Helping a Chinese Crested Stop Reacting to Dogs on Walks

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 28, 2016


Edwin is a large eight-year-old Chinese Crested who lives in Marina del Rey. Her guardian contacted me for help with her behavior on walks; attacking or lunging at other dogs, but only when walked by one of her guardians. This behavior seemed to manifest after having a bad experience with a few of leash dogs that pseudo-attacked Edwin when out on a walk with that guardian

Edwin showed a nice, albeit reserved curiosity when I arrived for the session. After working with a number of high, high, high energy dogs that last few days, it was refreshing to have a more laid back dog to work with.

When I am working with a dog who is selectively reactive (only when in the company of one or a few specific people), I always inquire as to the dog’s rules, boundaries and limits. Dogs go through life probing to test boundaries and limits. If we don’t have any rules in place, it can tell the dog that the humans are living in a leadership void and cause the dog to think it can help out by being he security for that person.

Sometimes this dog reactivity happens when a dog thinks the human is its possession, but after chatting with he guardian for a few moments, Im pretty sure the lack of rules and over petting at the wrong times had given the dog the impression it was in a leadership position when with the family’s mother.

To help the mother start to change the dog’s perception of authority, I went over a reward method I developed called Petting with a Purpose.

By consistently asking Edwin to do something before it gets attention or affection, he will start to engage in desired behaviors like sitting or recalling rather than jumping up. Additionally the dog will start to see the humans as authority figures each time they ask, then reward him for doing something.

After suggesting some rules for the guardian to implement, I showed her a few different body postures Edwin gave as communication cues. I also went over some signs to watch out for when on walks. Recognizing these signs and redirecting or correcting Edwin before he has an outburst will be an important part of his rehabilitation process.

I wanted to make sure that Edwin’s behavior was protection over this one specific guardian so I took him out for a short walk by myself. If Edwin was dog reactive rather than possessive or protective of a specific guardian, then I would see a reaction when walking him without that guardian present.

Living by the beach, it didn’t take me long to run into another dog. Fortunately this was a smaller dog who was in a calm and balanced mindset, led by an experienced dog walker who happened to know Edwin.

Because of his reaction to this other dog, Im sure that Edwin’s behavior is a result of his thought that he needs to be protective of the family’s mother due to her anxiety when encountering other dogs. Her anxiety is due to the encounter with the off leash dogs and lack of experience with dogs (A former cat person).

It will be important for the¬†family’s mother to be confident and relaxed when out on walks. Anxiety can easily travel down a tense leash. This is one reason why you never want to have the leash tense during a walk. The tension amplifies things to the dog. I showed the guardian how to correct on the leash with a quick motion immediately followed by a complete relaxing of the leash.

I also went over a few methods that will help the guardian distract Edwin from locking in on an approaching dog. She will need to practice this eyes exercise a lot for it to become effective on walks with dogs present. Practicing first in the living room, then on walks without any dogs present, etc.

Next I went over some new non verbal communication cues that the guardian can use inside as well as on walks. To help her practice putting these new methods to use I walked Edwin through a Leadership Exercise I developed a few years ago. In the course of this exercise, it became clear that Edwin was a little insecure.

We slowed things down and eventually he was able to complete the exercise, but I mentioned this to the guardian and suggested that she make an effort to teach the dog a few new tricks and commands. Not only will mastering these increase Edwin’s confidence, teaching the dog to complete them will have a positive impact on the guardian dog relationship.

Because the family’s young daughter was dropped off right before we practiced this exercise, I filmed how the guardian can make the exercise more challenging to help Edwin develop even more self control.

Edwin is far from an aggressive dog. In fact his laid back personality should make it easier for his guardian to stop his outbursts on walks. It will be crucial for her to assume a leadership position with the dog as well as to be calm and confident with a loose leash on walks.

By the end of the session, Edwin was already responding to the new communication cues, adhering to the new rules and looking to the family’s mother for guidance and leadership. With some practice, dog and human should be able to overcome Edwin’s leash reactivity.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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