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The best thing in this case would be to hire a professional and have someone meet and understand your unique situation. (I can only hope you will choose someone who is based in positive reinforcement, but you will do what feels right to you.)
1.0 There is no "easy," "quick," or "straightforward" path to gaining the results you want. Dog training is messy, and your good behaviors will come in waves along with the bad. The key to success is consistency for the rest of your dog's life.
2.0 What does your dog know really well not because you are going to tell your dog to "sit" when they go for a bite, but because the more your dog knows about learning, the easier the following steps will be. My question at this phase is: how did you teach your dog these well-known behaviors?
In the end, your dog needs to have a college degree and know every trick in the book. Your dog should do them with a nod of your head or wave of your hand. Why not?
2.1 I wanted to understand better when your dog bites: at home in a low distraction, low-stress environment while you have a high-valued reward on you? This is where your training should begin, and you should only advance to new places or more substantial distractions when your batting 90%. Itty-bitty-baby steps. It goes quicker than you think because there is a snowball effect.
3.0 Safety is your number one priority! So your first line of business is to use tools and teach behaviors that will keep you and everyone else safe.
This does not directly address the problem of your dog biting, but it's better than being bit by a dog in the first place.
3.2 Muzzle train your dog - Desensitization training to a muzzle. If you feel there is a 1% possibility (or higher) your dog might bite someone they should at minimum be wearing a muzzle. Muzzles are not a solution but will give you a safe place to start your training.
3.3 Fencing, gates, and crates are your next safety home improvements. Teach above all else a super solid "kennel," "go to bed," "crate," or "place" behavior. You need to make the crate or behind a fence your safe zone.
For example, if the doorbell rings you need the ability to ask your dog to go to their place where you can close the gate to keep your dog and guests safe.
4.0 Beef up your training and exercise schedule. Your dog needs to run, dig, jump, bark, chase, and be a dog at least 50% of his day. A tired dog is a good dog. While putting the miles on you should simultaneously be training fetch, heal, down-stay, jump on, jump over, crawl under, stand-tall, sit-pretty, and tug (with a let go).
When you're not engaging with your dog (safely), then your dog should be confined and carefully placed behind a barrier. Also during this stage, your dog should remain on a leash all the time unless in a well-fenced area. You should never leave yourself open to accidents and not have control of your dog.
4.1 Keep a journal. Track what your dog eats, how much, and when. Keep track of how long they played, and how much physical energy was used. Pay attention to when they attempt to bite and record time of day, location, action proceeding bite, victim of bite, recovery behavior, and just about anything you can think of. Tracking data becomes the key to find a lasting solution.
5.0 Let some time go by (3 months) sticking with this avoidance and high-frequency activity schedule before you start to address what might be the root cause. Hopefully, by now, you have a solid Crate command, and your dog is only accessing fun and freedoms through you. Maybe you have joined an agility club (with a muzzle on) and given your dog the chance to have some structured (on leash) fun.
6.0 Start listening to your dog. With all this undivided attention and data you are tracking about your dog it's time to start letting your dog call the shots (if you haven't already). Pay close attention to when your dog is showing you early signs of stress. Yawning, licking, avoiding eye contact, hard eye contact, and panting are just some of the symptoms. Start implementing Behavior Adjust Training methods and Calming Signals. Never force your dog into a situation they are not ready for. Let your dog tell you when they are prepared to meet a stranger, be pet, play, or even come out of their crate.
I wish you the best of luck through this emotionally taxing rollercoaster ride (and it will be). You will not be successful in the end unless you are willing to change your own behavior too. The best animal trainers have excellent ability to face the man in the mirror and stay overwhelmingly consistent and patient with themselves and their student.
If you have kids or have worked around children there is always talk about empowering the child, to give them choices, and let them think for themselves. This concept is also very effective when working with other social animals other than humans as well.
It is known that all social animals look for acceptance by their peers and the ability to be part of a team or network. Dogs are amazing in the fact they have been living alongside humans so long that they look to us as their family, network, or team. They rely on us to help them solve problems but we have forgotten the other side of the equation. Where dogs get to return the favor and help us to be successful and thrive.
We should be empowering our dogs and even if we don’t need them like we used to we should still pretend that we rely on them. Giving them a sense of place and acceptance as part of the team.
How do you empower your dog and help them find meaning in their lives?
The simple answer is you spend time with them playing a variety of games. Set up situations that allow the dog to make choices and help make the right choice the easy one. You can guide their decisions but let them make them on their own.
Always work in a controlled environment or on a leash until your dog has earned the privilege of being off leash. Keep in mind that when working on a leash you need to keep it loose. You want to try not to pull them into make a choice but give them a loose leash and the freedom to make good decisions on their own.
Occasionally, you might need to step in and use the leash, treats, or toy to rescue the dog from making or almost making the wrong decision. Your goal is to minimize the amount of time you have to do this but know that when things don’t go as planned you have a lifesaver in your back pocket.
The most important part for you the human end of the leash is to have a solid understanding of dog language and know the signs of stress. This helps you judge how the dog is doing and adjust the environment or the situation to help make their job just a little easier.
At no point should you need to “correct” your dog’s behavior or punish them for making the wrong choice. If you do find yourself needing to restrain your dog or then keep in mind that it was your fault and make a note on how you can set the situation up next time to help them pick the right option. Accidents happen when you work with animals and we are not perfect.
What you don’t want to do is punish the dog with fear because this takes away their choices and leads them to confusion and eventually shut down.
