Step
3
Practice outside
Teach your dog to obey the command when distractions are present. Start moving the exercise outside, while on a leash. Provide the 'down-stay' command and provide treats while outdoors in response to distractions such as squirrels or other dogs. Reward your dog for adopting the 'down-stay' position in response to your command.
Step
4
Have assistant approach
Engage an assistant to approach you and your dog, while outside. When your dog orients to the stranger, provide the 'down-stay' command, have your assistant wait until the dog adopts the 'down-stay' position and relaxes. Reward your dog.
Step
5
Come closer
Have the assistant approach closer, if your dog breaks position, repeat the command, have assistant wait, wait until the dog obeys and relaxes, and repeat until the dog tolerates the presence of the stranger.
Step
6
Repeat
This exercise will need to be repeated several times weekly and for several weeks with different assistants to establish behavior. You may use a head halter and muzzle while outside to protect your assistant, maintain control of your dog, and prevent any incidents if an unplanned stranger approaches.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Rafiki
sharpull
1 Year
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Rafiki
sharpull
1 Year

Rafiki is a sweetheart, but there are times where he has snapped and bitten people. He's bitten people on four different occasions. The first time was when my neighbor's daughter was chasing my little brother. The second was at an event where a guy was instigating a fight. The third was when he bit my sister for apparently no reason at all and the fourth when my sister tried to pet him. I can see how the first and second times might have been in a protective manner, but what about the third and fourth. Please help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Swannette, From what you have told me it sounds like the first two incidences may have been protection related. They also could have stemmed from him trying to control his environment, which could be the reason for him biting your sister also. How serious were the bites? Did he break the skin and draw blood? Was it one quick bite each incidence or did he bite several times in a row? The severity of the bites will effect how you treat the aggression. If he did not puncture the skin any of the times then, although the behavior needs to be dealt with, the risk to your safety is not as high. If he broke the skin and drew blood several times, and especially if the bites were multiple, blood drawing bites, one after the other, then proceed with extreme caution. If multiple bites with blood drawn were the case, then I would recommend immediately hiring a professional dog trainer in your area to work with you in person, rather than deal with the aggression yourself. For the bite incidences involving your sister, Rafiki may have bitten because he wanted to control the situation, and because he lacks respect for her. If she was petting him and he did not want to be petted, he likely bite her to communicate that he did not want her to pet him. For the time where the reason was unknown, what triggered the bite could be as simple as her being in his space when he did not want her to be there, or her looking at him a certain way, or her doing moving in a way that made him think that she was going to pet him or take something away from him. Whatever the reason, it is certainly not something you want to be happening. You will need to work on getting him use to being touched. To do this safely you will need to get him used to wearing a basket muzzle, which you can introduce with lots of treats and praise, so that he does not dislike wearing it. With him wearing the basket muzzle, practice gently touching different areas of his body while praising him and offering him a small treat through the muzzle. You can also let him lick some peanut butter off of the end of something long and thin that you poke through his muzzle. Something like a long straw may work. The idea is to teach him to love being touched everywhere and to learn that biting is not an acceptable way to handle being touched. It should go something like this: touch his ear, give him a treat. Touch his paw, give him a treat. Touch his tail, give him a treat. He also needs to learn to respect your family members, especially your sister. With him wearing the muzzle, practice lots of obedience training with him, and have your sister practice lots of obedience training with him. Have him practice walking attentively in the heel position and doing down stays. This will be especially beneficial. Make him work for the things he wants. For example, tell him to sit before he is fed dinner. Have him do a down before anyone pets him. Have him pay attention before you toss him a ball. Giving him structure should help to build respect. If you are able to, it is always a good idea when dealing with aggression issues to hire a local, Professional Dog Trainer to help you in person. Someone in person can see for herself what your dog is doing, and can show you how to work with your dog, and can decrease the likelihood of you being bitten while training. Best of luck with training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Pablo
Yorkshire Terrier
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Pablo
Yorkshire Terrier
3 Years

My dog is 3.5 years old and he is now lashing out at random people on our walks/in the elevator/ at restaurants. Especially maintenance men. He is a pretty anxious dog he is scared of loud noises and shy. This problem is getting worse and worse this year. It is now hard to take him in public places because I am worried he will lash out at people. Otherwise he is a very sweet dog and he has never bitten anyone.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessica, It sounds like Pablo probably needs a lot of structure and boundaries to teach him to depend on you more for how to respond in situations where he feels nervous. He needs more structure to keep him from becoming over aroused and help him stay calm and focused on you. Heeling right beside you and focusing on you during walks is a must for him, and generally improving his focus on you and communicating with him what is and is not acceptable and being consistent with your rules for him. Also, don't comfort him when he gets anxious or aggressive, instead correct him to interrupt his mindset gently then give him something else to focus on like a command that he can do. Check out the video that I have linked below for an example of another dog with aggression issues and some of the tips the trainer has for that owner as well: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/good-dog-transformations/the-good-dog-minute-111913-kellan-nervous-fear-aggression-case-comes-for-rehab/ Check out this walking video also: https://youtu.be/OTiKVc4ZZWo Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Koa
Border Collie
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Koa
Border Collie
10 Months

