A new found freedom: Cathy and Opus


My dog is aggressive to other dogs especially on leash. According to other trainers he is a lost case. He needs to walk on his own and be isolated from other dogs for life. Can he be socialized?

Cathy and Opus are one of my favorite success stories. Opus, a Dalmatian mix had very bad leash aggression and would go into lunging and barking fits when any dog came close to him. It was pretty bad and very embarrassing for Cathy. For two years Opus was completely isolated from other dogs. After trying multiple trainers who told Cathy that Opus was hopeless, she was desperate to find someone who could help her. Cathy was recommended by a friend to try working with me.

When I first met Opus I knew immediately that he could be socialized in a matter of a day. I knew this because he was simply over excited and anxious and I could see that he was not properly being walked.

Opus had two main problems. He had leash aggression, he would lunge and bark while on leash at other dogs. (By the way, leash aggression is always caused by humans, whether its conscious or unconscious.) Next, he was never able to be socialized with other dogs because he wasn’t trusted by the humans. This is a very common problem and sad because they are isolated from other dogs and they become liability. (BTW, Liability is a human problem not a dog problem!)

There are three things that I always use when working with dogs. The first is the relationship. I take control of the situation by acting calmly and confidently to build up their trust and respect with me. Second, I work on leash communication, I make sure I’m relaxed and the leash is relaxed. The third is acknowledging the dogs state of mind and making sure they are always calm and collected. Once I accomplish these three things and  the dog and I are confident I introduce the dog to other dogs and walked them together. This is exactly what I did with Opus.

Within minutes Opus trusted me, almost as if I acted as a bridge to allow him to trust other dogs.The first time is always the trickiest and the most difficult. You need to have good skills, energy, control and very good timing. After the first time, it´s much easier for the dog to do it the second time. At this point I brought Cathy into the equation and guided her through the process.

Within one session Cathy was walking Opus with other dogs. Almost immediately she was able to take Opus to the off leash dog run in Prospect Park and with some practice and consistency the leash aggression started to fade out slowly but surely.

The one thing to learn in dog training is that if you want to change your dog´s behavior, you need to start to change your own behavior first.

Thank you for joining me for Cathy and Opus´story.