QUESTION I have a male that loves female dogs but is very aggressive toward other males. On a walk I have to pick him up if there is a loose dog in the park as I'm afraid he is going to start a fight. Help? Polly
ANSWERShort answer: Do not go to park.I know, I know that isn’t fair because he’s on leash and the other dog isn’t but fair doesn’t matter here.This is a tricky issue and my goal would be your dog tolerating dogs in proximity of him without reaction and while staying responsive to you. Tolerating an unknown, off leash, male dog rushing up to him? Too much for most dog-reactive terrier males.Terriers have two sets of “wiring.” One that is in use when the dog is calm and one that kicks in when stimulated. Terrier are “game”, right? And “game” means the dog responds to fear/pain/excitement with more aggression, not less. Once your male dog is at the end of the leash losing his ever-loving-mind, anything you have probably been taught to do: correct him, scold him, etc is gas on the fire.He is not being difficult or stubborn or anything. He is just a victim of his genetics. He does not know how to stop. Literally. No idea.So, that is what I teach such dogs: How to turn away from distraction. Here is a clip of me playing this game with a service dog puppy but it is the same game I would start with here.Until your dog learns how to turn away from distraction, you’ll be locked into the pre-fire/fire loop with your male dog. A very frustrating place to be for both of you.Once your dog learns to automatically turn his attention to you whenever he sees a distraction you have planted, then we can start to build toward the same response around dogs.Many dog-aggressive dogs I work with are delighted to have a calm option for how to get out of a situation with another dog. Once they know there is another choice, they can relax a great deal.But will they ever relax enough to handle a strange dog running up and into their space?Probably not.My goal would be for you two to be able to trot through the show grounds on a loose leash with no incidents. That would be fabulous enough, wouldn’t it?
Email your question to Animal Behavior Counselor Sarah Wilson. Learn more about Sarah and how she helps you help your dog here. Visit Sarah's website at www.MySmartPuppy.com for additional tips.