She can Work to Earn

Question:
I adopted my lab mix at age 3 months. She has been dominant, aggressive, independent, and a bully from the beginning. She is now 3 years old and has had two obedience classes, but with no success. She attacked and bullied the other dogs in the class. She pulls incessantly on the leash. She has knocked down me and my husband several times. I am 72 years old and almost broke a bone. I will NEVER walk her again because it is too dangerous for me. She is not aggressive with people. Medications such as trazodone and amitriptyline have made no difference. I still love her and I would miss her tremendously. She is very affectionate to me despite everything. I just don’t know what to do.

Dr. Nichol:
Your young active dog is neither dominant, aggressive, nor is she a bully. Medications wouldn’t make a difference; there is nothing about her shenanigans that suggests a behavior disorder. She is a big, active goofball who needs a lot more exercise every day. Obedience class at Sandia Dog Obedience Club (888-4221) would be a good start.

I know – been there, done that. Next time set your dog up for success by taking her to a dog park or to play time at doggy daycare for rough housing, rear end sniffing, and cavorting before class. Being off-leash she is likely to interact normally with her new friends.

Having mastered a few obedience skills you and your fine dog can advance to the greatest teaching and management tool, a Gentle Leader head halter. After this kid adapts to wearing this chic accessory you’ll be ready to easily derail her focus away from people and other dogs by simply leading her in a different direction. You will then redirect her attention to your face so she can earn reinforcers for working for you.

It’ll take time to bring out your dog’s best. Avoid short cuts and quick fixes. Punishment, prong collars, or electric shock may appear to work quickly but hard-fisted training intimidates a dog into fearing her person. You would both pay a steep emotional price.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.