Koa is very sweet and very energetic. He knows most commands and is getting better. I have trained 2 previous border collies that were not as aggressive/ territorial as him. He is ok in public/ at coffee shop etc... and loves people. My concern is when a stranger comes to house or near RV. He’ll take off or squirm past me and run aggressively toward person barking and growling. He hasn’t bitten anyone but it is embarrassing for me and frightening for them. He does come back when called but obviously not soon enough. I don’t have a lot of people coming to door but he does not do this with roommates or girlfriend. I like that he alerts me to people coming I just want to stop the territorial behavior/ aggressiveness unless it is a danger/ prowler. Worried for girlfriend cause we have had a few weird people casing houses in neighborhood.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brian, I would recommend hiring a training group with multiple dog trainers who can rotate who does the training with him. The goal should be to get him used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle and have various trainers come to your home and work on desensitizing him to the presence of strangers by not backing down when he barks, being calm, and rewarding him as soon as he gives correct responses, like becoming quiet or stopping his forward movement for a couple seconds. Practice with one trainer until he gets comfortable with that person, then transition onto a different trainer in that group to practice the same thing. You want him to begin to believe that the people who come to his home are generally pleasant and bring good things. This will not decrease his protective abilities against intruders. A well socialized dog can actually better tell when a person is acting unusual because they will have learned what normal human smells, body language, and behavior is, to know when something is different. True protection dogs are very well socialized as puppies. Because you will need a lot of different people who are calm around dogs and willing to be near a barking dog, even with him muzzled, it will be hard to find enough friends who are willing to help you. If you can find such people and can get him used to wearing a basket muzzle, then you may be able to do it yourself. Be extremely careful though and do not skip the muzzle even though he has not bitten yet. It only takes one time and every dog is capable of biting under stress. To get him used to wearing a muzzle show him the muzzle and give him a treat. Repeat that until he enjoys the appearance of it. Next, touch it to his face briefly and give him a treat for every touch. Practice that until he tolerates the touches happily. Next, Hold it on his face briefly and give him a treat through the muzzle's holes while you do so. Repeat this until he is comfortable with that. Next, hold the muzzle on his face for longer and feed him a few treats through the muzzle's holes while it is there. Repeat this until he will put his face in the muzzle or at least hold still for you to put it on him and feed him the treats through it. Finally, attach the muzzle to him for a few minutes and periodically give him a treat through the muzzle's holes. As he gets more and more comfortable wearing the muzzle, gradually increase the amount of time that you have him wear it for and space your treat rewards further and further apart until he does not need the treats to feel safe with it on. Make sure you choose a soft silicone basket muzzle because that type will be more comfortable and will still let him open his mouth to bark and eat treats that you pass him through the holes. While he is wearing the muzzle, when he behaves correctly around the stranger, either pass him treats through the holes, give the "stranger" a long thin stick or straw type object with peanut butter on the end and let the stranger gently poke the straw through the muzzle and let Koa lick the peanut butter off. Keep a small amount of peanut butter nearby to dip the straw in again. If anyone is allergic to peanut butter, then you can use liver paste or squeeze cheese. With the help of a trainer I would highly recommend electric collar training for better off leash control. Either that or do not have him off leash. E-collar training and working on Koa's respect for you and general intermediate and off-leash obedience should help with him bolting away from you in disobedience too. Look for a trainer who uses high quality e-collars like E-collar Technologies, Garmin, SportDog, or Dogtra. Someone who also utilizes a lot of Positive Reinforcement in his training techniques, has a lot of experience using e-collars in training successfully, and knows how to find a dog's working level, which is the lowest level that that particular dog will effectively respond to. James Penrith from TaketheLeadDogTraining on Youtube and Jeff Gelhman from SolidK9Training, also on Youtube and online are both good resources for the type of training you want to look for with e-collars. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Lucy
Labrador Retriever mix
8 Years
2 found helpful
Question
2 found helpful
Lucy
Labrador Retriever mix
8 Years

My dog has many instances of fear-based aggression toward people, but has usually shown signs that she's prepping to lunge. She growls, her hackles go up, her tail is down, and she's either fixated on the person or turns away. I trusted that she'd warn me if anything (or anyone in this case) made her uncomfortable. But yesterday, we were on our usual evening walk when she went from sniffing the ground to lunging and trying to bite a little girl. The girl was walking relatively close to Lucy, my dog, with her father when it happened. Luckily, the girl's father pulled his daughter away in time to avoid a bite. It was the first time that Lucy attempted to bite someone, without a warning. And it is scary. I'm hoping to get tips to address this, in all honesty I feel quite overwhelmed and afraid that my dog will attack someone soon.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Michelyne, Lucy needs to see a professional dog trainer who can assess her in person ideally. This is not something I would recommend doing by yourself. Look for someone in your area who uses fair corrections and positive reinforcement and has a good reputation for managing and improving aggression. Check out Jeff Gellman on YouTube to learn more about managing aggression. For now, get Lucy used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle. She will need to wear this during training and it can be used while out in public with her until then also. To get her used to wearing a muzzle show her the muzle and give her a treat. Repeat until she is comfortable looking at it. Next, touch it to her and give her a treat each time you touch her. Repeat until she is relaxed and happy. Next, hold the muzzle against her face and give her a treat each time you do so. Next, hold the muzzle against her face for longer and give her treats through the muzzle's holes while you do so. Repeat this until you can hold it against her for a couple of minutes while feeding her. Finally, put the muzzle on her and feed her treats through it's holes while you do so. Gradually increase how long she wears it for, starting with just a couple of minutes and working your way up to an hour. Also, gradually space your treats further and further apart as she improves. Jeff Gellman SolidK9Training YouTube channel training,https://m.youtube.com/user/SolidK9Training Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Pixie
Pit bull
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Pixie
Pit bull
7 Months

We found Pixie hiding under our house when she was ~7 weeks old. She was covered in cigarette burns. We live out in the country 5+ acres and rarely have visitors. When taking her to th vet, we have had to muzzle her from the beginning (she has never forgot or forgiven him giving her shots).
Well, we had a friend come visit yesterday, and pixie tried to attack bite her!
Is it too late to take her to a trainer to try and avoid her biting people in the future?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Beau, Honestly, the answer is that I cannot say. I would highly suggest trying and doing it right now while she is only around seven months old. Your chances of success go way down the longer you wait. You will definitely be playing catch up with her socialization since he only interactions with strangers have been scary. I.e. going to the vet. She is likely convinced that all strangers will harm her and there is fear aggression. She needs intensive socialization and the aggression addressed from a management standpoint but also from a root cause standpoint. The root cause likely being a lack of socialization and fear. She needs to relearn what strangers are like to help her overcome her aggressive tendencies. Look for a highly qualified trainer in your area with a lot of experience dealing with aggression, get Pixie used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle by pairing the presence of the muzzle with food, and then have the trainer evaluate her while she is wearing the muzzle. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Keyshia
Pit bull mix
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Keyshia
Pit bull mix
1 Year

I was a dog park with my dog.I had a muzzle on her cause my trainer told me to try to open her up to dogs and people.We rescue her when she was 4 months old,she was abused as a puppy. There was a guy there with his dog he was okay with us bring her in with his dog as long as she had a muzzle. He kind of tripped and it trigger my dog to attack him but she didn't bite him cause she had a muzzle on but someone see it. Could I get my dog taken away for it.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Irene, Unfortunately, you would need to ask a lawyer from your state that question. Different states and regions have different laws and liability standards. Did your dog injure the person when he attacked or simply scare him? If your dog did not physically injure the person in any way, then it is more likely that you would be given a warning if it is reported and if another incident happened, then the dog might be taken away. The fact that your dog was wearing a muzzle will help a lot because you were trying to take the proper precautions to protect the public from your dog and your dog thus was unable to do serious damage to the person. You might be required to confine your dog better and limit public exposure if someone reports it. I cannot guarantee it, but it is not very likely that the dog would be taken away for his first offense under these circumstances. For a more accurate answer, consult a lawyer in your region though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Freedom
Pit Bull/Lab
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Freedom
Pit Bull/Lab
2 Years

We adopted our sweet pup a few weeks ago from shelter; he has a very sad past. He has done so well settling in, and had no issues when we introduced him to friends (cautiously) in our house. When we went to the vet, he was not so great: he growled and attempted to bite as she was examining him (we have him in a muzzle in public).

