Former Bait Dog Sawier Gets a Second Chance

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 20, 2014

SawierSawier is a one year old Pitbull who was used as a bait dog. As a result of this past, he can get over excited and sometimes even aggressive with certain other dogs at the dog park.

When I arrived for the session, I expected a nervous and withdrawn dog – but Sawier showed good body language and confidence. He gave me a good sniff but was responsive when I asked him to give me space.

Frequently when Im called in to work with a dog who has dog aggression, the owners expect that we will go somewhere there are dogs. While I have done that with dogs that had mild aggression a few times, doing so with a dog who has serious canine aggression can be counter productive.

Before you introduce a dog like that to other dogs, its imperative the dog is extremely practiced at good behavior and following the commands and lead of its owner.

One of the most common techniques is to expose the dog to other dogs at a long enough distance so that the dog is able to sit and not fixate on the dogs it sees. For dogs with extreme cases, you may need to start over a hundred yards away. The idea is to find a distance where the dog can observe and practice seeing other dogs while remaining calm.

Parks with walking paths frequented by dog owners are great for this. You can find a secluded distance from the path to practice at, a spot where there aren’t other distractions.

Whenever the dog starts to stare intently at the nearby dogs or gets tense, the owner needs to get the dog to break its focus from the other dog and look to them. I find adopting a word like “relax” or “focus” when offering a meat treat is beneficial for the owners as it describes what both parties need to do.

When delivering a treat for looking away, the dog needs to hear the command word at the same time the reward touches their mouth. I like to repeat the word a few times in a calm voice; “relax, relax, relax.”

Once the dog is able to stay calm at that distance when other dogs are in sight, the next session, the owner needs to move slightly closer to where the other dogs are, then repeating the process. It can take a while, with small, gradual steps. This gives the dog practice at being near other dogs as well as practicing looking to their owner in the same situations.

But before Sawier is ready for that, his owner will need to work on the basics inside their home. I showed them a few exercises to help the dog learn to focus, respect boundaries and rules. But practicing the basic’s sit, come, stay will pay dividends as it lays down the basic framework for the relationship.

To help move things along faster, I also went over some basic communication methods for their owners to use. Combining this new structure with the exercises will help accelerate the process. Once Sawier is consistently responsive to commands and corrections, his owners need to start the whole process over in their back yard.

The added distractions of being outside will make it a difficult step which is why its so important to practice in a controlled environment like a fenced in yard. Once Sawier masters the come and “focus” or “relax” command, then his owners will be able to take the next step and start exposing him to other dogs at a distance.

The good thing about the situation is that Sawier is an intelligent dog with a great personality and medium energy level. As long as his exposure to other dogs comes after mastering the basic “focus” or “relax” commands and the exposure is gradually done, Sawier should become less and less aggressively reactive to other dogs.

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