aggressive dog

Are you thinking of neutering your dog?

Book.png

There’s a lot more to neutering than just preventing procreation. A huge lot more. But people seldom consider these side-effects in their dogs when deciding to get them “fixed”.

I actually hate that term “fixed”. It suggests that the dog arrived in some way faulty and has to have his or her insides rearranged to make him or her acceptable. This is crazy!

The dog arrives in a perfect state. If we want to alter our dog to suit ourselves, we should be prepared to admit this to ourselves and not in some way blame the dog for being wrong.

There are times when neutering is a good idea and times when it is a very, very bad idea. I’ll break these down for you, in terms of the effects.

How will neutering affect my dog’s body?

There are some medical issues where neutering is the wisest or only course to keep the dog healthy - or just alive. Infection of the uterus in a bitch, and an undescended testicle in a dog would be two of these. One is acute, the other chronic.

There are arguments that this or that cancer or condition is more likely in an unneutered dog. But there are arguments of equal weight which say that this or that other cancer or condition is more likely in a neutered dog. The percentages are tiny in either case.

The other thing to consider here is how removal of the sex hormones affect the physical development of the dog’s skeleton. The growth plates close with sexual maturity, somewhere around 9-18 months of age. So the effect of early neutering - before this age - can be relative elongation of the long bones and consequent disruption of articulation in the joints. The net result can be less efficient movement (no good if you got your dog for working or performance) and then joint problems in later years (no good for anyone).

For help with your reactive, anxious, aggressive, “growly” dog, get our free email course here.

THIS FREE ECOURSE IS A BONUS FOR YOU WHEN YOU SIGN UP TO RECEIVE EDUCATIONAL EMAILS AND OCCASIONAL OFFERS FROM ME. YOU CAN UNSUBSCRIBE AT ANY TIME.
Privacy Policy

For this reason alone I think that neutering of either sex shouldn’t be contemplated till the dog is sexually mature. For bitches that would mean a few months after the first season at the earliest. Dogs would need to be 10 months to 3 years, depending largely on the size of the breed. The larger the dog, the longer it takes to mature.

I have now reached the limit of my medical knowledge, so I’ll move on to an area where I’m more comfortable!

How will neutering affect my dog’s mind?

The key thing for me is the effects neutering can have on how your dog is, on a day-to-day basis.

Many people believe that neutering their dog will calm them down. In fact, studies have shown that the opposite is true! Your neutered dog or bitch is likely to be more excitable than an intact dog. So please kick that one to the kerb.

Is neutering your dog the automatic next step? Think again! Neutering can have a lot of unwanted effects on your pet, many of which you may not know about! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #doghealth, #dogneutering, #dogspaying | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

There has been a lot of scientific research over recent years. Studies have to cover a lot of dogs for a lot of years to be of any use, so they take a long time to emerge. I list a load of them in the Resources below. 

My main interest is how neutering can affect reactivity. As you’ll see from some of these studies, neutering can have a big impact on this!

“It has been shown, in a number of recent scientific studies, that neutering - especially early neutering - will increase sound sensitivity, touch sensitivity, fears, and aggression, in both males and females. In some cases that increase is “significant” or “highly significant”. People-directed aggression in females, for instance, was significantly elevated in the neutered bitches studied. (See the Resources Section for chapter and verse on this.) That’s what those studies found. A lot more research is needed to get more answers, and these studies can take years to produce reliable results.

These unfortunate outcomes are - of course - not guaranteed to happen if you neuter your dog! But it’s important to be aware that they just may happen. And if they complicate an already complicated situation, that’s not helpful.

Neutering has the potential to make your dog worse.”

From Essential Skills for your Growly but Brilliant Family Dog

In brief, neutering a dog when he is experiencing fear of anything in the world around him (i.e. he responds to novelty or movement with barking, lunging, trembling, hiding … any action that does not demonstrate confidence) has the potential to make him MORE fearful.

