Correcting Aggressive Dog Behavior: Strategies

I remember when I first brought Archer home from the rescue. He was very reactive on the leash, in the yard and in our vehicles. Basically he was anxious and reactive most of the time.

When correcting aggressive dog behavior there are strategies that I have used and found effective in training dogs.

We won’t go into any great detail but touch on the basics. We also need to keep in mind that when correcting aggressive dog behavior-dogs are not all the same. What might work for one dog- may not work for another.

Below are strategies that I have found to be successful while training Archer and other reactive dogs. I will also share with you quality, low cost dog products that have helped while dog training.

Life Experience of Your Dog

Archer was abandoned several times on a highway by his previous family-eventually ending up at a dog rescue. There was evidence of not being fed, tied up for long periods of time and physical abuse. This made for a scared, anxious, reactive – large dog. Knowing Archer’s past helped me understand his behaviors and what he is needing when acting aggressive.

When we take a close look at our dog’s behaviors-this can give us an insight into why they behave they way they do. This also gives us a starting point for their training and care plan.

Reactive on the Leash

Little boy walking a T Rex on a leash.Archer is a big guy- a Shepherd/Bloodhound mix, 115 pounds. I call him T Rex. When I first started walking him he would lunge and bark at people and dogs. At one point he barked at a baby in a stroller and made her cry.

Another time he got away from me and jumped up on the hood of a car.  He pulled me down  many times-too many to count.

Archer’s behavior at this time was showing me he was scared and anxious and he needed me to be in control. I knew I had to try for his sake. I knew in my heart I could not return him to the rescue.

Because Archer was so reactive I began walking him at night down back lanes so we wouldn’t run into anyone. I tried everything. I took him to a private trainer who told me that when Archer reacts on the leash that I should “yank his leash as hard as possible to show him who is in control.” Needless to say I stopped going to training.

I spent a lot of money buying leashes, collars and harnesses that promised to rid him of his aggressive behaviors. Although these products helped they did not lessen his aggressive behaviors.

Eventually I started to do my own research and try different things. I listened to my gut of what would work with Archer and what wouldn’t.

My daughter found a harness made by PetSafe called the Easy Walk Harness.  The PetSafe Easy Walk harness has a front-chest leash attachment that allows me to have control over Archer’s center of gravity which is his chest. With the front-chest leash attachment I can lead and control the direction we walk.  This harness made the world of difference while walking Archer. 

The PetSafe Easy Walk Harness can be purchased from Amazon.  Amazon also offers the PetSafe Deluxe Easy Walk Harness with padded straps.  

I started walking Archer in places where there wasn’t a lot of people but where he could observe people and dogs from a safe distance. When we did get too close to a person or dog and Archer would bark and lunge – I would bring him close, pivot and walk the other way. We don’t stop and I don’t give him time to look back or linger.  This changes his direction and focus.

If he starts to pull while walking on the leash – I give a gentle pull on the leash for a few seconds. Not a yank – a pull that makes him realize I am telling him to slow down.

A dog maybe more reactive on the leash because he feels he is physically attached to you.  Or he may feel that he can’t protect his owner because he is restricted by the leash.

With practice and patience over time Archer improved. Once I felt I had control over our walks that’s when we started to enjoy our walking time together.

Remember to have some treats with you so when your dog is walking nicely on the leash she can be rewarded for good behavior. Before giving your dog a treat say her name. This will help with her recall. Your dog will learn that when you say her name she gets a treat and this will help in getting and keeping her attention.

Territory Reactive

To a certain extent a dog that barks when someone comes near your home- he’s doing his job. With Archer, he would bark continuously when he saw someone in our back lane.

What I started doing with him was showing him a treat, getting him to sit for a few moments, then saying his name and giving him the treat. This practiced his sitting and calmed him down because he is focused on the treat instead of barking.

Archer will still bark if someone gets too close to our fence-but it is brief and that’s his job.

Home Visitors

Of course when someone comes to your door your dog is going to bark. That’s her job. Sometimes dogs can get over excited or feel threatened when someone-especially someone new comes to your home.

When we have visitors in our home I tell people to ignore Archer, let him sniff them to get familiar, then after a few minutes that guest can give him a treat.  Archer sniffs, has his treat and then he will go lay down. 

This took time and practice but eventually Archer knew that on regular basis people came to the door and came into our home. He learnt it meant we have visitors in our home, we are safe and there is no cause for alarm.

Positive reinforcement is huge when training dogs. Getting excited about their successes-even a small success is important. Use their name a lot in an excited tone, tell her she’s a good girl when she sits. When your dog comes to you when called- tell him he’s a good boy, lots of pats and encouragement.

A dog smiling while being patted.

Bottom Line

When training any dog you need to be firm and consistent -you need to be in control. When training and caring for Archer I can’t be scared of him. Archer looks to me for direction.

Dog’s can sense when people are upset, angry or frustrated. You are their owner-you need to be calm and in control to give your dog direction.

Archer is now 8 years old and has mellowed a great deal. He still has his moments of barking too much or occasionally pulling on the leash. But compared to when we first brought him home-he’s come a long way. He can walk nicely on the leash-I still use the PetSafe Easy Walk Harness.  

The PetSafe Easy Walk Harness can be purchased from Amazon.  Amazon also offers the PetSafe Deluxe Easy Walk Harness with padded straps.  

Dogs have basic needs: love, food, shelter and exercise. Dogs want to please their owners. They ask for very little in return. In my experience if a dog is treated well- they behave well.

Always remember you know your dog the best. You know what will work and what won’t for your dog. We will continue to discuss training strategies in more detail in future posts. I will also share with you dog training supplies that I have found to be of value.

My dog Archer sitting under a tree.
Archer – My T Rex ❤

It’s been a real journey with Archer. He is my best friend. I have learned so much from him.

If you have any questions or comments – please let me know in the comments below.

Thank you

Kathleen

“Everything I know I learned from dogs.” – Nora Roberts

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