Does your dog want to attack every dog it sees? Here’s why, and what to do
I have an adorable rescue named Quinn who does not like other dogs. He is good with people but he wants to attack every dog he sees. I put a basket muzzle on him when I walk him.
Other leashed creatures and their people don’t think Quinn is adorable. His basket muzzle prevents injury but invokes images of Hannibal Lecter. Somehow this makes folks nervous. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Leashes are necessary but they often create trouble. The motivator for Quinn’s antisocial behavior is his frustration with that @#%&* tether! A rapid escalation of subtle signaling between him and other dogs he sees culminates in his aggressive lunging, barking, and cussing. It’s embarrassing and it’s a workout.
The easy-to-miss glares, taunts, and sneers go both ways. Some dogs ignore the posturing but an easily frightened pupster like Quinn would really like to beat it (Remember the Michael Jackson tune?) but they feel trapped by the 6 foot radius of the leash. Quinn has no way of escaping or engaging the other dog so he panics and reacts defensively. On the other hand, if you and the other dog walkers simultaneously dropped your leashes, everybody’s dogs could behave like real dogs with natural behavioral choices. They’d check each other’s ID (that’s what they call their rear ends) and move on. Please don’t drop Quinn’s leash.
You can reduce or even eliminate these freak-outs by walking Quinn at times and places where encountering other dogs would be less likely. Sadly, a life well planned isn’t perfect. Other dogs will appear. A Freedom No Pull harness can provide punishment-free power steering. It will be easy for Quinn to wear, right out of the box.
Your job when sighting another dog, will be to completely ignore Quinn as you march, leash in hand, in a different direction. Duck behind a visual obstacle like a parked car, yard wall, or tree. Wait several seconds and then steal a quick glance at the dog you’ve been ignoring (Quinn). If he’s even a little bit calmer you should gently pet him, hand him a treat, and very quietly tell him he’s good. Quinn may improve but you will need to repeat hundreds of times.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.