I went to a lesson with a new client the other day. It was a young woman and she needed training for her 15 month old German Shepherd who was aggressive. Like, actually aggressive — he had bitten 2 people already.


We treat these dogs a little differently than we do our other dogs. We can’t handle these dogs directly ourselves because it would be dangerous.


We have our clients put the dog up while we discuss what’s going on. Then when we begin the training, we’ll often coach through a window, door, over a fence, from the lanai, or some other way where we won’t be directly handling the dog but where we can coach the client how to perform the techniques we need them to.


In some cases, we’ll have the client bring the dog out on a leash and a muzzle while we’re on the other side of the room. In the confines of the small apartment our client lived in, this was the best option and this is how we started the training.


As soon as the dog exited the bedroom and saw me and my mother standing in the kitchen, he started barking and going crazy. Our client got him under control and we began the process of getting the dog focused on his owner and not us.


After she had had some success with the first exercise, we went on to the second exercise. The second exercise would require her to walk the dog in the living room. He wouldn’t be coming into the kitchen where we were but he would be doing a circle just outside of it.


The first time he passed by the kitchen, rather than continuing to walk by he lunged in the direction of my mother and I, who were standing a good 15 feet away, snarling and baring his teeth (we were expecting this). Had he not been on a leash, he most definitely would have launched at us. Even with a muzzle on, he could have done some damage.


We performed this exercise a few more times in conjunction with the first exercise. He made a couple more attempts to get at us during the training but fortunately by the end of the lesson he decided he no longer wanted to eat us! Phew!


The client put the dog up and returned to the kitchen where we wrapped up the lesson. I told her what I’ve told many clients before: “There are many well-intentioned owners who just want to give their dog, especially one from a troubled background, a good home. But loving your dog is not the same thing as leading your dog.”


We all love our dogs. But just because we love our dogs doesn’t mean we’re showing them the leadership that they need in order to feel safe and secure within the pack. Often what we humans view as acts of loving and nurturing, our dogs actually view as weakness.


‘Safety and security’ is one of the 4 basic needs that all dogs have. If they don’t feel safe and secure within their pack and trust that their human companions are strong pack leaders, it can cause all sorts of behavioral issues, both large and small.


In the case of aggressive dogs, if the owner doesn’t learn how to be the pack leader their dog needs so they feel safe and secure within their pack, it can have tragic consequences. Either 1) the dog bites someone else or 2) the dog must be put down. Sometimes #2 happens as a result of #1.


Of course, this is easier said than done. If we knew how to be effective pack leaders, we’d already be doing it. I look back at all the mistakes I made as a dog owner before I became a dog trainer and I cringe. No wonder my dogs were so poorly behaved!


But now I know better. Not only that, but I can teach you, too.


This German Shepherd is a work in progress, but we’ve successfully rehabilitated many aggressive dogs in the past. And we do it using all natural techniques, no fear-based e-collars or shock collars.


Make no mistake, it takes hard work, patience, and perseverance from the owner; it’s a months-long process.


As we like to say, “we train both ends of the leash”. But in the case of aggressive dogs, we train the human end much more than we train the canine end, at least at the beginning.


But really, it’s all up to the dedication and effort of the owner that determines whether or not their dog will become better behaved. This is true for all cases but the consequences are much more dire with aggressive dogs.


It’s not enough to love your dog, you must also lead your dog.”


If you’d like help learning to lead so you can cure your dog’s behavioral issues, give us a call at 1-877-500-2275.


We’d love to help.


Wag more,


Haley Heathman
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