What You Probably Don’t Know About Living With An Extreme Dog

Living With An Extreme DogExtreme dogs require extreme owners.

Perhaps you’ve adopted a dog that is either: High drive and super-intense; has a genetic basis for aggression; is pushy and dominant beyond your wildest imagination; has displayed “red zone” aggression that has you fearing death, dismemberment or a very unpleasant lawsuit.

Regardless– you’ve already made a decision to make the best of it, and now you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into.  Here’s what to expect…

Owning An Extreme Dog Is Not The Same As Owning A Sensitive Poodle or Golden Retriever

You need to be brutally honest with yourself about your dog and your chosen lifestyle: You cannot live with an extreme dog the same way you would live with a soft or sensitive Poodle or Golden Retriever.  It doesn’t matter, “how good your last dog (from the same breed!) was.”  You can be under no illusions: The entire experience is going to be completely different.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your dog and enjoy the many benefits of dog ownership.  It just means that you’re going to need to invest more time, energy and training into your dog– as well as having a level of situational awareness whenever your dog is not in a crate or a kennel run.

Extreme Dogs Require A Structured Lifestyle

Let’s suppose that you own two super-dominant dogs of the same sex.  For example: German Shepherd dogs from strong working lines, and you know from experience that these dogs will not get along, no way… no how.

Extreme Dogs

First, you’ll need to establish a strong foundation of obedience training on both dogs, so that they’re under voice control when in the presence of all types of distractions: Food, tennis balls, cats and other dogs.  This will give you some level of confidence that if they, “get into it” with each other that you’ll at least have a chance to get them apart.  But more importantly– with a solid foundation of obedience training you will have the tools to prevent such an incident from happening in the first place.

Nothing In Life Is Free

I’ve written before about my approach to Nothing In Life Is Free.  When you own an extreme dog, the dog needs to be working for everything.  There’s no more milling around the kitchen while you prepare dinner: Your dog needs to be holding a down-stay.  When you play with one dog, the other dog will need to be on the “place” command.  All interaction must be structured and controlled.  The dog cannot be left to make hardly any decisions for himself; He must look to you before deciding to do something… especially before interacting with another dog.

A word on having two extreme dogs in the house together:  Yes, it can be done.  But no, the dogs are not allowed to socially interact with each other.  The dogs need to be taught to keep a wide berth around the other dogs.  This becomes a show of respect, as both dogs need to be taught to respect the other dog’s space.

The dogs can never be allowed to be together, alone.  Never.  If you cannot keep one eye on the dogs and one eye on whatever else you’re doing… then at least one of them needs to be put in a secure kennel run or kennel-crate.  You must be vigilante about this.

The Down-Stay Exercise And The “Place” Command Will Become Something You Use Frequently

When we sit down to watch TV, each dog has his own cot or pillow.  The dogs are not allowed to choose where they lie down.  Why not? Because you are the Alpha Dog/Pack Leader… not them.

When the dogs get fed, one dog is fed after the next and the dog that isn’t eating is kept in a separate room, in their kennel-crate.

If we’re preparing a meal for ourselves, then the dogs are put in the down-stay position.  If a carrot is dropped on the floor, then (at our instruction) one dog is allowed to get up and get it while the other dog is made to stay in the down-position.

If you’re not at the point where you can keep your dog in the down-position (or on the place board) — then you’ll need to alternate which dog is allowed to be with you in the kitchen until you’ve proofed your obedience commands.

“If I Only Have One Dog In The House… Is This Type Of Extreme Training Regimen Necessary?”

Yes it is.  An extreme dog needs structure and discipline in his life.  Otherwise, it’s too easy for him to assume the position of pack leader.  Without a “Nothing In Life Is Free” structure supplemented by obedience exercises where the dog is made to listen to commands around high value distractions, you will never achieve any level of peace in your household.

Have hope: You can do it.  It’s a lot of hard work, but eventually your dogs will adapt to their new routines and learn how to properly fit into your lifestyle.

Dog Growls At Husband Sometimes

“I have a husband who thinks he knows it all when it comes to dogs. However, one of my dogs will still growl at him to this day. The other day I gave her a bone that she took to her crate and was fine until my husband started walking around. Then she started growling.

Dog Growls At Husband

I went over to her crate to correct her but by that time she stopped growling, so I called my husband over and the growling started again. I then gave her a couple of corrections because the growling didn’t stop with the first one. Once she stopped growling I allowed her to go back to her bone. On a side note, friends can come in and walk around when she has a bone and my other dog can be in the same room with his bone and there is no growling. It’s only when my husband moves around that the growling starts. She will also growl at him if I am in my bedroom and he walks in that direction. I’ve repeatedly told my husband that he needs to get the dogs respect and become the alpha, but he acts as though I don’t know what I’m talking about. So my question is, is there a way that I can stop this behavior on my own?”