We are taking him to a dog trainer, so I guess really my question is how comfortable are any dogs with the invasive aspects of a vet examine (looking deep in ears, temperature, etc) and what is the ideal reaction to those sorts of things?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Megan, Ideally a puppy is introduced to the vet while young and taken there just to be given treats and learn to relax there, so that the vet is generally a pleasant place and the unpleasant exam is the exception instead of what happens every time. Puppies should also be handled a lot the first year of life. People should practice touching an area gently and giving a treat (ears, paws, opening mouth, touching tail, ect...). You can get dogs comfortable with being touched, so that touch is normally a good thing and it's easier for them to relax even when things are more invasive. For dogs that are adopted as adults the opportunity to do this is lost, so the vet is a scary place and scared dogs tend to either behave submissively, aggressively, or try to escape - depending on temperament and history. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Sampson
Pit bull
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sampson
Pit bull
1 Year

Sampson is showing agression towards any visitors we have except my parents and my mother in law. I have nieces and nephews who come to visit and he snaps at them. My step son's mom comes over and he tries to bite her. When we have visitors we have to put him in outside kennel because we are scared he might attack. He is also very jealous when my husband tries to kiss me. He tries to get in between us and he show us love. How do I keep him from being so aggressive to our visitors and strangers

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Denise, You need to hire a professional who specializes in aggression and comes well recommended by previous clients to help you. This is a potentially dangerous situation. Check out Jeff Gellman from SolidK9Training. He has a lot of videos talking about aggression. Because the aggression is toward children this is not something I recommend attempting to do on your own. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Hunter
Weimaraner
2 Years
0 found helpful
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Hunter
Weimaraner
2 Years

My dog is the sweetest dog. Unfortunately, over the past month, we have noticed a change when walking him. Usually when we walk him, he is very hyper. He looks at everything and everyone. He barks when a motorcycle or a bicyclist passes by him. Overall, he is too aware of his environment. But 1 week ago, my husband walked him and Hunter tried to lunge at a man. He managed to just nibble on the man’s hand. And today, my oldest daughter walked him; and a young teenage girl walked past them and Hunter angrily lunges at the girl and grabbed her jeans by her leg and then tried to grab her sleeve and he was growling at her. The thing is we know her and she has petted him before! Also, every time my daughter walks him, Hunter barks at everyone in sight. But when my husband and I walk him, Hunter in spite of being so overactive, he behaves very good. But how can we stop this barking at everyone in sight. I also noticed that he doesn’t walk beside us; he tends to pull on that leash very hard and walks ahead of me or my daughter when we walk him. Help please.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sandra, For the aggression you need to hire a professional trainer to help you in person, and you need to start as soon as possible. Also, check out this person's YouTube channel for general information on respect, aggression, leash pulling, and rude behavior. Your issue is likely related to more than just the walks, but is showing up during walks because of all of the stimulation and because of leash reactivity, caused by build up frustration and over-arousal. You need an over-all training plan, that probably works on creating structure and building trust and respect for your family, in addition to having someone help you specifically on the walks. https://www.youtube.com/user/SolidK9Training Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Beetle
Mutt
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Beetle
Mutt
1 Year

I got my dog from the Humane Society back in April. She has always been wary of strangers but seemed to warm up after about 10 minutes of them being around her. I moved back in August and ever since there she has gotten fear aggressive whenever strangers approach her. I try really hard to slowly introduce her to strangers but people get afraid when she starts growling and barking. It's gotten to the point where I've had to stop taking her to dog friendly events because she gets afraid and anxious and this causes her to lash out. Any advice? I know she is a sweet dog but when she does things like that it makes other people think she is an aggressive dog.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessica, I suggest hiring a local professional trainer to help you. Choose someone who is part of a larger training group, who will incorporate lots of different trainers in different sessions, to practice being "strangers" and to spend quality time giving her lots of treats and time to overcome her fears with them. They can also show you in real time how you should respond when she starts tensing up or lashing out. Beetle has likely learned that she can get people to go away by acting scary. Her attitude is likely "Get them before they get you". She needs to have lots of patient, calm people meet her from a few feet away, and whenever she is calm for even a second, toss her treats over and over again, and let her decide when to approach the person while the person ignores her other than tossing treats to her. As she gets ready to approach, the person can gradually increase interaction by talking to her, moving a little, and eventually touching her when she is completely relaxed. You need people who are calm and willing to follow these steps. If you have lots of friends or family members that she has not met yet, who can do this, then you can very carefully do this yourself with the proper precautions, but a training group will have the resources that you need and be able to help a lot more quickly. Also, do not assume that she will not bite. A fearful dog typically does not want to bite, but a scared dog will, to keep what he or she sees as a threat away. It's self-defense in the dog's mind and any dog has the potential to bite, so don't rush her when doing this with friends. Let her have the chance to relax before making things harder. She is also not ready for large crowds right now. They will likely make things worse. Work on calmer environments and a few people at a time, starting with individuals first, until she is consistently successful with those, then you can increase the difficulty with other scenarios as she improves. I can tell that you love her very much, and you are not alone in this problem. It is extremely common, especially with an unknown history and possible lack of socialization. I wish you the absolute best. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Jackson
American Staffordshire Terrier
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Jackson
American Staffordshire Terrier
4 Years

My dog is a very sweet boy but he has recently begun to show aggressiveness towards strangers when they come in our house. We had someone come to our house and sit on our couch at first Jackson seemed fine he laid on the couch next to the man and tried to lick him on the face. Then all of a sudden he lounged at him aggressively and tried to bite the man I love this dog but he almost bit my mom a while ago when her and my brother were wrestling. I´m not sure how to fix this problem.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jocelyn, I am guessing that when the incident with the guest happened that Jackson was standing over the person in an attempt to get to his face, and when the person did something to try to move that was when he attacked. If that was the case, then although Jackson appeared to be acting friendly he was probably asserting himself dominantly and the lick was more controlling and more about claiming that person by being in his space than being friendly. This is a dangerous situation. Do not handle this on your own. You need professional training help. Find a trainer in your area who can work on the aggression, boundaries, and respect in a fair and intelligent way. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Inu
Chow Chow
2 Years
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Inu
Chow Chow
2 Years

Inu is a very sweet dog, he acts well with strangers and other dogs. One problem that Im having is that every day when he sees my dad he is very aggressive with him, to the point were he actually attacks him. Since I've adopted him from the shelter, he has never liked my dad. My dad cant really get near the dog. His bread is a Chow chow mix with Jindo.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Eric, This is a serious issue and you need to hire a professional trainer who specializes in aggression to work directly with you, your dad, and your dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Cooper
Toy Australian Shepherd
3 Years
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Cooper
Toy Australian Shepherd
3 Years

