A lady came to see me with a German Shepherd Bitch “Sheba” which was 4 years of age and had been re-homed from a Rescue Centre. She had had the dog since it was 12 months old.
When she obtained the dog from the rescue centre it was very nervous of other dogs. If a dog came too near then it showed aggression and usually backed away. Originally she did attend socialisation classes at the rescue centre but the lady said all her dog did was hide under the chair.
(After 3 years?) the lady now is in a situation where she is afraid to take the dog out. If the dog is approached by another dog Sheba will ‘fly’ at the other dog and both her boyfriend and herself have been pulled to the ground several times. There is a boisterous Springer in their street and sometimes when she goes out the Springer runs up to its garden gate barking consequently she has great difficulty controlling Sheba. She did buy a ‘harness’ to help control the dog. Further history prior to that was unknown.
The lady came to see me privately at my classes, walked in with Sheba with an elasticised muzzle on the dog. She was with her boyfriend. I knew that Sheba was not anti social to people hence I told her to remove the muzzle device. A little chat to get the history of the dog which really was that it came from a rescue centre 3 years ago, the problem re showing aggression to dogs and nervousness had been ongoing since she got the dog.
THE DOG. The dog itself was a German Shepherd well built and a well proportioned bitch, black and tan and took very little notice of me. It would not take a treat initially (nervousness), but eventually did mainly because I totally ignored the dog with just the treat held in my hand. As far as the dog was concerned, without the presence of other dogs, although the nervousness was obvious through the strange environment it was not causing any particular problem and the bitch soon settled, hence, it then readily accepted treats. EQUIPMENT. The dog had a very short lead and was wearing a stop pull harness device, i.e. cord under the forelegs!!!. Well one thing that had to be explained to this lady was that she was in fact aggravating every situation she encountered with the equipment she had on Sheba. I explained to her. In the police service and with a police dog, if I wanted to build up a dogs’ courage and aggression I would in fact hold the dog back when it was being challenged by a person. The fact that I was pulling the dog back in fact built up the courage, what she was doing with this harness was holding the dog back therefore exacerbating the aggression. One of the essentials in stopping aggression is to turn the dogs’ head away or break eye to eye contact. The harness pulls the dog back but there is no control over the head. The eye to eye contact with the harness is maintained, the pulling back effect is there, hence the handler is really teaching the dog to be worse and is making the situation worse. Having said that it has been found that fitting the Stop Pull Harness to a dog, some dogs think that they are off the lead and consequently not having the lead go tight around the neck of the dog and the dog not being pulled back, this can sometimes eliminate aggression. How many people say that the dog only shows aggression on the lead, off the lead the dog is O.K. Well on occasions the Stop Pull Harness has this effect of the dog thinking it is in fact off the lead.
I am a great believer in the correct equipment. In the scenario presented with Sheba the Dogalter (Head Collar) is possibly the best investment she could make, as previously explained the head of the dog will be better controlled and virtually all her strength eliminated. The Dogalter should calms the dog and make her very easy to control. It most certainly will stop them being pulled of their feet. A half check collar and a decent lead of course would also be a necessary requirement. If the aggression was bad and there was a danger then the Safety Muzzle with Halter Control is an option.
TRAINING & SOCIALIZATION PLAN. With a dog like Sheba there is no short-term answer. Every one coming to me asks the question, can this be cured. The answer I always give. If you have the correct equipment, if you have the correct training and socialisation plan, if it is stuck too rigidly then the dog can do nothing other than improve. How long it will take will depend on them and the dog, no guarantee can be given other than the dog will improve. The fact that now she will have the correct equipment, the correct socialisation plan, what she does will not be counterproductive hence there will be light at the other end of the tunnel i.e. there is hope. Anticipate situations and think ahead of the dog. Situations that are causing the nervousness and hence the aggression should be avoided as much as possible. Strange dogs, boisterous dogs, dogs running up should be avoided. If she sees a situation arising that she cannot control, walk the dog out of it or go down, hold the dogs head, turn it from the other dogs and attempt to get Sheba’s attention. Always remember, cure the nervousness and the aggression will automatically disappear. If there are dogs that Sheba knows then exercise her in close contact with them. I think with this she had no problem in any case. Socialize her only with steady docile dogs.
THE LEAD She should never be on a tight lead, a tight lead causes apprehension and like pulling the dog back increases any aggression. Being off the lead in some situations, i.e. dogs that Sheba knows is much better, but this of course is fraught with dangers with strange, active, boisterous or other anti social dogs.
THE MUZZLE As Sheba does not like the local Veterinary Surgeon something must have happened in her earlier days, teaching the dog to wear a muzzle is a priority. Although Sheba does not like the muzzle at least she tolerates it which makes accustoming her with a head collar much easier. Wearing a muzzle at the Vets with the dog accustomed to it beforehand is a great benefit.
TRAINING & SOCIALIZATION CLASSES These eventually are a MUST with Sheba. She is ringing me after two weeks when I will assess her progress, but when/if attending classes she will be attending for socialization only. Sheba will probably have to wear a muzzle initially, she will be sat near steady dogs. Hopefully through time she will progress and the muzzle will be taken of only when she is ready and hopefully progress to lead exercises with the other dogs using the head collar for control. Equipment given to this lady for use. 1″ Training Lead, 1″ x 20/26″ Kombi Collar and a medium Dogalter. She also took a Safety Muzzle with the Halter Control.
Sheba was brought back two weeks later and the owner was delighted with the improvement in the dog, She was having no difficulty walking the dog. With the Dogalter she had control of the dogs head hence this helped with the anti social attitude to other dogs. She had also been to the Veterinary Surgery. The SafetyMuzzle was put on before she went in and there was no problem getting the dog’s booster vaccination. The Veterinary Surgeon was also delighted.
As she stated, “I can now see light at the end of the tunnel”. George’s comment – EQUIPMENT IS IMPORTANT but IT MUST BE USED CORRECTLY. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS on the packaging.