Adam replies: 

Your corrections need to be more motivational. However: The dog will likely keep doing it when you’re not around, so if he’s not willing to correct the dog, then the dog should be crated where she will not be around your husband.

Sounds to me like you need our sister site: HusbandProblems.com.  [Editor’s note: Not really our sister site.]

This Dog Is Biting His Owners, But Is It Correctable?

Kelly wrote:  “I desperately need your help. My husband and I adopted a dog from a shelter about a year and a half ago (the dog was 1 1/2 years old then; he turns 3 this month). He’s half German Shepherd, half Alaskan husky. He was abused (we’re not sure of the full extent, but it was physical), and he was skin and bones when we adopted him. The shelter thought he’d been chained up and left without food, kicked and hit, etc. He was 45 pounds and all of his bones were visible when we adopted him; he’s now 70 pounds and very powerful.

dog bites owners

He had a host of problems when we first adopted him, and we almost didn’t keep him several times during the first 4-5 months we had him. The short list of his problems when we first got him: severe separation anxiety with extreme destructiveness and self-injury when left alone; panicking when crated and non-stop working to bust out of the crate, even if it meant self-injury; resource guarding, especially with toys; urinating either when he thinks someone is going to take his toy or when he thinks he’s in trouble; fearfulness of certain things, like the vacuum or anything that vibrates; fear of people’s feet and fear of having his feet held; and, last but not least, aggression. We’ve dealt with a lot of his problems, although he still has some (i.e., resource guarding, urinating, can’t be crated when we leave the house), but the reason I’m writing is because of the aggression issues. We thought he was improving, but I fear he’s actually getting worse.

Long story short, he was aggressive towards me a few times when we first got him. I was the only person he had aggression issues with. He would either do a scary growly-bark and lunge at my face for a) me correcting him for doing something bad, like biting my hand when I was wiping mud off of his feet or b) for no reason whatsoever. He would also growl at me a lot. He was totally fine with my husband and, I thought, obsessed with my husband.

After the first four or so months we had him, we put him on Clomipramin for the separation anxiety, as we exhausted all other ways of handling that problem. The dog actually jumped out a second story window in a panic when my husband left for the store the day after we moved to a new apartment, and we realized we had no choice but to medicate him. It was like flipping a switch. He went from panicked and destructive to totally fine when we left in a matter of two or three weeks. He also stopped being so aggressive towards me, although he still guarded his toys when I was in the room.

Generally, though, I got the sense that whenever the dog felt he was in trouble for misbehaving, he would immediately lash out with aggression (even before being corrected, and by correction, I mean a tug on the collar with his lead and/or a firm “no”). Other times, he was aggressive with me for absolutely no reason and without warning.

After 7 or so months on the medication, my husband and I wanted to wean him off. We never liked the idea of medicating him, and he was doing well, so we worked with the vet to gradually lower his dosage. Once we were on the lowest dose before stopping the meds, the dog suddenly started becoming extra-aggressive towards me. He bit my hand when trying to get him out of the car. Then two days later, he came up to me when I was on the couch to get petted, and when I reached to touch him, he bit me really hard and didn’t let go right away. This was without any sort of warning. My hand was bruised and scraped. We then took him to a vet that specializes in behavior issues, and she put him back on the meds (she said he has a seratonin imbalance and OCD and must stay on the meds for life). She also gave us a program to follow. The biggest thing was that she told us was to ignore/shun him for 1-2+ days whenever he gets aggressive, and she made me in charge of his food, toys, water, etc. – anything he values. He bit me a few more times in the weeks after our initial appointment with the behavior vet, but then he started to relax and had been very, very good for the past three months. He had always preferred my husband and was wary of me (I think because my husband is lax with him, while I try to be in charge), but he started seeking my attention and being very cuddly with me. He also started behaving better in many other areas, as well. He showed no signs of aggression during the past three months.