My wife and I rescued Cooper about two years ago. We believe he was beaten whenever we rescued him, so he already had a rough start to life. Fast forward to today, whenever we get home we take him and our weenie dog outside. Lately, anyone he sees outside of our house he sprints towards them and seems to want to hurt them or let them know not to mess with him. Today he snipped at our neighbor who was walking away from us. He is starting to scare me with his aggressive behavior. I just need to know where to start. Should I leash him now? Is a shock collar with treats as reinforcement good?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dalton, Cooper 100% needs to be leashed. He absolutely should not be outside unless he is on a leash or in a physically fenced yard. Do not use an electric fence alone either. Because the aggression is probably fear-based, using a sock collar can actually make it worse if the shock is paired with him seeing a person. That can increase the fear and thus increase the aggression. Shock collars can be used for management when it comes to obedience. To teach an emergency recall, but that is done over a longer period of time, with a qualified trainer, so that the correction is associated with clear disobedience for something the dog 100% understands, and is not associated with a person. I suggest using getting Cooper used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle and using positive reinforcement to help him learn to like the presence of people. Start by praising him, giving him a treat, and acting silly by dancing around and being happy whenever he sees a person walking by at a distance. Reward him before he has a chance to respond poorly. Stay far enough away from people at first that he can respond to you and simply notices the people. As he begins to like the appearance of people through practice, then you can practice the training gradually closer and closer to people. Recruit lots of friends and family members that Cooper does not know to act like strangers once he can handle someone walking by on the sidewalk without reacting poorly. Have your volunteer walk by, stop without saying anything, then toss tons of treats toward him while you praise him, and continue walking again. Practice this with different people until he likes it when people stop. When he can handle a variety of people stopping, then gradually decrease the distance between him and the treat tossing person more and more. You can also add a bit more difficulty by talking to the person or having the person act slightly excited. Progress very gradually though. Don't overwhelm him. When he starts to act like he wants to meet the people and can handle being just three or four feet away, then have him wear the muzzle that you have been getting him used to since this all started. Tell him to "Say Hi!" in a happy tone of voice, then let the person feed him treats through the holes of his muzzle. When he is completely relaxed, then the last step is for the person to feed him a treat while she gently touches him somewhere at the same time with her other hand. As soon as the treat is gone, she should remove her hand though. Practice the touches with just one person at a time, until he relaxes when she touches him, then practice with a new person also. To get him used to wearing the soft silicone basket muzzle, feed him his kibble, one piece at a time, whenever he sniffs the muzzle, lets you touch it to him, and finally lets you put it on him. Work on just touch and sniffing until he enjoys the presence of the muzzle because of the treats. Next, hold the muzzle against his face while you feed him treats through the holes. Let him decide when he wants to stop though. When he is relaxed about that, then finally put the muzzle on him all the way and feed him treats through the holes while he is wearing it, then take it off again. Repeat this over and over, going slow enough for him to remain happy. Overtime, you can gradually increase how long he wears the muzzle for, and space the treats further and further apart. Finally, don't hesitate to hire expert help if you are not seeing some improvement. Get recommendations and ask questions though, to find the right person, who is very experienced with fear aggression and has clients who are satisfied. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Griff
Griffon Bruxellois
7 Years
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Griff
Griffon Bruxellois
7 Years

Hi there,
Griff is a big sweetheart, but he doesn’t like men specifically. I suspect he was hurt when he was young by a man.
He can be territorial as we used to live on a big block but now live in a unit complex.
He doesn’t like strangers coming in to pat him and if he off leash around the unit complex he will attempt to attack both men and women that live here.
He won’t bark at them, only through the door. But if there is no restriction he will lunge at them out of nowhere and bite them on the leg or the hand if they try to pat him. It appears to be out of fear and when I tell him no he stops immediately and comes back to me. He doesn’t break the skin but definitely gives people a fright and would leave a little red mark where he tried to bite them.
If I am walking him on leash and we are not on the property he is fine and doesn’t try to attack people walking by, only if they try to pat him and catch him off guard (because he’s small and cute everyone assumes he is ok to pat). If he is off leash he will try to run at men aggressively from behind but not women.
He is very obedient but what can I do to train him to understand that I am the leader and while I’m around he does not need to be fearful?
People that he’s “attacked” in the past I have ended up training him to like them and after around 5 mins of getting some nice attention he loves them and is there best friend and this can apply to men as well. So I know he has the potentially but I’m not quite sure how to train him in an off leash scenario. Even when I say no (generally very firmly, as he is sensitive to voice commands, both good and bad) and he retreats immediately and then I will praise him once he’s settled down, I’m not getting any consistency in his behaviour and he just does it again.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kathy, First, I suggest that you purchase a vest for him that says "In Training - Please do not touch" and have him wear it when you are not prepared to train him and get people to work with him the way he needs. Essentially, you want to stop the random petting when you are not watching - that is making the issue worse. Next, practice desensitizing him to people that you know or meet who are willing to do it correctly. Have the person stand far enough away that he notices them but can still obey you and remain calm when you are telling him how to behave. When he is calm for a second, have the person toss him lots of treats or favorite toys -if he prefers toys. Practice this until he warms up to that person. Practice this with as many people as you can in the locations where he struggles the most- the apartment property. Next, check out Jeff Gellman from SolidK9Training on Youtube. Watch his videos on structure, boundaries, and fear aggression. He has a ton of videos. Focus on the videos that teach boundaries and deal with fearful aggressive dogs the most. You can use the search feature on his channel to find various videos to watch. Watching those videos should help you learn how to generally interact with him to earn his trust and respect, and how to manage the aggressive outbursts. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Bessie
Collie
15 Months
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Bessie
Collie
15 Months

Bessie is my mothers dog, she lives on a small Scottish island. Bessie and my mothers other dog, Rocky, a 3 year old Jack Russell have freedom to run around the croft and come in and out of the house whenever they please. She is not often taken out on walks on leashes, but when she is, she pulls but is not aggressive, as she knows who is the leader when on the leash.
Bessie is used sometimes as a sheep dog, but only for very basic tasks, which she performs okay and seems to love.
However, when not on the leash (most of the time) and not with a known person beside her, Bessie is very territorial and her aggression towards visitors and strangers is escalating.
My mother has a croft house, with the main road being approx 100m from the house. Whenever Bessie sees a walker or cyclist going by the road she has always frantically barked. This is likely learned behaviour from the older Jack Russell who also barks.
However,this has recently escalated with her running down onto the main road, with her fur standing up, showing her teeth and trying to nip their ankles. The Jack Russell (Rocky) remains up near the house. It takes multiple attempts to call her to come back before she does, she then runs straight into the cage in the house (her safe place).
My mother does not have access to a behavioural specialist (none on the island) and is worried that Bessie will hurt someone if her behaviour does not change.
What steps can you suggest for a collie who is outside free to roam a lot and rarely on a leash? Thank you

