Dog On Dog Aggression As A Professional Dog Trainer

I am constantly asked by people in the dog world about my methods on dealing with dog on dog aggression. I guess because I have had really good success with dogs that others have deemed unfixable, I have been labeled as an aggressive dog specialist. I never set out to specialize in any one area of dog training but I guess I’ll take it as a compliment. So now, the majority of calls that I get for training is usually some type of dog on dog aggression. I get calls literally from all over the world and to be honest I’m still getting use to the positive attention, I’m still shocked by it.

dog on dog aggression

When I started my business in Nashville, Tennessee a few years back, I only did it after many people convinced me to give it a try to just pay for my dog hobby. I never expected it to blow up the way it did. The funny thing is I do not do it to make a living, I do it because I truly love working with dogs, especially troubled dogs. I am a Federal Agent and have been for 17 years. I love my job but my heart is with the dogs.

As far as training goes, let’s start by saying I did not create some new fancy method that I put my name to and say I’m such a genius and just the greatest trainer around. I use all methods, all tools, and most of all I use just good communication and energy that the dog understands. They are not people, they are dogs and that is the language that they understand.

I’ll get into methods shortly, but first talk about how I live with my dogs. I have big powerful dogs, Rotties and Shepherds, all males. I have never had a dog on dog aggression fight between my dogs; and my Rotty and GSD can’t stand each other. They do not play or interact at all, but yet they are together in the house all day alone, they eat in the same room, share the same water bowl, and I do give them raw bones unsupervised in my yard. Why don’t they get into it people ask me all the time, and the answer is simple. There is not a battle for leadership there. The dogs do not have that stress of taking over. I’m in charge, my wife is in charge, my 7 year old and my 2 year old are in charge, that simple.

Dog On Dog Aggression

Here is an example. The GSD was my dad’s dog. My dad passed away almost 4 years ago, and while he was dying from lung cancer he was worried about what would happen to his dog. I promised him I would take him, but to be honest I don’t think he ever believed me since I had three dogs and his GSD was dog aggressive and could be very people aggressive if not introduced properly. My dad died and when I left Jersey after all the services for my dad I took the dog back with me. Here is how it went.

I pulled in the driveway, took Bear out of the car and started walking away from my home. I told my wife to let the dogs out and of course they came to greet Bear. Bear erupted like a lion and tried to attack, that is what he was used to. I gave a little correction with the leash and choke collar, but I never slowed my forward progress or spoke any words, just kept moving forward. Again they try to greet and same reaction from Bear, you get the picture. I keep doing the same thing and by time we are through my development, about 20 minutes, I let Bear off leash in my yard and he is running around with the other dogs. Now there was a lot of tension from Bear and Bruno my Rotty but it was my job to be all over that, and here is an example of that.

We go into the house and Bear lays in one corner of the kitchen, which he still does to this day. Bruno walks through the kitchen and just looks at Bear. At that moment I jump all over Bruno. Bruno needs to know that I will not tolerate that challenge to Bear, because that is what it is, and more importantly Bear needs to see that I control things and he can put his trust in me. That tension went on for about two weeks and then it was over. Still don’t play together but no tension.

What I am trying to get at is there has to be rules in the house and you have to be consistent in enforcing them. The dogs do not make any decisions, if they do they will benefit them not you and your family. This is where the behavior is shaped, whether good or bad. To me behavior is 80% obedience is 20%. If I am lying on the couch and Bruno comes and drops his big beautiful head on my chest to be petted, I don’t. I send him away, and when he goes away and lays down I call him back and I love on him. I can’t allow him to say, hey bitch pet me, because that is really what he is doing. If one of the dogs are lying in the doorway to the kitchen, I do not allow my children to step over them, that is not the dogs space, it is ours. My children just tell them to go. My 2 year old is very polite and always says thank you to the dogs. The dogs never give them a hard time here and I promise their feeling are not hurt. A lot of people try but don’t go all the way. An example is I hear people give the same scenario, but what they do is when the dog demands to be petted they tell the dog to sit and then they pet. The problem here is that the dog still put himself right where he wanted to be and got what he wanted. Half your terms half his terms and that will never work.

Dog On Dog Aggression And Why You Need To Be The Pack Leader

I don’t allow dogs on my furniture and especially on my bed. Many people will disagree with that, but I’m telling you what I believe and how I raise my dogs, which by the way get more love and attention than any dog could ever imagine. The truth is they really need the structure and will love you for it. I won’t go any further here because I’ll be writing all day, I think you get the picture, I’m a fanatic about rules and boundaries and my wife is even worse.