Then yesterday he bit my husband, and it was bad. I was at the store. We’ve been practicing boundary training with our driveway, and my husband took the dog out with him when he went to take out the trash. Instead of staying in the driveway, the dog took off down the street and ignored my husband when he called him. The dog stopped at the end of the block and dropped his ball (which my husband had let him bring outside with him). My husband picked up his ball, took him by the collar, and began leading him back to the house. The dog resisted and started to wheeze, so my husband loosened his grip on the collar. Before he could do anything else, the dog jumped up, twisting in the air, and bit my husband’s hands. He also scratched his arms. My husband told him no, took his collar and led him most of the way to our house before the dog went ballistic again. After biting my husband again, the dog rolled on his back and bared his teeth at him. He then got up and ran up the steps to our house; my husband let him in, and the dog spent the next few hours in his crate. All told, both of my husband’s arms are scratched in several places and were bleeding. Both of his hands have teeth scrapes on them. His left hand has two puncture wounds, which were bleeding pretty good, and his right hand has one puncture wound that was not as deep. He’s going to the doctor today to get the bites looked at.

We’re both really upset about this. He never was aggressive towards my husband before; my husband could basically do whatever he liked to the dog, and the dog would let him. He was only aggressive with me, and we thought he was getting better over the past several months. Now we don’t know what to do. We can’t trust him with anyone. It’s bad that he bites us, but we especially don’t want him to bite someone else. We can’t re-home him because we’d just be passing the problem along to someone else, and we don’t want him to hurt anyone. We also don’t want to see him get put to sleep. He’s a sweet dog 99% of the time, but the biting is too big a problem to ignore. Obviously, what we’ve been doing isn’t working.

I guess my question is, is this correctable? If so, how? We’re desperate for advice. Please help!”


Adam Replies:  

Hi, Kelly:

Yes– I feel it is mostly correctable.

I disagree with your vet about ignoring him for two days after he’s aggressive. That demonstrates she has no real understanding of how the dog’s mind works. When the dog corrects you, it’s not personal. It’s done with, a few minutes after he does it.

Please read my “Secrets” book. 

You’re making a lot of mistakes, primarily by not consistently putting him in situations where HE CAN WIN and YOU WILL LOSE. He has not earned that level of freedom. He should not be off leash. He should never be with you, without a training collar. Please read the book to learn the proper use of the training collar.

In fact, I’d like you to read the book FIRST and then start a new thread with any LINGERING QUESTIONS.

I agree with your vet about keeping him on the Clomicalm for the rest of his life. Whether it’s genetic or learned, your dog is (all due respect) a basket case. The clomicalm will help, but more importantly: I can almost bet that when push comes to shove, your dog does not see you or your husband as the “pack leader.”

Get a muzzle. Put the dog in situations that you KNOW will trigger the aggression. Make him work through it again and again. He will learn that it is not the end of the world, and that you’re just asking him to behave and do simple commands (even around things that freak him out). He will learn that his life is much easier to just listen to you, rather than fight and be made to do it, anyway.

You will have good days with him and bad days. You will have days when you feel that you are making progress and then other days when you feel that you are not.

The road to salvation is through obedience exercises that you MAKE HIM DO around things and places that he does not want to do them. Start slowly, farther away from the stressor and gradually over time, move closer and closer. Every time you make him do something that he does not want to do, your stock goes up. Every time he gets away with not doing something, your leadership stock goes down.

The good news is that: You know your dog and can set all of this up so that you almost always win. Winning builds your leadership (in your dog’s eyes). As your leadership grows, you will be able to say, “No!” if he starts to show aggression, and he will stop. Being a leader means that he will stop challenging you, altogether.

His aggression at times may be out of dominance, it may be from defensiveness (he doesn’t understand what you want so he reverts to getting defensive) or it may be that he’s just crazy.

Regardless, it is an unacceptable behavior that you DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE WITH.

But that road starts with educating yourself. Which starts with reading the book you’ve already purchased, in our download library.

Where To Buy The Electronic Dog Fight Stopper

I used to sell a product I called “The Electronic Dog Fight Stopper.”  It was a stun gun like any other, but it was a brand of stun gun that produced a particularly loud “crackling” sound when you pushed the button.  Both dogs and humans would stop whatever they were doing and look around (or run!) because it made such a strange sound.  For the dogs, I presumed the electrical charge was likely hitting some higher frequency that was so strange it would literally stop a dog in his tracks.  Even mid-fight.

Well, most dogs anyway.  And if they didn’t, I knew I could always touch the attacking dog with stun gun and then stop the dog long enough for us to make a run for it.

I never had to do that, fortunately.

I would use it if a stray dog was running toward me and my dog by just holding it up in the air and press the button and the other dog would turn-tail and take off running in the opposite direction.

electronic dog fight stopperIt was a product that sold well enough, but I stopped selling The Electronic Dog Fight Stopper about fifteen years ago when vendors began selling stun guns on the internet.  It was easier to just let dog owners buy directly from an online vendor who specialized in mailing stun guns and knew which jurisdictions they could ship to and which they could not ship to.