And neutering a female who is already showing fear of other dogs has the potential to make her reactive to people as well after spaying.

You’ll see the facts and figures in the studies below.

If you’ve already neutered your pet, that’s water under the bridge. You can’t change it now.

BUT if you’re happily planning to neuter your dog simply because you think society expects it of you, or your vet suggests it as the automatic next step, please think again.

Once it’s done, it’s done. And if it changes your beloved dog’s nature and makes life harder for both of you, then you’re up the creek without a paddle.

But you have to neuter your dog, don’t you?

And what about the chief reason usually given for choosing to neuter? It’s to do with reproduction. Preventing unwanted puppies. It could also be to prevent bitching, wandering, fighting in males. But responsible management will do this for you! If you’re reading this post, it’s unlikely that your dog is wandering abroad without you knowing where he or she is.

Since neutering became the big thing - the answer to the stray dog problem - has anyone noticed the shelters getting empty? Irresponsible dog-owners will neither neuter their dogs nor contain them. I’m afraid there’s a lot of “preaching to the choir” here. And the fallout is that a lot of dogs’ lives have been unnecessarily altered for the worse, because of only partial education.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

You need to see the whole picture before making what is essentially a fundamental and momentous decision about the future of the dog in your care.

I’m suggesting that you need to change your mindset from neutering being an automatic next step for your puppy to seeing that you have a choice in this.

In some European countries it is considered barbaric to mutilate dogs, and neutering of either sex is usually only done for medical reasons. At the other extreme we have cultures where people are vociferous in declaring that all dogs should be neutered and it is our duty as a citizen to do this. I’ve had people writing to me from these countries asking if that’s a thing? You can actually NOT neuter your dog? Unheard-of.

In case you think I am on a mission to ban neutering, I can tell you that only one of my four dogs is entire at the time of writing. You have to decide what is right for your situation. I just want you to realise that there’s more to this than meets the eye, and you do have a choice.

RESOURCES

The effects of neutering on health and behaviour: a summary



Neutering Causes Behavior Problems in Male Dogs

Behavioral and Physical Effects of Spaying and Neutering Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris)

Summary of findings detailed in a Masters thesis submitted to and accepted by Hunter College by Parvene Farhoody in May, 2010

 

Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas

AVMA, Vol 244, No. 3, February 1, 2014

M. Christine Zink DVM PhD, Parvene Farhoody MA, Samra E. Elser BS, Lynda D. Ruffini, Tom A. Gibbons MS, Randall H. Rieger PhD

 

Non-reproductive Effects of Spaying and Neutering on Behavior in Dogs

Deborah L. Duffy PhD, and James A. Serpell PhD

Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

For help with your reactive, anxious, aggressive, “growly” dog, get our free email course here.

     

  THIS FREE ECOURSE IS A BONUS FOR YOU WHEN YOU SIGN UP TO RECEIVE EDUCATIONAL EMAILS AND OCCASIONAL OFFERS FROM ME. YOU CAN UNSUBSCRIBE AT ANY TIME.
Privacy Policy

 

How training your dog can help you train people

How can you protect your dog from well-meaning people who want to pet him? Here are some easy dog training techniques to kindly control your dog and train your visitor! FREE VIDEO WORKSHOP | #shydog, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Some people are good at greeting dogs. And some are … not. It’s not a skill we’re born with (think how long it takes to teach children how to greet people politely!), so we have to teach those who approach us how to greet our dog - or, indeed, whether they may greet her at all!

If your dog is like Greta Garbo, who famously said, “I want to be left alone,” then no greeting is required. This is where you’ll have to use your dog training skills to prevent a quick lunge from the visitor, now wailing “But dogs like me!” as they jump back alarmed from a snap.

You may have dogs who lurve people and want to jump all over them. Yapping NO at your dog, flapping your hands and yanking the lead is not going to cut it. You need to teach your ebullient dog how to greet strangers - and for this you need the stranger’s co-operation!

So how can you get the people you meet to comply?