Now for training with an aggressive dog. It definitely helps to have access to a well-balanced dog and that is where Bruno comes in for me. I am still amazed when I watch him work around an unstable dog. I’m good at reading dogs but Bruno is definitely a lot better.

When I take the leash I do not give commands. I just move with a lot of confidence and calmness. I just want the dog to follow, that is it. Once I’m comfortable here I decide what I’m going to do, it all depends on the dog. I will talk about a couple of different methods that some of you probably already know.

The first method is Behavior Adjustment Treatment (BAT). This is used frequently by trainers dealing with people or dog aggression. I won’t go into all the details but here it is in a nutshell.

You have a dog aggressive dog. You take your aggressive dog toward a stable dog being held on a leash. You find a distance where your dog becomes aware of the helper dog and when your dog starts to show any signs of stress you stop right at that point and you wait. You don’t say anything. You wait for some kind of calming signal like your dog looks away or looks at you or sniffs the ground. As soon as that happens you mark that behavior and walk your dog away and treat. What this comes down to is just another way of using Bart Bellon’s NE PO PO (Negative Positive Positive) method. So when using Bart’s method with E Collar the tap on the collar is the negative, the stopping of the e collar is the first positive and then the reward (food or toy) is the second positive. With BAT, the stress caused by the appearance of another dog is the negative, the removal of your dog is the first positive and the food or toy is the second positive. You repeat this over and over until you can approach all the way. A very simple but very effective method when done properly and combined with good leadership in the home.

The next method is not well known, but I have had tremendous success with it. It is called Constructional Aggression Treatment (CAT). This is similar to BAT but with CAT you are removing the trigger dog or person. It works like this. You put your dog aggressive dog on a leash and you relax. No talking no commands. Another handler takes the trigger dog from a long distance and the trigger starts to approach. As soon as the subject dog starts to show signs of tension the trigger stops and you mark that spot and wait. As soon as the subject dog shows any calming signs the trigger dog goes away to the safe distance that did not cause any tension. You do not say or do anything to the subject dog, you just stand there. After about 20 seconds the trigger dog approaches again. As soon as the subject dog shows any tension the trigger stops in place. When the subject calms, again the trigger goes away to the safe spot and waits 20 seconds. You keep repeating until you can get close without any tension. This is a tremendous method and I have used it in conjunction with BAT with great success. You can Google both methods for full details.

Here is the last example I will give and it involves a mix breed named Nash owned by Rafael and Michele in Nashville, Tennessee. Nash was very people and dog aggressive especially at their apartment complex. Rafael wanted to pay for and eight lesson package. I told him to take the three lesson and that should be enough. Rafael wanted to do e collar training and try to fix the aggression. I do not use e collar to fix aggression. I told them we will teach the e collar like I would with any other dog and focus separately on the aggression. I use a lot of reward when teaching e collar so I couldn’t do that if the dog was muzzled, and I did not want to cause any kind of conflict with the dog. So for the first two lessons I never touched the dog. I had Rafael control the leash and the food rewards and I controlled the e collar. It went like this: Rafael puts the e collar on Nash and a long line. I found the lowest level on the collar that Nash could barely feel. Once we have a working level, Rafael says Nash come, I tap the nick button, the second Nash turns to come toward Rafael he says YESSS and rewards. We did that for two lessons and added sit, place and down. The e collar training went perfect and Nash performed beautifully.

Now time for the aggression. Remember, I still have never laid my hands on this dog. I bring Bruno to help. I start in the parking lot at the apartment where they live. After 5 minutes of walking Rafael through the BAT method it starts to down pour, so we had no choice but to move into the stairwell hallway of their apartment, and it was dark. I had Rafael stand in the back end of the hallway, and by the way Nash did not eat at all that day. You need a hungry dog for food to be a motivator. Every time I entered the hallway with Bruno I instructed Rafael to start feeding. As soon as I left with Bruno the feeding stopped. We repeated over and over until Nash showed absolutely no sign of tension but instead starting looking to Rafael for his reward at the first sight of Bruno. We did this for about 15 minutes and then switched to CAT. Now when we entered and approached, Bruno and I stopped at a fairly close distance and Nash showed very little tension if any. The second Nash looked at Rafael Bruno and I walked away. It was much more difficult and less room for error doing this in a tight hallway, but you use what you have. We repeated several times and before we ended Nash wasn’t showing any tension.

The following weekend Nash came to his first group class. I asked all the other clients to ignore Nash and do not let their dogs approach him. After conducting class for about 10 minutes I walked over to Nash, gave him my side and squatted down. He started loving on me and I hugged on him. Rafael was filming this and my other clients had no clue that I had never been able to approach Nash until Rafael told them. It was a great moment. The following weekend Rafael and Michele were moving to Boston. They sent me a video of movers in their apartment and Nash lying down without a care in the world. I still keep in contact with them and Nash is doing well.