I received the following letter from Mike in Australia, who asked if I could send him an Electronic Dog Fight Stopper:

“Hello Adam
I was hoping you guys might be able to help me buy and ship to Melbourne, Australia one or two stun guns or as you call it electronic dog fight stopper. I can buy e- collar here but not those stun guns.
Thanks in advance

If You Can’t Buy An Electronic Dog Fight
Stopper In Your Local Jurisdiction…
Get One Of These Instead

I replied: “Hi, Mike: I’m not in the business of selling the stun guns anymore for this very reason. I recommend finding an internet vendor who will ship to your locale.


Most Area Will Have A Feed Store That Sells One Of These…cattle prod

Find a local feed store that sells to the ranchers and ask them if they sell a cattle prod. It’s basically the same type of device, but it’s more of a long stick (about 2 1/2 to 3 feet) with the probes on the end. A cattle prod will actually work better for what you’re going to use it for, since you don’t have to get your hand so close to the aggressive dog.

Warning: I recommend that you only use (either of these) products in a worse case scenario.  You are responsible for your own actions: If you shock your neighbors poodle with one of these because he ran up to greet your Labrador Retriever, don’t be surprised if your neighbor calls the police.

However; If you’re walking your poodle and a pack of wild coyotes comes running at you, then by all means: use it!!

Or… get a Rottweiler like this one:


Dog Aggression During Walks

Rachel wanted to know how to stop dog aggression during walks:

Here’s What She Needs To Stop
Dog Aggression During Walks

She writes: “I have been using the prong collar and following your methods for almost two weeks now with great success, especially with walking on a loose leash. I am having a problem that i need your advice on. While on walks, My rescue Tommy seems to be dog aggressive, freaks out with dogs on leashes or while looking out the window and a dog walks by. Tommy starts barking like crazy and lunging and pulling. First of all I am afraid the prong collar is going to hurt his neck with all that pulling, second, when I try to correct him he gets very angry and more aggressive and try’s to attack the leash and if I didn’t stand back he probably would bite me. We go on tons of walks and pass many dogs so this is really a problem. Is this common? What would you suggest?
Thanks, signed, trying to deal with the many problems of a rescue dog, Rachel”

The First Thing To Try When You’re Dealing With Dog Aggression During Walks

Since Rachel had already been using my attention-getter exercise but wasn’t able to give a motivational correction while in the presence of other dogs, here’s what I recommended:

The first thing you should try for this type of dog aggression during walks is to fit him with a muzzle. For some dogs, just putting the muzzle on will work to make them more submissive and less inclined to ignore you in such situations. At $7 for a muzzle, it’s a cheap thing to try, first.

However, my fall-back for this type of behavior, when the prong collar just doesn’t phase the dog in such situations, is to use the e-collar.

What you’ll want to do is: First use the e-collar with my “loose leash/attention-getter” exercise in an area where there aren’t any distractions, so that your dog learns to understand what the “stim” means. After he seems to “get it” then practice in a few different environments without other dogs.

Then progress to working around other dogs.

An alternate way to introduce the e-collar is to put it on a very low setting, one that the dog can just barely feel, and then tap, tap, tap the button until he turns to look at you (you should be moving away when you do this). As the distraction increases, you’ll need to increase the stim level. You can use food initially to get the dog to understand and draw a more distinct contrast between paying attention to you (“I get food!”) and not paying attention to you (“I feel a slight irritation in the form of the e-collar stim”).

So, in essence you– at it’s core– you have an attention problem. Once you get your dog’s attention on you, all of the dog aggression during walks will disappear.

You Can’t Stop Dog Aggression If You’ve Got Your Head Up Your Tookis

Pam Garland sent me this interesting letter about her experience with a dog trainer and her wrong-headed attempt to stop dog aggression:

Throwing Cookies At Her Dog
To Stop Dog Aggression?

Pam writes: “I paid $350.00 for a ‘highly trained and experienced dog behaviorist’ who did the same thing – she spent 30 minutes throwing treats at my dog every time he came toward her in an aggressive way.  It didn’t help to stop his dog aggression and now after reading this [a prior article I wrote on how to stop dog aggression] it confirms my feelings that I was ripped off.”

You Can’t Stop Dog Aggression
If You’ve Got Your Head Up Your Tookis

I get these types of letters all the time:  Dog owners get suckered in by the “cookie bribery/clicker training/purely positive” dog trainer mafia.  It all sounds good on paper: Train your dog by never telling him, “No!”  Never mind that it’s in no way natural (dogs correct each other all the time, as evidenced by my video of Shorty correcting Juan when Juan gets too close to his bone).