You can use the same mantra we use for our dogs - 

Reward what you like
Ignore what you don’t like
Manage what can’t be ignored

This means that if your visitor does what you ask, they earn the reward of greeting your dog. If they do inappropriate things (in your dog’s eyes) then you ignore their efforts as you focus on directing them to what you do want, and manage the situation so they can’t interfere with your dog.

Let’s have a closer look at this.


The shy, anxious, or fearful dog

Evasion skills for your shy or worried dog

How can you protect your dog from well-meaning people who want to pet him? Here are some easy dog training techniques to kindly control your dog and train your visitor! FREE VIDEO WORKSHOP | #shydog, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com
  • Carwash - teach your dog to run behind you and appear peekaboo-style between your legs. Few strangers will grope between your legs to get at your dog

  • Get behind - lurking behind your legs may work better for very large or very shy dogs

  • Down - can get them out of arm’s reach of invasion

  • Muzzle - If your dog has a tendency to lunge and snap, teach her to be happy in her muzzle. This will relax you as you’re not worried about damage, and does tend to keep people away. They think this dog is dangerous - in fact she’s safer than an unmuzzled dog

 

Where you can help

  • Get between your dog and the kindly visitor intent on grabbing her

  • Use your body to block the path to your dog, and keep moving as necessary to stay in the way

  • Asking the would-be greeter questions and taking control of the meeting, will distract them from their “Hello doggy” plans

  • Maybe just keep walking! With a quick “Morning!” as you pass

  • Or use the tried and tested policeman STOP hand signal. This is immensely effective at stopping people in their tracks, giving you time to arrange your dog where you want her, and allowing you to compose a suitable sentence to keep the person at a comfortable distance. You don't have to make excuses for your dog. Just think of a quick way of getting the person to do what you want. Practice this at home with a friend, so you feel brave enough to do it!

  • Talk to your dog quietly and politely - this may impress your would-be greeter that you don’t have to yell and grab this particular dog

 

The over-exuberant dog

If a meeting is appropriate, give clear instructions on how to greet your dog. You’ll train your dog how to do his part, using friends to help you. This means he’ll know this “game” when you want to use it in the wild.

Bouncy Goldie pup Alfie shows how to greet people

Greeting skills for a bouncy dog

  • Hand touch (your hand to start with)

  • Release cue (“Go say hi”, only when dog is sitting and calm)

  • Timing of reward (when he’s turned back to you)

 

Your clear instructions should be brief and simple. For instance, “just hold your hand down by your side so he can sniff it”. This tends to stop people leaning over your dog and grabbing or patting, ruffling or thumping. It also stops your dog leaping up to nose-dot them as they can inspect their hand instead.

By the time your dog has sniffed the hand to gain all the information he needs about the person, he’s already back with you for his treat. Job done.

Crowd control

Unless you know for a fact that the person wanting to chat to you and your dog will listen to you, follow your instructions, and understand what you’re doing - don’t let them near enough to cause trouble.

All this work you’ve put in to understanding how your dog’s mind works and how to get the best from her? It’s just the same with people! You can take a quick overview of the situation, remember my mantra above, make rapid decisions about whether a greeting should or should not happen, and take control of the meeting.

This way you won’t be caught out by those who think they know more about your dog than you do, and avoid the embarrassment of muddy pawmarks on the person’s clothes … or worse.

Remember if your dog thinks she has to defend herself against this invasive person, she’ll be more alarmed about the next person you pass, and may even consider a pre-emptive strike (leap out and snap) to keep them away.

 


For more ideas about how to have peaceful and uneventful walks, join the FREE 5 Day Video Workshop for your Growly but Brilliant Family Dog

 

Free Live 5 Day Workshop for your *Growly* but Brilliant Family Dog

Reactive dog, dog afraid of tv, aggressive dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | How to enjoy watching animal programs on tv without your dog going ballistic! | FREE LIVE WORKSHOP | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #fearfuldog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

I can honestly say I’m blown away by the response to my invitation to a free Live 5 Day Workshop for your Growly but Brilliant Family Dog

Well over a thousand people have registered, and most of them are busy introducing themselves and making friends in the private forum.