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Carol, Since she does not have access to a trainer and Bess does not behave aggressively when your mom is around, I would suggest remote electric collar training to teach boundaries and interrupt the herding desire to control people, as well as lots of positive reinforcement and treats from people walking and jogging past. To help Bess feel less suspicious of strangers near the property, your mom should recruit lots of her friends that Bess does not know, to pass the property as if they were strangers. Start with Bess on a fifty-foot leash that's coiled up, to give her about four-to-six-feet of length at first. Have your mom tell Bess to "Say Hi", and when she is not barking or growling have the 'stranger' toss her treats. Practice this until she is comfortable around that person. When Bess can handle the first person, then practice with a new person the next time. As she improves and can relax around people when your mom is close by, have your mom back further away so that Bess is closer to the road and the strangers than your mom is. Repeat the interactions the same way she did before, having the strangers toss Bess treats when she acts calm. Practice this until your mom can stand fifty-feet away with Bess on the very end of the long leash, and Bess will stay calm around the treat-tossing 'stranger' volunteers. Also tell your mom the following: Purchase a high quality remote electric training collar, also known as e-collar. You want one with at least sixty stimulation levels so that you can use the lowest level that Bess will respond to. Many Collie's are sensitive and will respond to the lower levels well. Garmin, E-Collar Technologies, Dogtra, and SportDog are high quality brands. Do not get a cheap brand. Poorly made collars can be dangerous and abusive. E-Collar Technologies has collars called the Mini Educator and the EZ-900, both would be a great choice. Fit the collar high on Bess's neck, making sure that both metal prongs are making contact with the skin. The collar is more fair to the dog if it does not move up and down too much - which would make the corrections inconsistent. Let Bess wear the collar around while it is turned off for a week during the day, to let her get used to it and so that she will not learn to connect the training with the collar. After Bess is used to wearing the collar, go somewhere boring with Bess, with no one around, and set the collar to the lowest level. Push the button to stimulate the collar on the lowest level and watch Bess for any type of reaction. You are likely looking for a small reaction like ears going back, acting like a bug is on her, looking around, shaking her head, scratching, or getting up and moving away. Repeat the correction three times and watch for a reaction. If there is no noticeable reaction, then increase the collar's stimulation level by one level and repeat pushing the button for a second and watching for a reaction. Push the button three times, watching for a reaction in between, before moving onto the next level if there is no reaction. Gradually go up in levels, watching for a reaction, until you see some type of response. If you feel like you are getting high on levels, then pause and make sure that the collar is turned on, on the right channel, making contact with the skin, and working properly. When you finally get a reaction, pay attention to what stimulation level it is set on. That number will be Bess's working level that you will train her on. Once you have found her working level, walk Bess around your property on a long leash. Whenever Bess approaches the boundary line, tell her "Out", and if she does not move back to where she should be immediately, correct her by pushing the stimulation button. While you are pushing the stimulation button lead her back onto your property with the leash quickly, and stop pushing the button as soon as she is on your property again. If she obeys your "Out" command immediately without having to be corrected, then give her a treat. You are teaching her that off your property is a 'hot' zone and on the property is safe again. The long leash is important for this. You need it to guide her where to go to help her learn right now. When she seems to understand where the property line is, then walk across the line while telling her "Out". If Bess follows, correct her with the collar remote while you also walk toward her to show her where she should be --On your property. As Bess improves, have practice running across the boundary line, with Bess staying behind on her property, and act silly. Recruit more friends to walk past while Bess is on a long leash and you are closer to the house. If she tries to bolt past the boundary line, you should correct her with the remote collar. If she behaves, have the friends toss treats into the yard for her. During all of this training, Bess should not be allowed to roam free and react toward people. First, it is dangerous. Second, it will keep the training from working. Bess needs her environment controlled better until she learns how to behave while she is free. Eventually Bess will hopefully learn that walkers are nice and not suspicious and that rules will be enforced even if your mom is not there -- Your mom will need to practice the training out of Bess's sight when Bess has mastered walkers passing by while she is on the fifty-foot leash. When your mom gets to the point where she can practice the training where Bess will not see her, then Bess will hopefully start to understand that the training and rules are the same even if your mom is not there to enforce them. Also, the long leash is important for this training because your mom needs to make sure that Bess cannot actually get all the way to the walkers -- to keep the walkers safe from Bess. The above methods are what I suggest trying first. There are a couple of other options for management if Bess needs other options. Even though there is not a trainer your mom can hire to come work with her in person, there are trainers like myself who will do more in depth Skype or phone consultations. If she needs help, she may want to at least work with someone like that who can talk her through what to do, how to do it, and how to change the training based on Bess's response to it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Malon
Australian cattle dog
1 Year
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Malon
Australian cattle dog
1 Year

Malon is a sweetheart at home and has become pretty well behaved especially after we went through obedience class. She is very smart and did amazing with the trainer however after talking with my trainer about some things I have noticed (territorial behavior against strangers in our home, and most recently she showed aggression when a man leaned forward and tried talking to her, something she never did before) as a puppy I thought I did socializing right considering she would approach people and let them pet her etc. But I suppose not. I want her to be comfortable and accepting of strangers but I dont know to teach this. I'm scared to use a muzzle cause I fear it will make things worse and make people more scared of her. My questions are these: what some drills or activities to encourage my dog to like strangers and accept their good intentions? Also, how do I ask or convince others to assist me in teaching my dog to be nice? I love her very much and do not wish to ever get rid of her. I'm worried she will become more aggressive.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amanda, There are two likely reasons why aggression might be going on with her and it can be both reasons. The first is fear and a lack of socialization, like you mentioned. The other is simply a lack of respect and rudeness (when the man leaned over her, she simply may not of liked it and was just not tolerant and told him so - opposed to reacting to feeling threatened and insecure when he did that). The fear and socialization can be addressed by having friends come around and pretend to be strangers and toss her treats whenever she is calm around them (while she is on a leash -possibly with a prong collar, to give you control). Also, work on you touching her places on her body while you are feeding her treats (if you can do this safely with her yourself). Touch an ear - give a treat, touch her paw - give a treat, lean over her - give a treat, open mouth - give a treat, touch tail- give a treat, touch collar - give a treat. Practice this with every area of her body, and especially take extra time and be extra gentle with areas that tend to bother her. When she can tolerate you handling her and is happy when people come around because of the treat tossing they have been doing, then get her used to wearing a soft silicon basket muzzle by introducing it gradually while you feed her treats over a couple of weeks. Have her wear the muzzle and have someone she is comfortable with due to practicing treat tossing with her previously, practice the handling exercises very carefully with your help while they feed her treats through the muzzle's holes (a basket muzzle will let her open her mouth inside the muzzle still). Have her practice the touch and treats until she is happy for that person to touch her. When she is comfortable with that person, then move onto another volunteer and practice it while she wears the muzzle with the new volunteer. Practice this with as many volunteers as you can. Your best bet for finding people to help you is to get connected with other dog owners who are interested in training. Instagram, Facebook groups, clubs, meetup.com events, and friends who you already know who love their dogs and are interested in training them. If you can't find people that way, then you will need to go to a training group that has multiple trainers and works with lots of different types of aggression, and have the various trainers practice this with your dog until she is comfortable with the staff...You also want trainers to practice this at your home or at public locations (rather than only the training facility) to help the training be generalized to other things in your dog's every day life. Explain that the muzzle is just a precaution. If you ask the right people and they know that you are being careful and considerate of them, then you won't have to convince as hard. Trainers who have dealt with these issues will also not be discouraged by the muzzle. In fact many won't train with you without it in close quarters (they have families and care about their safety too - a good trainer takes precautions not to get bit while working). Up close interactions are the main places you need the muzzle if her aggression has never drawn blood and is very infrequent. Random people should not be approaching her right now though. You can tell people she's in training and please don't pet, or she's in training, please don't touch her but you can toss these treats on the ground for her to help her get used to people. She should not be off-leash around people right now without the muzzle on unless a trainer is working with her in a safe manner. For aggression that is just rudeness and her using intimidating to get what she wants, you will need to work on the above handling and treat tossing, but you will also need to learn how to correct her appropriately for it, give her more structure, obedience, and boundaries in general to build her respect for you without being too harsh, and teach her new rules for what's acceptable and not acceptable around people. Australian Cattle dogs are sometimes a pushy and controlling breed because they need to be in order to herd stubborn cattle without getting trampled. She may need more structure and boundaries in her life. Check out the article and the trainer that I have linked below to learn more. Respect article. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Jeff Gellman aggression specialist. He can be a bit abrupt in his tone but is knowledgeable. https://www.youtube.com/user/SolidK9Training Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Skye
Lab Pei
7 Years
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Skye
Lab Pei
7 Years

