Natalie, a trainer with Smart Dog Academy (www.smartdogacademy.com) provided free training and behaviour modification assistance with a CCRT rescued dog who had issues with aggression. She worked tirelessly with the dogs’ foster home and was a wealth of information. Below you will find some of the excellent advice she gave to our foster home regarding their aggressive foster dog and we hope you will find it useful as well.
The Road to Rehab:
- Slowly reintroduce the crate as a positive and pleasant resting place when you are home and when the dog must be left alone.
- Anything that the dog can destroy is put away until they learn to give and back away.
- Basic manners are reinforced and expected at all times.
- Any human contact is positive, no more reaching for the dog and grabbing him or her away from something.
- Ideally, the dog will be leashed at all times in the home until the problems are resolved. .
Remember: there will be progress, then regression, then progress again. It’s how we learn. We are turning the dog’s world a little upside down and expecting him or her to have acceptable manners. We are taking away their idea of “just because I see it, want it, don’t want to do it. I won’t have to”.
Reintroducing the crate:
- Slowly and for short periods of time start putting the dog in it’s crate – several times throughout the day for 5-10 minutes.
- Don’t make a fuss about it. Put a toy filled with a few of their favourite treats and make it a command to “Go to Bed” or “Kennel Up” or whatever command you choose.
- Stay in the same room and not too far away.
- Start increasing the time spent in the crate after 4-5 days.
- Start putting the crate a little further away from you. After 1 week the dog should be in the crate and comfortable with you in the same room, close or at the other end of the room. You’ll be lugging a kennel around for a bit.
- The only time the dog gets a toy with treats is for kennel time.
Remember dogs don’t own anything; you lend them things, but can take them away at anytime.
- Any toy the dog can rip apart or hide in their mouth and swallow is taken away.
- A solid toy (Kong, ball, rubber, nylabone) is best.
- You will need to teach your dogs the commands “leave it”, “drop it” and “take it”.
- Do not reach into a dog’s mouth to grab a toy or object away unless it poses a danger to the dog
- The “leave it” command means “whatever you are about to look at, sniff, grab or touch – don’t”.
- “Drop it” means “whatever is in your mouth, let it go now”
- “Take it” means “go ahead, you can have that toy or treat.”
- Obedience commands – sit, come, down, stay, stand and heel.
- Sit and stay for supper until released, when putting on the leash.
- Stay used at all exits.
- Every time the dog obeys a command, you have dominated the dog by telling them (nicely and with confidence) and the dog has obeyed the command.
- All praise is verbal and with limited touching. Happy praise every time the dog does something right. Teaching the dog to feel good and happy without being touched will teach her not to jump up and demand the physical touching and will keep the handler in an upright position (a leadership role).
- Obedience happens everywhere, in the house, outside, in the car, at the vets etc.
- Everything the dog does has a command attached to it – play, rest, work, eating etc. This will show the dog that you are in control and that they don’t have to worry about anything.
- Expect some resistance when the dog discovers that you are slowly taking the Alfa role. Be fun, friendly, confident and a leader. Try to do all this without the physical touch, ie pushing the dog’s hind end down for the sit, etc.
- Recall is only to be taught on a leash only. If you call the dog over and he or she is not on leash, it teaches her that they can get away. Wherever the dog is you can reach out and touch the dog – on a long line, you say come, the dog looks at you and says no way, you grab the long line and give a small correction as you say no and then come and reel the dog in like a little fish. The whole time you’re smiling and telling the dog they are wonderful. This is much better than chasing your dog for an hour, ready to explode and having to smile and say good dog!
More Tips to manage dog aggression:
- All contact is positive and friendly.
- Physical dominance is to be used only if absolutely necessary with the realization that you will probably get bit.
- Once contact (petting) is accepted, work on teaching your dog to accept a more restraining touch.
- Leash at all times when it is safe to do so – this will keep your hands safe and away from the dog’s teeth.
- It also gives you a way to touch, restrain and correct, without bending down and grabbing the dog and this helps to maintain your alpha status.
- If the dog slips under the bed, sofa or just gets away from you – reach for the leash, not the dog
- Patience and a confident attitude are very important as well as giving them plenty of exercise and work.
CCRT volunteer recommends the book “Aggression In Dogs” by Brenda Aloff, which has been extremely helpful to her in learning to appropriately read her dogs’ behaviour appropriately and to anticipate his actions better.