I decided to offer this week of free training because I see so many people struggling with difficult dogs. They love their dog and they often have no idea why she’s acting so awkward when out and about.

This isn’t helped when it’s a rescue dog with little back-up from the people who homed the dog with them. If you’re new to owning a dog, a rescue dog with a traumatic past is not necessarily the best introduction to this exciting and privileged new world of interacting with another species! 

There is so much misinformation about - from describing the dog as “dominant”, “stubborn”, “obstinate”, or even “he’s doing it to annoy you”. There are many self-proclaimed experts about who say “he just needs to learn his place”, “you need to be harder on him”, or “you need to use this or that (nasty) gadget to get results,” showing you something that wouldn’t have found house-room in The Inquisition.

So don’t flounder about wondering who to listen to.

Listen to your own instincts.

If it’s suggested you do something nasty to the dog in your care - whom you love! - follow your heart and firmly say “No”. We don’t need to beat or punish our children, and we don’t need to do it to the animals we choose to give a home to either. 

But he does seem stubborn!

Want to know what your dog really thinks? He’s not stubborn - he’s afraid. Afraid to go forwards, afraid to incur your displeasure, afraid of the world. But it’s fear, not stubbornness. Or dominance, or any of that other nonsense put about by people who are talking through their hats.

This post may help you with all of that.

If you feel tempted to describe your dog in a negative way, try looking at it from another angle. Instead of labelling him as difficult, stubborn, whatever ... try fears, is anxious, worries ...

And you may be surprised to know that it’s not so much months of hands-on training that will change your shy, reactive, anxious, aggressive - growly - dog into the companion you want. A lot of it is in your own head!

Have a look at this recent email from a reader:

“Firstly thank you for your wonderful book, it has really helped me understand the reason why my little girl Bess reacts the way she does.

Just by reading your first growly dog book, I have realised that she is terrified of strangers. We are working on the steps and I am slowly seeing huge improvement.”

Now it was Bess’s owner who changed her view and got success. Bess didn’t have to change at all!

A simple change in your own outlook and behaviour can have marvellous results in the way your dog responds.

And that’s what people are learning in this Workshop!

As Karen said:

"One of the best things I have done, the workshop taught me so much."

How do I get in on this?

Come and join our free 5 Day Video Workshop and learn. There were well over a thousand people from all round the world already happily meeting, encouraging and enthusing each other in the private group. Friendships were made that will last. 

What do they have in common? A desire to make life with their difficult dog better without doing anything nasty. At all. They all understand how alone you can be, and people are already feeling less isolated with their dog.

While the Workshop is specifically geared for those of you with reactive, anxious, fearful, aggressive - Growly! - dogs, in fact anyone will learn a lot about how to build a relationship with their dog. And they’ll also have a lot more empathy for the Growly Dog owner who they may have disdained previously as being inadequate and unable to control their dog.

As you’ll discover, it’s not about control!

 

Head over to the registration page and join us! You can join in with all the lessons and video trainings from the original 5 Day Workshop!

 

 

 

So you want to rescue a dog? Read this first!

Reactive dog, rescue dog, aggressive dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | Has your rescue dog become very difficult when out? Read here how to get things running smoothly for both of you | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #rescuedog, #shelterdog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

You want to rescue a dog - give a home to a poor neglected beastie who’s had a bad start in life? Good for you! 

There are so many stories of spectacularly successful adoptions, where the dog fitted easily into her new home from Day 1, had few issues and was easy to train. 

But this isn’t by any means always the way it goes. So you need to go into this with your eyes open.

Different dogs, different folks ...

Do not allow sentiment to cloud your judgment! Most dogs up for rehoming (unless they’re very young puppies) come with baggage - of some sort or another. We all have baggage - life experiences that have formed our worldview - some good, some not so good. 