Nash’s training went successfully, but it would not have worked if his owners did not take control of everything else in his life. Behavior then obedience, always.

It is difficult to put this into words so I will work on a video demonstrating some of the above methods.  Dog On Dog Aggression by Larry Krohn, reprinted by with express permission — Dec. 2012.

To learn more about dog on dog aggressionLarry Krohn can be reached through his web site.

Beware the High Cost of Ownership When Adopting A Dog Or Puppy

Adam writes:

Animal Lovers, Please Be Aware of High Ownership Costs:

PEOPLE love their pets, but how often do they think about the costs? The question is akin to asking which child we love more.

Yet the reality is that pets cost far more than many people expect. And right now, as the economy continues to stumble, those costs have become a burden to many people, like the cat lover who cannot afford medical care or the horse owner struggling with boarding fees.

The problem is that the general information out there is not realistic. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates the cost for a large dog at $875 a year for food, medical expenses, toys and a few related expenses, and $560 for first-year setup costs. The estimate for a cat is $670 a year, with first-year expenses of $365, for a total of $1,035.

When I looked at these numbers, I thought they were taken from Voltaire’s “Candide”: derived from the best of all possible worlds. This month alone, my wife and I spent $600 on one Labrador retriever with a bladder infection who needed some kidney tests and $300 on the other one for an injured paw. This did not include the food for the two of them and our Maine Coon cat, nor their monthly flea and tick medicine or heartworm pills.

So with the holiday gift-giving season under way, I write this column for parents who may be asked by children for a dog or a horse. Remember that the costs need to be factored in.

Read the rest of the article, here:

DPTrainer4 adds:

I’ve been hearing more and more stories from my classmates who work at veterinary hospitals, and a few from my professors too, who are vets themselves, about animals who are simply euthanized for lack of funds to treat problems such as bladder stones (can’t afford the cystotomy surgery if the prescription diet doesn’t work), hit-by-cars (emergency surgery = $$$), bad hip dysplasia (painkillers too $$$, don’t even ask about a hip replacement or even a more simple femoral head osteotomy), or other such things that are treatable, or at least manageable for the life of the animal.

It’s depressing and makes sense why I won’t get rich as a vet tech when vets aren’t raking it in anyway, because while a small percentage of people just whip out the credit card, others can barely count out their cash.

Whiteshepherd responds:

One of my friends who spent $5000 dollars (plus 13% Tax) on a brain tumor removal surgery that had recommended by his vet. I was trying to convinence my friend to put his cat down simply because that cat was way too old for the surgery. she was a 17+ years old cat. then the vet told my friend that there was a 50% chance that his cat would survive and live couple of more years.The result was the cat died the next day after the surgery.

Some vets out there don’t really give good advice, for surgery like this, they don’t really get many clients who’re willing to pay or can afford to pay such big amount of money. They really tried so hard to seize the chance to get your money out of your pocket, even though it’s a common sense that for a cat, old like this, wouldn’t be stronge enough to survice a big surgery like that.

the only thing i said to my friend was, i respect you love for your cat, but if i were you i would put her down and donate this money in her honor to save or to change other animal’s lives. for $5000 dollars you can defintely provide food, clean water or medical care for many childrens and save their lives in africa.

I switched to another vet simplely because my vet tried to sell me some really expense deworm pills. After I confronted him, he told me that the pill I wanted doesn’t work as good as this one. I’m not going to pay a triple price for a pill that does almost the same thing for my dog. then my new vet who’s my friend’s neighbor confirmed that those pills even have exact same ingrediants.

Dog lovers, beware of bad vets who are only after is your money!

Stop Dog Aggression When People Pass By

Corie writes to me about territorial dog aggression:

Our rescue husky/heeler cross dog is 1.5 years old. I’ve made a lot of progress with him with your suggestion of the pinch collar and leash and boundary training. He is a nervous dog that is really afraid of everything and when people come up to him his fur goes us and he is on edge. He will not bite, he just backs away. I give people treats to give him and that helps. But when people walk by our yard and I don’t have him in a stay position he will charge after them and show dog aggression (or territorial aggression). I know I have to work more on the boundary issue, little harder right now in Canada with 2 feet of snow on our grass. What should I be doing please? Thanks.

Adam replies:

Hi, Corie:

Specifically for the fence charging?

Don’t leave him out there, unsupervised… until you’ve got this problem fixed.

Here’s what you do: When he charges the fence, yell out, “No!”… then calmly walk to him and administer a firm correction with the tab. Rinse and repeat.

