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.
Sabrina and her pup Clem are an endearing example of an amazing and fun relationship full of challenges and full of victories.
When I first met Clem he was a little Catahoula Hound puppy. He had a lot of different challenges including pulling on the leash, jumping on people, not listening to any command, potty training, house training, destructive behavior and separation anxiety. And those were not all of them.
Sabrina back then was living in an apartment in Brooklyn and had another roommate with another dog. So things were getting pretty rough.
As soon as I entered the door I knew Clem was a sweet little puppy, but full of energy and overexcitement. This is a classic example were trainers and dog professionals will recommend to either send him to a farm or use him as a working dog, unless you can provide at least 3 to 4 hours a day of exercise. The reality is that very few people in the city can dedicate this amount of time to their dog on a daily basis. I knew that Sabrina had long day work hours, but getting rid of him was not even a question.
This brings up this question: Can you have this type of dog in the city? The answer is Yes. You can if you know how to fulfill their needs. Do you need to run and exercise him 3 hours a day? it would be great if you could, but there are other ways. How?
The answer is by teaching him self control and making sure he is in the right state of mind. A dog that is nervous, overexcited, anxious and lacks self control will NEVER get tired no matter how much you exercise him/her. And I knew this was true about Clem. I´ve heard too many times this story, “I started running my dog for an hour, then I went for two hours and then I even tried three for a while and he wouldn´t get tired. I don’t know what else to do”
The reason why this happens is because is not about what they do is about how they do it. Meaning what sate of mind are they in while they are doing whatever they are doing. Let me give you an example so you can understand it better. If you go to work every day in a stressed state of mind. No matter how many hours you work, you will not come back home tired. You will come home restless. Probably in a bad mood and not being able to sleep.
Well this happens to dogs too. That´s why when they are out of control or they have lack of self control they can bark for seven hours, seven days a week. That´s right! And they will not get tired. They will get restless and they will continue doing it. When you walk or even run your high energy dog with tension on the leash, your dog will not get tired. He/she will get probably crazier. They actually fitter at getting crazy.
Anyways going back to Clem. Once I explained this to Sabrina and we talked about the importance of knowing how to do a nice structured walk and on having a good relationship based on trust and respect, things starting to change dramatically.
I recently visited both of them and I was amazed about the big transformation. Clem was a pro. Not only there was no pulling on the leash, jumping or all that crazy behavior, but Clem was a happy City dog that loved, trusted and respected Sabrina.
Way to go Sabrina!! You did not had it easy and you´ve came a long way through.
By Gabriel Riesco