And not every dog is the perfect match for your life. Some will have been neglected; some will have been abused; some have lost an adoring owner through death or other catastrophe; some were just not given the right care. 

But they all have a history, good or bad. 

Same as you would, if suddenly transported to a new home where people do things differently. There’s scope for a lot of misunderstanding and confusion here - even which way you hold your knife and fork, or how to make coffee! So imagine how hard it can be for a dog to adapt to such a major change in his life.

Sometimes the dog settles into his new home seamlessly and easily, but sometimes this baggage takes a lot of work, some expense, and much dedication, to unpack. 

Love alone is not enough.

Backstory

Any reputable rehoming shelter will tell you the truth about your chosen pet. But sometimes they don’t know the truth themselves! If the dog was found straying there is no history attached. And a dog in even the best and kindest rescue centre can be completely shut down and depressed - or continually hyper and mad. Neither of these states will reveal the true dog. Only once your new dog has been in your home for as long as two or three months will you know what he’s really like, and what issues he may have. 

If I moved into your house, for example, at first I’d be saying “Is it alright if I sit here?” and “Where does this cup go?”. After a couple of months I’d be feeling at home and sitting where I liked and leaving cups any-old-where! This is when you’d see the natural me. So it is with your new dog!

“My dog was so quiet and easy, and now, two months on, he’s starting to steal things, bark, dig up the garden … what am I doing wrong?”

That's a fairly common question. My answer?

“Nothing! You’re doing it all right and your dog is making himself at home and behaving in a relaxed and natural manner and being a dog. Now the training begins in earnest.”

By the way, not all shelters are created equal. If you arrive at a place and it’s noisy, the dogs are all racing about their pens barking, showing repetitive behaviours like circling or jumping off the wall, and some dogs are lying deathly still and have completely opted out, then you will struggle to see what your selected dog is actually like in reality. Stress has taken over and made the original dog unrecognisable. It can take many weeks for this dog to unwind.

Think of those poor children in camps in war-torn countries: we would absolutely expect them to have substantial damage which would take many, many years to repair. Why do we assume a dog will just be fixed in an instant?

There are shelters with enlightened policies of taking in fewer dogs (though successfully rehoming more!), giving all dogs more space and distance, keeping things calm and quiet, not allowing public access to all the dogs - only the ones they select to offer a particular family. 

Check out these resources to locate a shelter which follows the latest guidance for giving rehomes the greatest chance of success:

www.nawt.org.uk/open-paw
www.openpaw.org

 

You may be working against a difficult history

Reactive dog, rescue dog, aggressive dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | Has your rescue dog become very difficult when out? Read here how to get things running smoothly for both of you | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #rescuedog, #shelterdog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Keep in mind that if this dog were no trouble he may not have been abandoned by his owners. That’s not exonerating those owners - they should have thought before even getting a dog in the first place. Giving up on an animal through their own neglect and idleness is utterly wrong, and unfair. 

He may have developed habits through lack of adequate care or training, that caused his first owners to get rid of him.

•  Maybe he’d developed a habit of running off, because he was never taught a recall.  

•  Maybe he was left alone all day and chewed up the furniture. Not his fault, but this could be the reason he was thrown out. Or rehomed. So now you have to train recall and staying alone from scratch. Check out the articles here at brilliantfamilydog.com, the free e-course, and you can get started with this mini-course:

• Maybe he was never properly socialised as a puppy, and has a distorted view of strange dogs and people and things as a result. Here you’ll have an ongoing task - to help him cope with our world. And this is the one which may cost a lot of money and a lot of time, but which will repay you many times over in watching your dog change and develop and gain in confidence. Check out the resources for Growly Dogs, the free course and premium course

 

Love alone just isn’t enough

Love and nurturing will do a lot of healing, of course. But to deal with any difficult issues - such as inability to cope with the presence of other dogs on the planet without lunging, barking, or screaming, threatening to bite if approached, stealing and guarding stolen items ferociously - you need professional help. There’s no need to struggle on for months while the situation gets worse and worse and you regret your decision to get your dog! Get the help you need straight away. Once you understand why your dog is acting as he is, changing it becomes straightforward.