This issue really just comes down to getting the right motivation level, for your corrections. If, after several repetitions, he’s still doing it… then your correction simply isn’t meaningful enough.

If you can’t get a good correction with the pinch collar, I’d recommend upgrading to the e-collar. There is something about the texture of the e-stim that gets through to the dog (without having to even be set high, sometimes) that works, when the pinch collar corrections do not.

– Adam.

DPTrainer4 adds:

To echo what Adam posted, it’s basically a problem that the dog is outside and devising his own ways to keep occupied.

That doesn’t mean that you need to keep him busy 100% of the time when you’re out with him, but it’s a good policy to not turn him out by himself often. Because we have an unfenced yard, I feel (and this is my opinion, and it’s NOT MEANT TO RAG ON ANYONE WITH A FENCE) that because we must be outside with our dog, she is more focused on us than just doing her own thing around the yard. We play with her, do obedience, work on boundary training, just sit and chill…but we’re out with her. My personal opinion is that it helps a lot with potential problems that she would otherwise have if she were allowed to go out by herself and fence-fight with the two poodles that live behind us (and yes, she has the capability to do that if we allowed her to do so).

If possible, keep the dog outside on a long line too so that you are not stuck playing “catch-me-if-you-can” when you need to correct.

Cory responds:

Thanks for the tips – figured the e-collar might be the next step.

I have another question. I have been doing all you suggested to become the alpha dog – having him wait til I go thru the door first, down stay for longer periods, not being allowed on bed, etc. but when I walk him he always wants to be 1/2 a body (dog) length ahead of me. I use the pinch collar and correct him and say hey and he steps back but then he’s ahead again. I also have a 13 year old lab who comes with us for a short part of the walk but he’s always 10 paces behind because he has a hard time walking and chooses to stay behind. Daos (husky) is pretty much the same way whether my lab is there or not. Although he is getting pretty good at walking with the leash (well it is dragging so I can step on it if he decides he wants to get away). Training my lab was a breeze – this rescue dog has certainly been a challenge. What should I do about the husky trying to lead? E- collar again?

Adam replies:

Hi, Corie:

Yes, the e-collar will definitely help with that, but what you’ll want to start doing is more of the Left-about turns. (Make sure they’re tight turns, as if you’re balancing on a tight rope, and make the dog step back and around you, if possible.)

The idea is to bump the dog in the side of the head with your knee, in a surprise left-about turn. The dog will start to hang back, because he’s watching and waiting for (and wants to avoid) getting bumped by your knee.

You can synchronize the knee with the e-stim, for even greater results.


Dealing with Strange Housebreaking Issues

Cruzmisl writes to me about some strange housebreaking issues: “I took my 4 month old Great Dane out for a long walk in the woods today and everything was great. We were gone an hour and everything was as usual. She came in the house, took a drink from her bowl upstairs and then went downstairs to take a drink from her other water bowl. Why she does that I have no idea but I follow her down anyway. I don’t trust her when she’s out off my sight and I like to wipe her mouth (she hates that though). Once she’s done drinking she plopped on her bed in front of the fireplace.

It seemed like a good time to check my email so I grabbed my laptop. All of a sudden she’s barking/moaning and she’s sitting up, urinating on her bed! I just had her outside for over an hour and she pulls this stunt? I grabbed her by her collar and told her “outside” and put (dragged) her in the backyard.

I’m a little confused though because she hasn’t pee’d in the house in months. She’s old enough now that she can hold it for 8-10hrs at night (in her crate) so I’m curious what spawned this. Later on that night she pee’d on the carpet while my wife wasn’t looking. It was only a little bit though.

Any ideas?”

Adam replies:

Hi, J:

She’s testing you. (And also: Your prior corrections probably weren’t motivational enough.)

She may test you once or twice, even if you do everything right… though Month 9. That doesn’t mean she’s not housebroken. It just means that: She’s still a young dog, and either by accident or by “test” — you can have this occur, albeit infrequently. The trick is to make sure that she gets a meaningful correction, when she does it. As you’ve found: Pulling on the flat collar isn’t going to do it.

Have you gone through the Secrets book and the housebreaking in a hurry video, yet?

– Adam.

J responds:

I skimmed through that section because she was housebroken a week after we picked her up so I didn’t bother. I’ll go back and revisit those sections. Any other advice other than whats already contained there? It seems more of a defiance angle more than anything else.

Adam replies:

No, it’s not defiance. The dog’s mind doesn’t work that way.

You’re expecting too much from a 4 month old puppy. Housebreaking a dog this young isn’t a “scratch it off the list” and move on, type of behavior. At this age, it’s going to be more of a: We’re 99% there, but there still may be some accidents in the coming months, so I need to be 100% vigilent.

