The following is a question from one of our valued clients-

I have limited data usage so I have to watch how much I download which is why I haven’t opted to use skype. I have watched the basic foundation videos on line. I am so happy with all of the information presented on this site. Everything Ty Brown says fits with what I feel is true about dog behavior and how to communicate with your dog. In my own case, my 9 month old McNab collie, Maggie, has been very responsive to training. She heels nicely. Sits, stays, down etc. but when she was  around 5 months  old we were lunged at by a pair of dogs–one in front and one behind us– and since then we’ve had 7 occasions where loose dogs have come at us. I have been able to get them to back down by yelling no loudly and whacking a stick on the ground. The problem is that now my dog goes wild whenever she sees another dog on the street loose or not. I did purchase a prong collar and in non threatening situations she responds to just the barest of pressure. Most of the time we are walking with a loose leash with no correction necessary. However,I am now getting very concerned because it seems like she is getting more hysterical each time we encounter a dog on the street. This morning we encountered a loose dog and I had to yell no at it several times before it would turn back. While I am doing this I’m trying to correct Maggie by saying no and getting her to heel. As we continued on our walk today, we encountered two more dogs fortunately they were being walked on leashes. She started shrieking and leaping and the prong collar had little effect. Unwilling to drag on her neck, I finally just picked her up which is no small feat as I am small and she now weighs at least 45 pounds. That calmed her but this is not an effective intervention long term. I am willing to pay for consultation about what to do about her reaction to dogs on the street and also would like your thoughts on how to deal with loose dogs. I called the animal control about the dog that followed us this morning but the reality is that there is always the potential for encountering a loose dog when you walk your dog a mile or two every day. I am 62 and am working very hard to civilize my dog so that I don’t have to worry about her pulling me off my feet as I get older and she gets bigger and stronger. I am so grateful to you for what you are doing to educate people about dog psychology. Recently people have said such stupid things to me about how to address my dogs behavior like, “you should take her to puppy classes or find some dogs for her to play with.” She is fine with other dogs. I have taken her to a farm where there are other dogs and she enjoys playing with them. After being traumatized by loose dogs playing with other dogs will not make her feel (or me, for that matter) safe with dogs she encounters on the street.

My response:

Thanks for your question and kind words.  Yours is the type of experience that I constantly reference to my clients about the importance of proper socialization.  One bad experience can seriously taint your dog’s upbringing.  Unfortunately, in your case, it was out of your hands because other dogs lunged at your dog.  For those reading this, though, be very careful how and where you socialize your young dogs.  Dog parks are a bad idea because instances like this happen all the time.

Dealing with loose dogs is one of the most difficult things to work on when you’ve got a dog with aggression issues.  Ideally you can train in circumstances where you’ve got control.  When loose dogs are accosting your dog you have no control over the scenario.

With my clients I talk a lot about ‘thresholds’.  What I mean by that is I find most dogs have certain thresholds where the aggression occurs.  For example, some dogs go nuts when they see other dogs at 100 feet.  Or 50 feet, or 300 feet, or wherever.

Wherever your dog’s threshold is, you want to start pushing that threshold.  Get as many repetitions in at 50 feet, then drop it to 30, then to 10, etc.  At these beginning stages we usually just have to avoid loose dogs as best as possible.  We’ve got to get a reliable threshold down to 2 or 3 feet on several occasions before the dog is mentally strong enough to handle a dog coming right up to them.

I know this probably isn’t the answer you were looking for as I’m recommending you just keep your distance from loose dogs until your dog can handle it.  That is easier said than done, you don’t always have control of what dogs are going to rush you.  When I’m working with dogs like yours I do my best to chase off and scare off approaching dogs until the dog has progressed enough to be able to handle it.  Keep pushing that threshold, though, and you’ll be in a position where you don’t have to worry about loose dogs approaching.

In our aggression program I go into video detail about a method I’ve developed called the ‘Step-Back-Recall’ that also does wonders when the dog is going nuts and helps them calm right down.  If any of our clients are looking to upgrade to that program contact our office to get credit of your current program applied to the more advanced program.

Best of luck and happy training.