Finding a true force-free trainer is essential. Any aversive or coercive methods (shouting, throwing things, yanking the lead etc) will only compound the situation and make it far worse in the long run. You’ll find a list of useful organisations at the foot of this previous article

There are plenty of rehomed dogs who have turned into Brilliant Family Dogs! This may be by luck or by judgment, but is a great outcome. In my line of work I naturally tend to meet a lot of the rehomes that cause problems.

And I’m happy to be able to say that the situation can always be vastly improved. It’s a joy to see the dedication of the new owners as they work to rebuild their new dog’s shattered confidence.

Cast off the rose-tinted spectacles!

Matching a dog to your family is a delicate and difficult task. Be sure to remove your rose-tinted glasses before you make any decision. You and your family will be living with this dog for anything up to the next 15 years or so. The placement must be right for you and your dog, but also your children and your spouse too, not to mention your cat.

While you’re still looking for your perfect companion, do a bit of research into what you’ll need. Here’s your Action Step: While you can’t purchase a crate until you know your new dog’s size, you can certainly do your homework and narrow down the choice so you’re ready to get one as soon as you expect your dog to arrive with you. Don’t cut corners - go for the best and most robust that fits your budget. This crate is not for confining your dog to keep him under control - it’s to give him a safe haven where he gets all his meals and toys, which he’ll love, and which will help enormously with separation - both night-time and daytime absences. 

And don’t forget the essential training! You can’t expect your new dog - who may be very confused about what people want of him - to just know what you want. You have to teach him, step by step. And while some of those steps may feel uphill, most will be successful - if you follow a force-free training program. There are some excellent dog training classes around the world where the instructor is firmly grounded in force-free training, treating each animal as an individual (refer to that list above for umbrella organisations).

But if you’re in a force-free “black hole” and there’s no class around that you would countenance taking a dog flea to, never mind your precious new dog, take a look at the articles here at www.brilliantfamilydog.com

They follow the same style of teaching as my books, which have received over 150 5-star reviews from pet-owners, who enjoy their directness, simplicity, and effectiveness (and humour!). You may have a challenging new dog - but with a little help and support you can turn him into your perfect pet.

Happy hunting for your new companion, and may you be one of the great rehoming success stories! 

 

 

 

If your new dog is struggling to adapt to life in our world, join our free 5 Day Video Mini-course.

You'll learn new skills that will help with any dog!

>

He may be reactive but he’s still a dog

Reactive dog, aggressive dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | A reactive dog is still a dog! Don’t forget to train him just the same way as any other. The relationship will blossom and life will improve | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Got a reactive dog? One who barks and lunges at innocent passers-by; grows fangs and a forked tail at the sight of another dog in the same parish; or maybe just melts with fear at the sound of a bicycle? 

I feel for you!

I’ve been working with reactive dogs for years, and I have my own two Growlies too. So I know just what you’re up against. 

Fortunately more people are becoming aware of the issues, and that means slightly more people are beginning to understand that it’s not your fault! You’re not a terrible owner, and you haven’t got a horrible dog. He’s just not fitting in with the popular perception of what a pet should be.

But, as you’ll know, your difficult dog is the perfect pet at home. You know how friendly, biddable, loving, and fun your dog is - once the fears that dance around her when out are removed. You know how to soothe her, how to play with her, how to stimulate her great brain so that she loves to do things for you.

Your dog’s still a dog

And it can be hard to remember, when you’re out and about and dealing with her demons, that at heart that’s what she is. She’s a dog. Maybe not the dog you expected when you took her on. Not the dog you’d be able to go on group walks with, not the dog to compete in agility with, not the PAT therapy dog you’d planned - visiting the old and the sick and charming them all.  