And again: If you’re not using the pinch collar, your corrections probably aren’t motivational, so you may have that working against you, too. Eliminating in the house needs to be so uncomfortable that she actively wants to hold it and tell you to take her out.

Keeping Your Puppy From Eating Too Fast

TeamK writes to me with a puppy training issue:

Our female black lab came from a litter of 12. Brought her home at 7 1/2 weeks. She is now 11 1/2 weeks. At first of course we figured it was how they needed to eat just to get food, but it’s gotten worse. She eats SOOO fast – inhales her food. Tried feeding in smaller amounts, feeding from hand, but still inhales. We also have from day one been around her when she eats,putting our hands in dish or by dish – but now that just makes it worse -she eats faster. (did this with our first lab (now deceased) and she always ate slow and did not mind if kids or other dogs took her food. ( We do not have children at home nor other dogs) I’ve used the kong for small amounts of treats or food while time needed to keep her busy but not for a full meal. If I spread it on floor still inhales it -does not chew. Feed her twice (or 3) times a day splitting her food according to bag. K (Oh yes and she growled at me two days ago when I put my hand in but I continued to do it and fed her by hand and she has not done that since…yet)
Adam replies:

Hi, Team K:

Take a look at this:



It’s usually something they grow out of. I really wouldn’t worry about it too much at this point. Keep doing what you’re doing. Good food drive is healthy (as long as she doesn’t have worms). But she’s growing a lot right now. Eventually (after a few months) you should see this intensity calm down a bit.


Potty Training a Puppy

Jandon writes to me about potty training a puppy:

I’m about three weeks into potty training my (four month old) puppy and now he comes and sits in front of me as a signal to go out. I take him out and he usually does his buisness rather timely. The problem is that he does this about every twenty minutes now. I don’t want to ignor him because the one time I thought I would just wait because I know he can hold it for hours when he is in his crate,he wizzed in the house. I do give him a treat/praise every time I take him out.Any suggestions? Do you think he will get tired of this?

Adam replies:

Hi, Jandon:

Make sure he does get a correction (every time!) if he eliminates in the house.

The trick is to set up a very strict feeding and watering schedule. Do not let him free feed. And if you’re home with him all day, do not let him have free access to water. Take him out at regular intervals (every 2-3 hours or so) to drink and then afterwards, let him urinate.

Because he’s learned that he can tell you “let’s go outside and play” I recommend keeping him on a “place” command. Or in the crate, when you can’t interact with him.

But the real key at this age is to set up a strict schedule, and that way, his routine will adapt to the schedule you create.

– Adam.

Jandon responds:

Thank you…I allow him to have free access to water except one hour before bedtime. I’ll change it up a bit and put him on a water schedule. I thought maybe he was just toying with me because he could get a treat more often by reliving himself more frequently. Thanks again.

Adam replies:

Hi, Jandon:

Yes, he is toying with you. Exactly. But he may be toying with you 9 of 10 times, and 1 of 10 times it’s real. By putting him on a strict schedule, you’ll know. Also, by correcting him when he does eliminate in the house, you’ll see him get uneasy when he really needs to go outside, so it’ll be easier to tell when he really needs to “go”.

– Adam.


Dog Off the Leash in the Country

Pip Writes to me:

We live on an acre of property in the country. On three sides of us are open fields and orchard and in front we have a very busy country avenue. Our place in not fenced except for a back yard area where we keep our dogs. We have a seven month old German Shepard, Mollie, and I have been using your book to train her on the long leash. Our “problem” is that I don’t think we’ll ever feel safe having her off leash on this property. She’s pretty good with her “come” command but letting her off the leash is so scary to me. Many people in our area let their dogs run free so I have that fear that she’ll see another dog or rabbit and take off across the road. Cars regularly travel 60-80 miles an hour on this road.
We are discussing the idea of fencing our entire property which would be a great expense but I can’t see a way out of this delemma.

I have one other question: We take our dogs for a walk on easement roads behind our property. Our older shepard is sometimes on leash but often is free. We have purchased a halter for Mollie. On walks when she has the halter, we let her explore on the long leash. Usually either before, during, or after that long walk, I’ll put the pinch collar on and take her for another walk. I use both the long and short leash. She heels during this time. We also practice “come” (on the long leash) sit, stay, etc. Do you think it’s OK for her to use the halter and have “free walk” time with us?

