There is almost nothing worse than having an uneasy feeling when another dog comes to meet your dog. If you have a dog that has displayed aggression towards other dogs or even people when it’s on a leash it’s important to know what you can do to manage the situation.
There are many reasons that dogs become aggressive and they should be individually assessed by an experienced trainer before starting any “treatment”. Once a dog displays this behavior it usually means something has already happened to cause them to react this way. It could be something as simple as the dynamics changing within your household, a dog or human moving in or out, or a traumatic event like being attacked by another dog. The key is how we react to the behavior and understanding that we may not be able to completely resolve the issue but we can manage it and not make it worse.
One of the most important things is to know your dog’s body language and how to respond to signals. They need to feel that you are in complete control at all times. If you are nervous, tense or fearful they will pick up on that and be much more prone to react adversely. Putting them in situations where they succeed and using positive reinforcement as much as possible can help break bad behaviors. Be careful using harsh corrections with your dog as they can back-fire, making matters worse. Try to avoid using prong collars or choke chains because they may associate the pain and this may cause more aggression. Gentle leaders or martingale collars are more effective. It takes a lot of effort on your part to recondition your dog and still you must never assume that your dog will not have setbacks.
One thing you can try is finding a spot about 25 feet from where other dogs will be walking by and sit with your dog with some very tasty treats like pieces of hot dog or tasty meat. Every time another dog comes into view make eye contact with your dog and start feeding the treats and praising. When the other dog is far enough away or out of sight, stop the feeding and praise. You should do this for about 30 minutes several times a week until you notice a change in the behavior. Eventually you can start to walk your dog at a distance and repeating the same rewards. The goal is to have your dog completely focused on you and what you want them to do whenever they see another dog. You want to create a new response. Once you start seeing the desired results you should keep up with this exercise as often as possible. You can give treats a little less every time but keep up with the praise. If you are consistent you should see results in as little as a few weeks.
Leash aggression can usually be controlled through proper techniques. It is important to be consistant with training remaining in control at all times. Remember, your dog picks up on how you are feeling so try not to get nervous or overreact when you see other dogs coming. Be calm and give praise whenever possible. If you need help, seek advice from a reputable animal behaviorist. The goal is to enjoy your pet and the time you have together.