It doesn’t take a PhD in animal psychology to figure out that if you throw a dog a cookie every time he shows aggression, you’re rewarding that behavior.  But the pseudo-science behind the purely-positive dog trainers’ argument won’t let them see that: You need to attach a negative association to any unwanted behavior if you ever want to your dog to drop that behavior.  For the balanced dog trainer, we do that by teaching your dog what, “No!” means and we attach a negative association by either administering a leash correction or by using an e-collar.  It’s a fair, easy way to get your message across to your dog and it models the way the mother dog would correct the puppies: By giving them a nip on the neck.

My advice: Run away from anybody who tries to tell you that you can stop dog aggression by throwing cookies to your dog has got their head up their tookis.

Dog Food Aggression

Rod wrote to me about dog food aggression and said, “Yesterday my one year-old dog took a sausage package from the garbage can and when I tried to take it out of her mouth, she acted very agressive. In fact, she bit me when I finally took it out of her mouth.

She never showed this type of behavior before and I have taken things out of her mouth before, even food, without her objecting much. It was like she was another dog yesterday.

I have been training her, and as you suggest she has to earn everything as described in your book “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer” – Nothing In Life Is Free. She sits before getting her food, before going through doors. I am even teaching her “leave it” with some success so far.

It really amazes me this sudden change, how can I correct it, and is there a probable cause of this behavior?

What You Do In Response To
Dog Food Aggression Is What’s Important

I replied to his question about dog food aggression by asking:

Well, for one thing, at a year old she’s just at the age to start trying to raise her pack position, plus the sausage package was a very high value treat to her.

When she started acting aggressive and finally bit you, what did you do? How did you react to her challenge?

Rod responded with:

When she growled I shook her collar and kept trying to take it out of her mouth.

When I finally took it out, she bit me. Then I grabbed her by her collar and took her out.

I started working with her today on being calm around food.  I would like any advice you can give me.

To which my response was:

The dog was in a excited state and you in return showed an excited state. The leader of a pack is usually the one that is stronger
faster and controls either the game or possession.

It does not sound like you are using the techniques I describe in the book, to correct your dog?  Remember: Your dog needs to be wearing the training collar and tab– anytime you’re interacting with her, so that you have a way to communicate that replicates how the pack leader would communicate with the subordinate dogs.  There is no, “Grabbing the collar and shaking the dog.” That’s not a technique I advocate or have found to work.

I have a more detailed explanation as to how to correct your dog for this type of behavior in the chapter titled: “Food Aggression: Why Dogs Do It, And How To Fix It.”  If you need further help with the dog food aggression , please continue to post on our discussion forum.


Aggression Toward Other Dogs

Chris wanted to know how to stop aggression toward other dogs:  “I have a 3 1/2 year-old Chihuahua. He grew up with our other dogs: two Rottweilers and a Shar pei with no problems but he shows aggression toward other dogs. If we are out and about– if he sees another dog– no matter how big it is– he goes crazy and wants to attack it. I can’t get him to be friendly to any other dogs.

Will This Little Dog’s Aggression Toward Other Dogs Get Him In Trouble With The Big Dogs?

I am afraid one of these days one of the big dogs is going to just eat him! He will even run up to them growling and acting mean. How the heck do I deal with this? I so badly want him to get along with other dogs. Do I need to use a shock collar?  I have begun reading your dog training book but really need some advice quick.”

My advice to Chris is that he should finish reading my dog training book (as there is a lot in it about how to stop aggression toward other dogs) and then start using our NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free approach) and work through the obedience exercises I outline in the back of the book. This will give you the tools you need. You’re also going to need to directly address the aggression by correcting your dog (which the obedience exercises you will learn how to give a motivational correction and how to tell if your corrections are motivational).

Aggression Toward Other Dogs Isn’t Treated
Any Differently Simply Because Your Dog Is One Of The Toy Breeds:
All Dogs’ Brains Work The Same Way

Just because your dog’s body is small does not mean that his brain works any differently than a big dog’s brain. Don’t be fooled. He’s motivated by all of the same drives and instincts as any other dog.

Aggression Toward Other DogsAs for training collars– I’d recommend starting by trying a small chain slip collar (commonly called a ‘choke chain’). You need to fit it so that it only has an excess of 1 inch of chain when pulled tight. You’ll use it the same way I describe in the book for the prong collar: Loose-tug-loose.

If you find that you can’t get a motivational correction, I recommend ordering a “micro prong collar” from one of the pet supply web sites on the internet.  Once you’re able to give a motivational correction, teaching a Chihuahua to stop aggression toward other dogs is really pretty easy.

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 DogProblems.com with express permission — Dec. 2012.

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