DPTrainer4 replies:

Hi Pip. I’m glad to read that you’ve been having some success with Mollie, and I do sympathize with you on the unfenced property–our yard is very poorly suited to a fence due to how the house and driveway are situated, and as such, we have never fenced it in. I would like to know if you’ve tried yet to boundary-train her to visual boundaries on your property? You can teach her to stay out of the street, and if there is something, even a line of trees, that differentiates your property from your neighbor’s, that’s something you can use to teach her, as some character said in a famous movie, YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

Something to remember, though, is that we recommend that the dog not be let out in an unfenced yard without supervision, even if she has been boundary-trained. There’s just too much risk that, like you said, something could run by and she’d find it more motivating than the consequences you’ve been giving her for stepping into the “hot” zone (or, Not Your Property).

It may seem hard to trust her now, and there is a point where, as you move through obedience and you see that she is really picking up concepts (not only commands, but also respect and trust for you), you might start to trust her a little more. You might find this a good read, as I actually did have off-leash situations in mind when I wrote it: there’s a big step the owner has to take, mentally, in order to trust that the dog will make the right choice, and in return, earn more freedom.

The very first day we had our current dog home, we learned that she was a squirrel-chaser, bolted out the door, and found anything but us to be the Most Interesting Thing in her world. It took time, long lines, tabs, and lots of corrections and praise…but now she is completely trustworthy (granted, we are in suburbia at the end of a cul-de-sac, so I WOULD be more careful around roads in your area) in the yard off-leash. She doesn’t chase wildlife, or if she does, she stops when I call her, she respects the boundaries of the yard, and anytime she’s out, we’re out. I admit it to being a horrible drag some days–believe me, I’d LOVE to just turn her out on frightfully cold mornings to do her business–and unfortunately, some shelters/breeders do require fenced-in yards in order to give you a one of their dogs, so I do see the bright side of the concept!

As for your question regarding “free” walks, I have no problem with it…I do it myself! The one thing is that, although she can stop and explore, move ahead and behind you, she MUST keep up with you, which means that you MUST keep moving. It’s not a matter of “Give an inch and she’ll take a mile” (unless she is that kind of dog), but the deal is that you’re still leading the walk, even though she’s not right next to you. The one thing I recommend you might change, though, is to not switch between the halter (do you mean body harness with this, or actual headcollar, like the horse?) and the training collar. This can make her “collar-smart,” and teach her that she needs to be good and listen to you when her training collar is on, but when it’s off or she’s wearing her halter, she can do whatever she wants. It’s OK to let her have some free time on the long line and pinch collar. Anytime you are interacting with her, she needs to be wearing it, and even free walks count.

Hope this is some help to you!



Rescued Miniature Poodle with Dog Aggressive Behavior

Martiwise writes to me about her dog’s aggressive behavior:


We “adopted” an 8 year old minature poodle at Thanksgiving….. from a home in which he was neglected (therefore abused to me). The house contained 30 dogs and 1,000 rats when it was highlighted on TV new program. He was the oldest dog and the stud dog, father to a lot of the other dogs in the house. He wsas never outside…. never groomed…. food was “dropped off” at the house…

He was the last to be removed from the house…. had to be shaved, he was so matted (couldn’t even lie down) He was neutered and our hearts go out to him for the life he had to endure. We’d like to give him a good home for his remaining years.

We feel he has a lot of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in that he had to fend for himself with 20+ other dogs… fight off rats for food….heard noises (rats) all night long. We’ve house broken him, he comes and sits, waits calmly to be fed…

We have 2 standard poodles, both males, and he has “tussled” with the Alpha on several occasions, and the Beta nips at his neck. My concern is for the dog aggression  he displays when we settle down to watch TV in the evening.

He growls very little during the day… it’s night when the ugly disposition manifests itself. He can be sitting with us, as calm as can be….and if either/both of the other 2 dogs comes into the room…or is in the room and just moves….he begins to growl…ferociously….at both the dog(s) and can include either me or my husband….moreso my husband than me….and has tried to bite him on several occasions when in this state….

I’ve been pushing him off the couch and saying “NO!” sharply….and it helps, but it has not stopped the reaction… there anything else someone can suggest?

Adam replies:

Hi, Marti:

What a horrible life! You’re an angel for rescuing him.

Now– onwards:

The dog should not be on the couch. He needs to get a correction for the aggression, and that correction needs to come from somebody he sees as above him in the “pack”.

I recommend you start him on a “Nothing In Life Is Free” program. The structure and predictability will work wonders for providing stability and structure in his life.

Second, you need to start giving him leash corrections in the manner I describe in my dog training book. Please read it, from cover-to-cover, and if you still have questions, we’re here to help.

– Adam.

Martiwise responds:

Hi Adam,

Well, all I can say is…..the book works!

First, I established myself as the “pack leader”…and my male (standard poodle) Alpha “set the rules” for Baby (that’s the name he cam with and we’ve kept it).