I rescued my dog Skye six years ago from an abusive home she was locked in a crate 24/7 and constantly attacked by other dogs or hit and kicked by her owners in the home she has become an amazing dog and is very trusting of strangers she is not good with dogs in the home other than the two we have she gets very scared and attacks them how can I control this?
When we leave the house she is extremely aggressive towards anyone that isn’t immediate family even if she has met them before and other dogs so we are finding it difficult to walk her we can’t get a trainer in due to her aggression when we leave the house she will follow commands and walk well on a lead until she sees someone then she will lunge for them snarl and try to attack what do I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Audrey, It sounds like she may need to go somewhere that specializes in aggression. There is not a simple fix for this. You need the help of a professional who has the right resources to safely work with her around people and other dogs. Most trainers do not specialize in aggression, which is why many are refusing to come to your home probably. You need to find someone who does and to get her used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle before the trainer comes so that they can safely start working with her. A basket muzzle will let her open her mouth still so that she can receive treats through the muzzle (eventually - at first she will probably be too tense to want to eat), and so that the muzzle is more comfortable. Check out Shaun O'Shay from the Good Dog and Jeff Gellman from Solid K9Training. I don't know where you are located but they both specialize in aggression and do intensive therapy to help with various types of aggression at their own facilities. They also have a lot of free videos on Youtube and other places educating about aggression. If you can get her used to wearing a muzzle, you might have better luck finding a trainer in your area who is experienced and can work with her, but she probably needs to visit a facility also (even if just during the day) so that she can be exposed to more dogs and people in a controlled setting that the trainer can set up. It would be ideal if you could participate in these sessions at least part of the time, so that you learn how to manage her aggression as well. To get her used to wearing a muzzle, show her the muzzle and give her a treat every time that you show it to her. When she is comfortable around it, give her a treat every time that she touches it. Next, smear a little bit of peanut butter on the muzzle, far enough in that she has to poke her head into the muzzle to lick it off. (Check the peanut butter and make sure the is NO Xylitol sweetener- It's TOXIC to dogs!) Praise her while she sticks her head inside the muzzle and licks it. Next, hold a treat in the muzzle so that she has to put her face into it get the treat. Gradually hold the treat for longer so that she has to keep her face in the muzzle for longer before you give the treat to her. When she can hold her face in the muzzle willingly for a couple of minutes, then buckle and unbuckle the muzzle, giving her a treat through the muzzle while it's buckled and after you remove it. Practice keeping the muzzle buckled for longer and longer before taking it off, while you feed her treats through the muzzle's holes. Practice all of this until she is comfortable wearing the muzzle. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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alpha
Cross breed
1 Year
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alpha
Cross breed
1 Year

my dogs name is alpha. he is 1 year old. he is a mix breed. he is pretty gentle and sweet and never has he attacked or bitten anyone. the only time he ever sort-of lunged at someone was when someone stepped on his tail, even then he just jumped up or when someone hit him, then he would snarl, snap and growl at them. im basically a hermit we dont have many people over rarely any. he used to be pretty good with people coming over. he just used to get overly excited and hyper and thats it. and now when someone comes over he gets angry and part of the reason is my neighbours (they annoy/ try to hit him a lot) that was fine i didnt care but now my friend came over he was ok with him but when his wife enterd he lunged at her legg grabbed in a position that looked like as if he was gooing to hump her but he was barking at her. i quickly grabbed him and scolded him and put him in his cage. before another woman tried to pet him and he lunged at her put i pulled him back.he never bit anyone. but he hates when our door bell rings he barks really loudly and he hates when workers come to replace the water bottles or the gas cylinders. i have no idea what to do and i dont want to abuse my dog into obidience like the friend of my father is suggesting me to do. he is preety gentle when ever i give him food he never snatches it, he alwasy comes grabs it softly and takes it he has never bit any one and im scared because he likes to run awazy from home because he is bored and i dont want him to attack anyone.
- halima

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Halima, I highly suggest hiring a professional trainer to come to your home right away. Preferably someone who works with several other trainers so that the trainers can switch out who comes and let your dog practice with a new person each time. Do not follow your father's friend's advice. That is probably what caused this issue to begin with with the neighbors!! He is afraid of people and reacting defensively - 'hurt the person before they can hurt you' type of thought process. He does need rules and fair discipline to let him know that he is behaving unacceptably, but that needs to be paired with training to teach him commands so that he knows how he should respond. What he probably needs the most is to re-build his trust of strangers again, which is done with treats and rewards given by strangers - to show him that they are trustworthy. Look for a trainer who is extremely experienced dealing with aggression issues - both fear-aggression and other forms of aggression. Ideally this trainer should use corrections appropriately to help with management but they should also use positive reinforcement to build trust - this is most important for fear-based aggression, which there is a good chance is what's going on because of the neighbors teasing him...The neighbors need to stop teasing him if at all possible or the problem will only get worse, even if it gets better- he could revert back to aggression if the teasing continues. If you have a fenced-in yard and that's where the teasing happens, you may need to only let him out in it while you are there to supervise, or to put up a different type of fence or barrier. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Baloney
pocket pitbull mix
2 Years
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Baloney
pocket pitbull mix
2 Years

Our dog Baloney is a 2 year old, 35 pound pitbull mix (don't know what he could be mixed with to make him such an itty bitty pitty. Possibly French Bulldog? Your guess is as good as mine). We adopted him 6 months ago. He is a cruelty survivor, being rescued from a dog fighting ring where we suspect he was used as a bait dog based on his small size and his scars. Despite this however, he is so incredibly loving and gentle with me and my boyfriend, and surprisingly enough other dogs as well. But it's meeting new people he is struggling with lately.