[Actually there’s a good chance you could do the group walks … in time … and you can seek out agility teachers who understand and make the necessary arrangements for your dog to feel safe. PAT dog? Just maybe … in time.]

Get our free e-course to make instant changes in your growly dog!

THIS E-COURSE IS A BONUS FOR YOU WHEN YOU SIGN UP TO RECEIVE EDUCATIONAL EMAILS AND OCCASIONAL OFFERS FROM ME. YOU CAN UNSUBSCRIBE AT ANY TIME.
Privacy Policy

We can get so taken up with all the slightly different things we have to do with our troublesome pooch - like dodging into driveways, muzzle-training, learning sharp emergency turns, never being out without a supply of tasty treats - that we can overlook the basics. Building the bond with your dog is what it’s all about.

Building an unbreakable bond

I’ve noticed recently that a number of students in my plain vanilla dog training course (not geared for reactive dogs, in other words) are reporting - with surprise - that their dog is much less reactive when out, faster to settle, less likely to kick off at the dogs on tv.

Reactive dog, aggressive dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | A reactive dog is still a dog! Don’t forget to train him just the same way as any other. The relationship will blossom and life will improve | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Working through the course lessons has turned them and their dog into a TEAM. The old acronym Together Everyone Achieves More, is never more clear than when you’re working with your dog - especially a challenging one!

And it’s wonderful to see how things improve - not with lots of work outdoors in the thick of it - but by just playing some simple but cunningly devised games with your dog on a daily basis. You can see the change within the first few minutes of them being introduced to the game. “Suddenly,” thinks your dog, “this person understands me!” And you are left open-mouthed, wondering at the speed with which your dog has learned the new games, and how eager he is to play them anywhere, any place, any time.

As Sophie said: “We are doing the training every day, a few times a day. It’s doing wonders for us at home and we are using it on walks too!”

Just for Reactive, Aggressive, Fearful - Growly Dogs

This is why, when I’m working individually with a reactive dog, I teach them these relationship-building games right at the start. Regardless of what happens outside, I want the dog and owner to get these under their belt straight away. And it’s a delight to see an owner change from trying to command their dog all the time, to allowing the dog to express his own opinion and make his own (good) decisions.

See my last two posts for more on this:

Little things DO matter - for your dog everything matters
Once you remove the friction everyone is happier

Of course, the reactive dog owner does need strategies and techniques to improve their outside life, possibly opening up more possibilities in terms of where they can walk, and whether they can enjoy a cafe stop with their dog, like everybody else seems to be able to do. These learnings are vital to the success of the training. And I’ll be going into these in huge detail in my upcoming Growly Dog Course. It’s been tested out by the first group of students, and their suggestions and requests have changed the shape of the course so that it’s now everything they wanted.

That vital bond!

But none of this will work if the relationship is not there in the first place! It may be that you’ve been focussing so much on the trickier areas of your dog’s life that you’ve let slip this vital bond. I do understand how this can happen. You can try so hard to work on what’s going on outside - when a step back into harmony inside can have far-reaching results.

As one Growly Course student put it: “Your generosity in sharing techniques and ideas about dog training in general, which is also part of our growly dog puzzle, is helpful, and much appreciated.”

She got that it’s about all the other stuff in your dog’s life with you - not just the apparently difficult parts.

You can go and check out the training I’m talking about here:

 

And if you want to know more about how specifically to help your growly, reactive, fearful, or aggressive dog, check out the new, updated Growly Course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I have to keep my dog on a short lead, or else … [insert disaster here]

Reactive dog, aggressive dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | How you handle the leash can make a huge difference to your dog’s reactions | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Your dog has lunged or leapt up at someone, has pulled towards another dog as if with evil intent, tugs you towards whatever he wants to sniff.

So you shorten the lead and keep a tight hold on it. 

I understand. I can see why this habit has developed.

But did you know that if you do the very opposite as soon as your dog sees something you think he’ll pull towards, he’ll actually relax and stop pulling?