I started the “walk on a leash…and he managed it in 2 days of training. Mastered the SIT command….doesn’t “stay” well yet, but wil continue to work on it. Waits. Is housebroken. Was “disciplined” EVERY time he GROWLED at the other 2 dogs when on the couch…was put onto the floor IMMEDIATELY!…and had to deal with the other 2 dogs from that level. And now does not get agitated into the growl stage every time one of the other 2 comes into the area where he is.

I also did the “THINK what he’s thinking; be in his head” …I “listened” to his “communication” with me….body languange, bark, everything! and when I started to realize that I needed to treat him like a puppy instead of an 8 year old dog….it all came together!!! This dog NEVER stepped foot on cement, or grass, or had a toy….or was loved….not the way I “love” a dog! He was the eldest dog of 30, trapped in a “house” that was filthy and rat infested…and had to be destroyed after the 30 dog were removed….and he was the last to be taken out….he and his 8 week old pup/son….who were left in a cage for 2 weeks before their removal…night frightened him, because no one lived in the house….just the dogs and the rats… was put out….and the dogs had to fend for themselves…against the rats! put myself “in his place”….it was really easy to do what was needed….think like he did….discipline him….teach him….lead him….and love him!

He’s become my “buddy”….follows me everywhere…..listens to my voice/commands….responds to praises and discipline….and it’s all right there in your book! I didn’t have it with my other dogs, but raising them from puppies was a lot different than adopting an 8 year old!…and he’s finding his place in the pack in our house! Still has a way to go, but NOTHING like it was the week of Thanksgiving…all this progress in 3 months!!!

I’ve told others about you website and book…
don’t know if anyone will take my advice….but if they don’t, it’s their loss….
Thank you for sharing your knowledge! What a difference you made in helping me realize “I CAN DO THIS!”

Marti Wise

Dog Refuses to Go Outside

jomackenzie writes to me:

I adopted a terrier mix 7 year old male dog whose owner had died. They lived in Beirut and he was put in a dog shelter there for about 9 months. Rocco was brought to France & fostered for 4 months in the countryside until I adopted him in October. From the start he was reluctant to go out (I live in the city), he doesn’t want to go to the beach or for long walks, he is unhappy & dragging behind me until he knows we’re going home, then he can’t get there fast enough. He trembles & pants if I take him on public transport or in a car. Since there were fireworks on New Year’s Eve, he is even more fearful. He is almost never left alone, & if I have to leave him, it is never for more than an hour or so. I have tried calming medication from the vet, Zylicène, which seemed to have no effect at all. I have started him on Bach Floral Remedy for Dogs, no change. I have now sent away for a pheronome collar & will also get a training leash & collar for him, but is there anything else I can do in the meantime? I would so like both of us to enjoy our walks.


Adam replies:
Hi, Jo:It’s going to take some time. It’s a process.

I’ve heard good things (from my vet) about the DAP hormone collar.

In addition, I recommend crate training the dog. And use meal times to represent being outside in social settings, if possible. Even if it’s just feeding him on the front porch or my hand, while you’re out on a walk (if he has the food drive).

But far and above, the best remedy will be starting him on an obedience program where you’re incorporating the training around your every-day lifestyle. He’ll soon start to respond to the structure and look forward to it. In addition, even though it sounds counter intuitive, I would start him on the “Nothing in Life is Free” program– which will simply help build his trust in your leadership.

Please keep us posted. He’s a beautiful dog!
– Adam.

Jo responds:
Hi Adam,
Thank you for your fast response. I’m already getting results just from having read thru your book & realising that I needed to assert myself as the Alpha dog. I live in the middle of Nice, in an apartment, so feeding him outside won’t work, & he’s not very food orientated, but I’ll figure something out.
On an entirely different subject, do you (or anyone else) know of anywhere online where I might find a small frisbee? Rocco doesn’t seem interested in balls.
Thanks again,
DPTrainer4 adds:
We’ve had a lot of good times with the Ruff Dog K9 Flyer frisbee…it’s just a rubber frisbee-like thing, no sharp curves in it like the “fast-back” design, easy on the mouth (our current dog won’t touch plastic Frisbees) and it’s light enough to fold and carry.They make a K9 Flyer Jr that’s 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) in diameter, which might be a lot easier on his mouth than the 10 inch (25.4 cm) one we have for our dog!

There should be some other suggestions on the Amazon page to “Similar Products” or what-have-you, but that’s the one my family likes!

By the way, I’m JEALOUS you’re in Nice…my brother went over there years ago for an exchange program and LOVED it, and I’ve been wanting to go there ever since, especially since my French minor has been rusting uselessly in the back of my brain!