When we first brought him home he was great with meeting new people, and having guests come over to the apartment. He would great them the same he would great me and my boyfriend when we come home from work - all tail wags and kisses. We even threw a party with 10 or so people and he was good as gold!

But a few months into having him in our lives, he became less and less tolerant of new people. It feels like he flipped a switch we haven't been able to flip back. He's become territorial, getting very stiff and growling when he either sees people outside the window or people enter our apartment. Even people he's already met before, and previously had great interactions with. Half the time he will growl and lunge at people that surprise him or are too close when walk him, the other half of the time he will ignore them and be fine. Sometimes he'll even let strangers on walks approach him and he'll be friendly! He seems to have good days and not so good days and it's very hard for us to judge how he will react on walks. He seems to do best with meeting new people when he sees that there are other happy and healthy dogs around. He will calmly allow a stranger approach and pet him if they have another dog themselves. He does extremely well at dog parks, pet stores, training classes, my parents house where they have a dog he plays with and even the vet.

But he will consistently growl and get stiff and lunge at anyone who enters the apartment. We try to have people over as little as possible while we are devising the best course of action to correct his behavior.

He also seems to be consistently afraid and reactive of children. Not any time soon, but someday my boyfriend and I would like to start a family. So I would really like to work with him on this while ensuring everyone is safe.

Another really important key piece of information is just a little after he started displaying this change in behavior from when we first adopted him, he was diagnosed with heartworm disease. He contracted it before we adopted him, and we found out after. He is currently undergoing treatment, which requires restricted exercise. Before he was diagnosed, we took him out for 30-45 minute long walks everyday, 15 minute walks in the morning and before bed. Sometimes longer. Before the party I mentioned earlier we took him on a 2 hour hike. Now under vet's orders we haven't been able to take him on longer than 10 minute walks at a time. He also has a cracked tooth that the vet will not remove until his heartworm treatment is complete. I am uncertain if it is bothering him or not, he's a big chewer.

He has never bitten anyone. Only growled and lunged. So far everyone he has been reactive towards have been understanding and moved along but as a pitbull owner I fear the day he growls at the wrong person.

We are working with a professional trainer, having completed a beginners obedience course and are in the middle of an intermediate course. But in short now that I've given you some background story is what I want to ask:

1) People always say the earlier you work with your dog on these aggressive displays, the better chance for success. Obviously we weren't able to work with him as a puppy. But is 2 years old, is it "too late" to reform him?

2) Do you think once we are able to regularly give him longer walks and get him exercising again once his heartworm treatment is complete we will see some improvement in his behavior?

3) Could the cracked tooth also be a factor?

4) When he feels he needs to react, it's very hard to redirect him and get him to relax into his usual calm and happy state. When we tried having a stranger toss treats he won't take them he'll just keep growling and won't relax until we remove him entirely from the situation. What can we, or the stranger do, to better relax him and communicate that the stranger means no harm and can be a good thing?

5) What is the best way to work with his fear of children in particular? This part is so tough since kids tend not to take direction as well and there's so much risk involved. And we don't know any friends are family with young kids we could ask.

Despite his issues, he's a beautiful dog with a lot of potential. When it's just me and my boyfriend, or there are other dogs for him to play with, he's so gentle and loving and playful. He's had a lot stacked against him, between abuse, neglect, and a lot of change as he moved from shelter to shelter to rescue to our lives. He deserves a chance at a long and healthy life but we need to work on these issues before they get worse. We are hopeful we can get him back to the way he was 6 months ago when we first brought him home and he was happy to make new human friends and have guests over. We just need as much help as we can get helping him.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sally, 1.whether you can completely reform him depends on why he is growling. If it's being caused by a medical problem and he is otherwise very tollerant personality-wise then when he finishes treatment and the tooth is fixed, he may revert back to before and simply have some anxiety that needs to be addressed. If the problem is showing up because of age (sexual and mental maturity can bring things to the surface around 1.5-3 years, you may not be able to completely reform, but there are ways to more safely manage it. 2. Possibly...I suggest asking about side effects of the heartworm medication. Hormonal or mental affects could be a side effect, and that should hopefully imporve after treatment if so. The exercise could make it worse, but that alone wouldn't cause it. The lack of ongoing socialization could bring it out, but if that happened he was likely already prone to the aggression (which wouldn't be a surprise with his background). 3. The tooth could definitely be an issue if it causes a lot of constant pain...the pain could keep his cortisol and adrenaline levels high which adds to stress, anxiety and aggression. Time will tell after treatment is finished and you can address the tooth. 4. Check out Saun O'Shay from the Good Dog Training. He has a YouTube channel also. 5. Check out Saun O'Shay and Jeff Hellman's fear-aggrrssion videos on YouTube. He needs to get used to wearing a basket muzzle and the training needs to take part with a VERY experienced trainer's help. It can take place at your home (something it sounds like you need) but a trainer who has experience with aggression and Knows how to take precautions. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Gus
Bernese Mountain Dog
5 Months
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Gus
Bernese Mountain Dog
5 Months

Hi,
We live in LA and got Gus from Ukraine. When he arrived off the plain he was so happy go lucky and hanging out with us... not a single bite. Once he met some of our friends he started growling. We went to the beach one day and he bit a man... it broke skin. So please help us.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gina, Without a lot more information I am not able to help because the bite could have been caused by several things and treatment will partially depend on what led to the bite and other things that need to be evaluated by a trainer. I highly suggest finding a trainer who is very experienced with aggression, treats various types of aggression, including fear-aggression but also other types, uses positive reinforcement and fair corrections and structure and boundaries to help you manage his behavior but also get to the root cause of why he bite someone and deal with the underlying cause - such as genetic, fear, dominance, learned response, medical issue, or someone else. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Brad
Cane Corso Italiano (Italian Mastiff)
1 Year
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Brad
Cane Corso Italiano (Italian Mastiff)
1 Year