Sadie is a loving, athletic and social girl who is approximately 2-3 year old. She weighs around 75 pounds and is a shepherd mix. Sadie was rescue in Houston, Texas after giving birth to 11 puppies. She was a great mom and took great care of her pups. She was well socialized around other dogs, small and large, and with people and respectful children while in Texas. She came to the Pacific Northwest with one of her pups and is currently being fostered in Portland, Oregon. Sadie was made for the Pacific NW because she loves to be outside and would be a great running, hiking and camping partner. The best home for her would be one where she has a fenced yard to romp in when not enjoying the outdoors with her family. She loves car rides - oh how she loves car rides! She would do well as the only dog and as a part of a pack as she has loved sharing a home with her 8 month old daughter, Isla too. They are incredibly silly and playful which makes for a great deal of entertainment for observing humans who can’t help but smile seeing all the fun being shared. Sadie is smart and has been very trainable. She is responsive and obedient with all the basic commands and enjoys training time. She also loves to cuddle! Sadie is waiting to hear from her forever family. And her foster mom is happy to share more about her and arrange a meet and greet too!
If you have ever encountered an off leash and uncontrolled dog when you are out walking your dog on a leash then this blog is for you.
Let's bust a few common beliefs before we jump into the how-to.
(1) Dogs should be friendly and get along with every dog they encounter and meet.
This is a very wrong idea that gets a lot of dogs into trouble and can even be the cause of reactivity in some dogs. Dogs just like ourselves are social animals, and part of being social is building meaningful relationships and friendships. They also each have unique personalities and preferences that dictate who they get along with and who they don't. They don't need to say "hello" to every stranger dog, it's important to respect your dog's emotions about other dogs.
(2) When two dogs do meet dog people often think they should just let the dogs "work it out".
What?!? Now being experienced in dog language there are times I might let a couple of dogs communicate uninterrupted by me. However, most greetings don't need to happen at all. This avoids any accidents. If you don't know the dog your dog is interacting with then you are not going to be able to predict what they might do. You run the risk (even if the owner is there shouting "my dog is friendly!") of one of the dogs ruining the other one in future greetings. It's especially important to mediate dog-dog interactions with puppies or young dogs because one growl or snap could cause lasting emotional damage to youth. So don't let your dog "just work it out" unless you truly feel that both dogs are communicating politely and appropriately.
(3) One final thought about common beliefs on dog relationships: Bulling or dogs that put other dogs in their "place" is never appropriate! You might be under the impression that your dog needs to be "dominated" by another dog to give them some perspective but this is NEVER needed and is NEVER appropriate behavior.
So what do you do when you see a dog off leash and out of their owners control barreling towards your own dog knowing what you know now.
Toss a Hand Full of Treats
This method works by physically hitting the approaching dog in the face with lots of small smelly treats that will distract and hopefully occupy them for a few moments. Giving you the chance to leave the situation with your own dog. Remember to give your dog treats and rewards for walking away nicely and not engaging with this stranger dog.
Pro: This method is probably the most humane method we will talk about. If it is a dog you encounter frequently it gives you the opportunity to train that dog to associate you and your dog as positive. It can lead to friendly more appropriate encounters by slowing the dog down and putting them in a good mood before greeting your dog.
Con: you have to be caring and an excessive amount of treats. If your dog is in training then this probably won't seem like a big deal. This method is not always effective depending on the dog approaching. Also, you don't know if that dog has any allergies or dietary restrictions but at the same time if that was the case (I figure) a responsible owner would keep them on a leash.
Yell and Posture
If a dog is coming at you in a rage I don't recomend you do this without also a back up plan to keep the dog from advancing (treats or citranella). This can be very effective with dogs who apper aware and responsive to their environment. I have experienced success with just standing up straight, looking a dog down, and saying "go home" in a clear tone. Doesn't mean you have to have a deep voice or a loud voice, a sencear clear voice with an overlineing tone of seriousness like giving directions to a child.
The warning with this is many dogs who are running at large are clueless as to how to comunicate with a human and are compleatly oblivious to their sarroundings.
Now remember this is not a training tool though you will be remembered by the dog you use it on after a couple of times and they might start leaving you alone. This has happened for me, so I guess you can say the dog was trained...
Citranella spray does deliver the element of shock and discomfort, with the side effect of the dog smelling like lemons. I only use this on dogs that are approching a dog I'm walking never on my own dogs. The reason is that it will build a negative asociation between you and the dog, but if you don't have any relationship with the stranger dog running at you and your dog and you don't plan on building on then this is the most effective way to keep your dog safe and confortable.
If you have a small dog or a dog that is reactive twards other dogs this method can build trust as they can start to relax in your precens because they know you will take care of the scary bad dogs that come too close.
In conclusion, there are many ways, more than what I mentioned, to gain control of an uncontroled dog trying to greet your controled dog when out on a walk. It's important to remember what roll you play in your dogs life and that is to be their leader not by dominateing them but by respecing their prefrences and sanding up for them when needed.
This kind approch has changed the relationship I have with my dogs (or dogs I work with) and created more calm, sweet, and well rounded dogs.
Let me start by saying there is a huge difference between dog training and dog handling or management. Management is your best friend, it should be your go-to strategy that allows you to have a functioning relationship with your dog.
Training is the actual act of teaching an individual concept and educating a dog.
In my experience as a dog trainer most dog owners really only want to manage their dogs they are not interested in taking the time to school their dogs in good manners. Yes teaching anyone anything takes time and energy. If you don't have time and energy you should be managing your dog.
The following tools are tools that are typically used to manage dogs. Let's get one thing clear these tools do not "fix problems" or "teach behaviors". If you want lasting real results you may need to make some adjustments in your behavior before you can expect the dog to change his. Teaching (or training) is a two-way street that never ends.
Also, note not all tools are created equal!
Tool #1: Choke Collar