Helping a Former Dog Fighting Dog Stop Acting Aggressive to Other Dogs

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 13, 2018

Duke Lab - Helping a Former Dog Fighting Dog Stop Acting Aggressive to Other Dogs

For this Omaha dog training session we worked with Duke, a 1 year-old Boxer / Lab Pit mix who was exposed to dog fighting in a previous home and now acts aggressively towards all dogs, even cartoon dogs on TV.

We started out by covering the importance of exercise, rules, boundaries and structure. Because of Duke’s dog aggression, his guardians had stopped taking him for walks and due to his ability to jump the fence to go after the neighbor’s dogs, he wasn’t able to run free in the back yard.

I showed the guardians how they can increase the height of their back yard fence without installing privacy fencing and strongly recommended they do so as soon as possible. While Duke is not a high energy dog, all dogs need daily exercise, especially if they have behavior issues. Otherwise you get a frustrated dog. Being able to run around the yard freely will have a big positive impact on Duke.

Next I went over ways to reward desired behaviors through passive training and my petting with a purpose approach. By recognizing and rewarding the dog with attention, affection, treats and pets when it does desirable things, we can help train a dog to offer those behaviors more often.

To help Duke develop better self control, next I showed the guardians how to do a leave it exercise as well as how to teach a dog to stay until released. Id like each guardian to practice each of these exercises with Duke a few times a day in different parts of the house and in progressively more challenging versions.

Next I had the guardians play a dog on TV so I could show them how to use counterconditioning to stop a dog from acting aggressive to the sight or sound of another dog. As you will see in this video, Duke”s level of aggression to dogs is pretty high.

On thing that is really important is whoever is in control of the TV 9preferably a different person) needs to monitor things closely and pause, lower the volume or turn off the TV with good timing. Ideally before the person stops delivering the treat to Duke, but absolutely the instant he starts to react. In the practice, there were a few times that the person controlling the TV was late in pausing or turning it off. This will cause Duke to get what we call “above threshold” and that is something you have to avoid when rehabilitating any dog.

Id like to see the guardians practicing this exercise with Duke a few times a day. Because of his reaction to the cartoon dog on TV, his guardians will likely have to move him to a position in the room where he can hear the TV, but not see it. Then by practicing the counterconditioning exercise ate even lower volume, they will eventually help Duke stop acting aggressively to the sound of dogs. Once that is the case, they can start playing it back at progressively louder volumes until he no longer reacts even when the sound is blaring.

The next step will be to freeze a dog on the screen, turn off the TV and start counterconditioning Duke from across the room. They will need to hold the treat so that Duke is looking at the TV, then have someone turn the TV on for 1 second while Duke is eating he treat looking at the TV. After the TV is turned off, they can let Duke loose for a bit. Let him move around and only repeat the exercise when he is completely calm and relaxed.

Eventually they will be able to leave the TV on for progressively longer periods of time and with Duke at closer distances. They should very the image of the dog on TV. At first, sticking with cartoon dogs who are small in size. But gradually they can move to larger cartoon dogs and then small real dogs, moving up to large dogs, but all frozen and not moving.

The next step to stopping his aggression towards other dogs will be to play dogs moving on the TV. Anytime Duke has problems taking the treat or sitting, the guardians need to lower the intensity of the dog on tv by increasing the distance between Duke and the TV, lowering he volume, freezing the pic in place or playing it in slow motion.

This is a slow and steady process. Any time Duke has a setback they need to back up a step and repeat a few times before trying the more difficult version again. When you are rehabilitating a dog aggressive dog, going slow and avoiding any outbursts or aggressive behavior is very important.

Id also like the guardians to practice leashing Duke up so he gets used to staying clam during this action. This video from a client in Tarzana shows a great way to keep any dog from getting excited before going for a walk.

Based on how reactive Duke was to a cartoon dog, im guessing his previous dog fighting experiences have resulted in some deep psychological problems that may require more work. I mentioned we will be starting a program to rehabilitate aggressive dogs in a month and his guardians said they will enroll him as soon as we start the program. In the mean time, the more control they can help Duke develop, the better prepared he will be for the Behavior Adjustment Training.

To help the guardians remember all the positive dog training tips we shared in this in home dog training session, we shot a roadmap to success video.


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This post was written by: David Codr