Hello. I adopted Brad on December 1, 2018. I don’t know his background, he was found in the woods. He lived with a foster for 6 weeks prior to my adopting him. The first 3 weeks were great. He was accepting of everyone he met in public and in our home. After 3 weeks the honeymoon stage was over. He became extremely aggressive when someone came to the house, even those he met before. In watching his behavior and reading up on aggression he appears to be dominate, territorial aggressive. He will stand his ground, lunge, growl, and look guests in the eye. I spoke with a trainer, did the basic manners class, he’s great with that. My nephew recently came over (whom he has met before). Brad was put in his kennel, along with our other dog in her own kennel. My nephew approached the cage, was speaking kindly to the dogs and not looking him in the eye. Brad lost it. Barking, growling, trying to break out of his cage. He eventually settled down but if my nephew moved he would start up again. I worked on our “watch me” with rewards, that started to work, he settled down. I need to know how to correct this behavior, I cannot have this. I don’t have many visitors but I do not want to put ANYONE at risk. I want to be able to have family over, neighbors knock on the door, get deliveries, etc. He is my 4th rescue so I understand that it takes time for them to feel safe and comfortable, that I understand. I just need to correct this aggressive behavior ASAP for everyone’s sake. What advice can you give me?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, This sounds like far more than just adjusting. You need to hire someone who specializes in aggression. Many trainers are only experienced with fear-based aggression, or are not experienced with aggression at all. This does not sound like fear-based aggression (at least not just fear-based). You need a trainer who deals with highly aggression, dominant, territorial, and reactive dogs. Who also has experienced with powerful breeds and dogs that are genetically prone toward aggression because this could be an inherited temperament trait not knowing his background or family. Check out Shaun O'Shay from the Good Dog and Jeff Gellman from SolidK9Training. I suggest looking for someone with that level of experience, who comes highly recommended from previous clients whose dogs struggled with aggression. I agree that this sounds like a dangerous situation for guests so please be careful. If he does fine with you, getting him used to wearing a muzzle using his food to make the muzzle pleasant very gradually overtime would probably be helpful for training practice to keep those involved safe. You need more than just the information in the article in your case. You need a trainer. An obedience class and typical positive reinforcement training will likely not be enough. You need lots of structure, management, and behavioral rehabilitation. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Ricky
Border Collie pit bull
5 Years
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Ricky
Border Collie pit bull
5 Years

We recently adopted Ricky from a shelter. We have had him for about 3 weeks now. When one of our close friends,Johnny, comes over Ricky lunges and tries to bite. He only reacts that way to Johnny . I would love to find a way to correct this behavior. He also got snippy when I tried to take a sock away from him. Usually when he behaves these ways we put him in his cage. The shelter that had him trained him on a shock collar (Which they told us we should keep using) . I do think he may have been abused when he was younger, because he also snips if you tap on his butt as a form of discipline. Do you have any pointers?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Valerie, Is there something different about the way Johnny looks or acts than the rest of your family? If Johnny looks different than those Ricky is familiar with, the issue could be a lack of socialization and thus suspicion. Dogs are not prejudice the way people are but they do get used to certain things, and people who look different than what they are used to can cause a dog to get defensive and suspicious. Johnny also might remind Ricky of someone who used to mistreat him if Johnny looks different from the rest of your family in a certain way, carries himself similar to someone Ricky used to know, or does something unusual. If the issue truly is related to just Johnny and not others in your experience, the first thing to do would be to figure out what it is about Johnny that bothers Ricky. For example, when I adopted by Border Collie ten years ago he was suspicious of an Asian male friend and an African American male friend of ours because he grew up in a household with only Caucasian women. In this case, we made the person who seemed strange to him fun by having the person toss him treats when he was calm around them - while the person ignored him, by having my dog spend calm time around that person while the friend ignored the dog (in your case this should be done with a muzzle or leash on for safety), and having the person do something with him that my dog enjoys - like a walk or game of fetch (also with a muzzle in your case. You would ease into this gradually, with you being the one to take the ball from Ricky and hand it to Johnny while Johnny was somewhere safe that he could throw the ball from, or having Johnny walk parallel to you from a distance and gradually decrease the distance as Ricky relaxed, until Johnny was close enough that you could hand the leash off to him while Ricky is calm - while Ricky wears a basket muzzle for Johnny's safety. I suggest hiring a trainer to help you with this. Try to narrow down what about Johnny might bother Ricky and get Ricky used to people with that characteristic, and work on desensitizing him. I also suggest having a trainer who is experienced with aggression help you with his tolerance level and possessiveness also. Not all trainers are experienced with aggression, and even fewer are experienced with different type of aggression, so read reviews or ask for client recommendations, and ask the trainer questions about their experience and success working with aggression. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Takoda
Beagle Puggle
3 Years
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Takoda
Beagle Puggle
3 Years

I got my dog from a woman who did not socialize him with people when he was a puppy. He also had one previous owner before me who gave him back to her and who I am pretty sure abused him. He is extremely anxious all the time. He is the sweetest dog in the world, who loves attention, pets, and cuddles if he knows you. However, he is extremely distrustful of new people. You can tell he wants to be their friend and tries to go up and sniff them and will even lick their fingers, but it's like a switch gets flicked in his brain and he'll just start barking aggressively. You can see the moment he starts to second guess it. He's definitely gotten better the couple of years I've had him. He used to give warning nips, never drawing blood, but had not done so for a while, although the barking still was an issue. Any time he nips, he has instant regret and knows that he did something wrong. Almost like he's embarrassed. Interestingly, when I have big groups of people over at the house he usually has little problem with aggressive behavior and a lot of his anxiety subsides. Because of this, I decided I was going to try to take him to the office to desensitize him to new people further, because he has extreme separation anxiety, and the situation is better for the both of us. I do have him wear a yellow vest that says 'Nervous' on it and let people know to approach him slowly and how the best way to gain his trust is. Since doing so, he is warming up to people faster who come up to him, but he has nipped a couple people seemingly out of no where and does sometimes still have that switch flip where he starts barking aggressively. I know his nips are coming from an expression of him being overwhelmed and not understanding what the person is doing (they're usually just standing too close for his comfort or make too sudden of a move for him) but any advice on how to help him curb his aggressive behavior stemmed from past trauma and anxiety?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
178 Dog owners recommended

Hello Carly, Check out this video by Jeff Gellman, who specializes in aggression. Here he demonstrated safety measures (a back tie), when to have people reward a dog (during calmness and not during aggressive displays), and how to appropriately use punishment when treating aggression (with good timing, calmness, and in combination with positive reinforcement for calm behavior and with the appropriate safety measures for your guests). Aggression video: https://youtu.be/mgmRRYK1Z6A I suggest watching videos on canine body language online to help you know when he is tense and about to nip and give him direct before he gets to that point. His signs might be very subtle, like staring, stiffness, lifting a foot, ears back, mouth tense, drooling, shaking, eye-contact avoidance, or trying to escape. Knowing what to look for helps you learn how to better adjust your training to give him the feed back he needs, instruct the people greeting him, and help him succeed. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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