Lab loses interest in fetch

dana.hanson writes to me:


I have a 3 year old rescue lab who I would consider very ball motivated. Because he has some dog aggression issues (which we’re working on, but that’s a whole other episode), for exercise I take him to the park to play fetch, rather than go on long walks because we live in a very dog-heavy area. Loose leash training is really helping with the aggression, but I want to mix his exercise up too. We go to an “island” of grass at the edge of the park where we can be in our own area and other dogs do not pass very nearby. So for the most part, it’s just us with none other than natural outdoor distractions. When we first got Jake, he would play fetch non-stop for over an hour — I think he would have played all day if we let him. However, lately he has begun to lose interest in the ball after 5 fetches or so. He will either not chase the ball at all and start wandering around sniffing, or he will chase the ball, drop it 10 yards away and start wandering around. Either way, the ball ends up 10 yards away. Since I have begun your training techniques with him, I intersperse fetch with 5 or so minutes of sit-stay or down-stay exercises, with the ball as a distraction and then the reward after 5 or so reps. This sparks his interest again, but it is short lived, and the ball ends up 10 yards away again. If a dog DOES happen to pass by (no closer than 20 yards), I have been putting him in a down-stay and correcting as soon as he perks up or lunges. When the dog is out of sight and Jake is calm again, I give the release command and throw the ball. Again, interest sparked, but short-lived and ball is 10 yards away. (This technique seems to be correcting the aggression though.)

So I find myself in a quandry. I don’t want to go get the ball for Jake and try to get him to fetch because (a) I want him to know that fetch is MY idea and this is what we’re doing right now, rather than my fetching the ball on his terms, and (b) I want him to get the exercise! At the same time, I cannot get his attention redirected to “get your ball” and bring it back to me after he has disengaged, so he gets no exercise unless I go get the ball and resume fetch (which doesn’t usually doesn’t work anyway). I’ve tried putting the ball away and ignoring him for a bit, but this doesn’t work either. And again, fetch needs to be MY idea and My game on MY time, not his.

SO, to make a very short question extremely long, how to I get him to go get his ball and bring it back to me after he has disengaged from the game? In short, how do I get him to play the game MY way and not his.

As background info, our set up during fetch is this: Jake wears a harness connected to a 50 foot rope, which is attached to a tree. This is insurance against his taking off after a dog. I stand near the rope and can grab the rope if my voice commands do not stop him in his tracks. (I’m no dummy — we’re not 100% on recall and I won’t risk it.) I do not want this rope to be attached to a collar, pinch or otherwise, because Jake often kicks the ball further than the 30 feet I throw it. If he kicks it too far, I don’t want the rope yanking his neck when he goes after it and hits the end of the rope. Along with the harness, he wears his pinch collar with a tab on it. This allows for any corrections necessary during training or dog encounters.

If you have any advice or can direct me to other posts, I would really appreciate it. Sorry for the long question, and thank you!



Hi again,

I just wanted to add that I have read the entire Secrets book as well as the “Becoming the Alpha Dog,” “Loose Leash Training,” and “Fixing Aggression Problems.” I just started using your techniques yesterday, and Jake is an entirely different dog. Today at the park I had him running right next to me — I was darting all over the place and he was right there the whole time! Even more amazing is that all kinds of dogs walked by our “island” and he didn’t even break stride!! 2 days ago, he would have started yelping and whining, reared up on his hind legs, and tried to take off after the dogs. THEN, after this leash session, I brought him to about 15 feet from the road where dogs were passing by, did a down-stay, and… NOTHING!! He just sat there!! I had to give him ONE correction when he started whining, but that was it. I can’t believe it. So THANKS!!

Still having the same issue with Jake leaving the ball 10 yards away though. Any help would be great.

Adam replies:

Hi, Dana:

Thanks for the kind words. Can you please post a picture of your dog?

As for the ball issue: If I’m understanding correctly, it sounds like you’re using the ball as a distraction (to tempt him)? I believe this may be killing his ball drive, and/or confusing him.

What I recommend is to never correct the dog (at this point) for chasing after the ball. Get creative and use other things as a distraction.

In addition, use the ball-on-a-string or the other “drive building” exercises I describe in the book, to increase his ball drive.

Remember: Drive works on a curve. Take the ball away BEFORE he loses interest, and tease him with it… then put it away. Even if he loses interest after four or five throws, then you should be putting it away after two throws– but not before you tease him with it and get him excited about it.

Then, the next time you bring it out, he’ll be just a little more excited for it, and a little more, and a little more… each day. Frustration builds drive.

– Adam.

Dana.hanson responds:

Thanks for the advice! I’ll work on it. Here’s a favorite picture of Jake. I would gush about how beautiful he is, but I’m sure you hear/see that all day! 🙂