Really!

Tightening the lead when your dog sees something that worries him triggers the “fight or flight” reflex. He’s trapped so he can’t flee. So his only option (he thinks, in his moment of fear) is to launch an attack. This is usually confined to noise and bluster and no damage is intended.

But it can result in a “redirected bite” where your dog’s frustration at being restrained causes him to grab the nearest thing - his lead, your hand, your leg …

(If your dog has actually bitten and caused damage, see note further down.)

The right tool for the job

Struggling to control your dog with a lead 3 foot or shorter is making life impossible for both of you.

Your dog only has to move an inch or two away from you to make the lead tight.

And if you have the lead wound six times round your hand and held in a vice-like grip, he is feeling pressure the whole time. When you walk hand in hand with a friend, you don’t grip their hand tightly and clamp it to your side. You don’t frogmarch them along the road without allowing them to pause and look at anything!

For this week only, enrolment is open for From Growly Dog to Confident Dog! Go and check out all the elements of the course that could transform life with your difficult dog

So give your dog some freedom, and relieve your shoulders of the ache.

Get a 6-8 foot long lead. Choose one made of Softex or other such material which is soft on the hands, with no sharp edges to cut or burn. 

Some of the best ones are called “training leads” and have a trigger clip at each end, with several rings down the length of the lead you can connect them to. This gives you three different lead lengths, and the ability to fix it round your hips or bandolero-style across your body, and have hands-free walking.

You can get them in lovely colours too! 

You can certainly have a leather lead if you prefer, but you may have to work it to soften it enough to be easy to gather and slide through your hands. A lead is only as strong as its weakest part, so check that metal parts are welded, stitching is sturdy, and there are no rough edges.

Now you can give your dog a bit of freedom! 

 

  • He can pause to sniff (wait a moment then suggest he comes with you)

  • He can assess people passing or dogs approaching without feeling trapped (keep your hold on the lead soft)

  • You will relax!

  • Your dog will relax!

 

If you need to keep your dog leashed when you’re in a larger area, away from the road, a 15 foot line is ideal. You don’t leave it trailing on the ground to get all muddy and wet and yucky, you gather it in your hands so that you can gently let it out and gather it in as necessary. There’s a safe way to do this, so that your fingers don’t get broken when your dog lurches forward, and you’ll find detailed instructions in the online course: From Growly Dog to Confident Dog

Of course you must ensure the safety of others. So if your dog has bitten and caused damage you need to a) start teaching him to enjoy wearing a muzzle, and b) look for a force-free professional to help you.

 

Puppies

For a young puppy I like to use a “house line” - an 8-foot light line with no handle. This one can be left trailing in house or garden, and provides an easy way to capture your racing puppy! It's also great for roadwalks, to give your puppy the freedom she needs to explore her environment without being hauled about by the neck. 

So when your little pup plonks her bottom firmly on the pavement and says “Not moving,” you can wait at the end of the (slack) lead until she’s assessed the danger of the crocodile pit she thought she saw in front of her and decided to move again.

I had an email for help from a new owner, complaining about her 10-week-old puppy’s stubbornness when walking on the road. I suggested she re-read her email, replacing the words “stubborn” and “obstinate” with “fearful” and “worried”. She got the point straight away and started treating her little pup with the same kindness and patience as she already extended to her children. 

 

There’s no need to become the “master” of a dog

They are family, not staff.

I feel like crying whenever I see a puppy being dragged along the pavement - sometimes upside down. Yes, really. This happens.

Would you drag a frightened toddler along the pavement upside down?

Just give her a second or two …

 

Lead Skills are important for all dog-owners to learn. And if you have a shy, fearful, reactive, or aggressive, dog, it’s even more important that you can make the connection with your dog that a lead affords, and send only good messages down it! Think how soft-handed equestrian stars are. 

 

For this week only, enrollment is open for

From Growly Dog to Confident Dog!

Go and check out all the elements of the course that could transform life with your difficult dog.