Training a Mae Day Rescue Dog to Focus to Stop His Leash Reactivity

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 29, 2017

Kevin is a one-year-old Carin Terrier Schnauzer mix who lives in Manhattan Beach. He was adopted through our good friends over at Mae Day Rescue in Los Angeles. Kevin’s guardians set up this dog behavior training session to get him to stop barking at the sounds of some dogs, listen better and stop his infrequent leash aggression to unknown dogs.

When I arrived for the session, Kevin was clearly excited to see me, but still remained pretty well behaved. He tried to jump up a few times, but once his nose took over, he spent more time circling me to find the strongest scent.

When I sat down with his guardians, we spent a while chatting about his day to day life and structure. Turns out Kevin didn’t really have many rules in place. This can cause a dog to think it is on an equal level of authority as the humans he lives with.

But in Kevin’s case, he was able to tell his humans when two pet him. And because they complied when he jumped up on, nudged or pawed at them for attention, they were inadvertently training him to ask for attention through those actions.

But an unintended consequence was that Kevin started to feel like he had more authority than the humans. After all, when he told them what to do, at least some of the time, they did it.

But if we feel responsible for someone, we also feel a sense of responsibility for their well being. For humans this is not unusual. But because dogs are not meant to be in charge of humans, and humans don’t listen to dogs, Kevin was feeling more and more stressed out by the perception that he needed to look out for his humans because they didn’t listen to him. This often manifests in a dog who is more reactive when it sees other dogs as it thinks it needs to act aggressively to ward the dogs off as the humans may not be able to protect themselves.

A part of the dog behavior modification strategy I employ in these cases is to show the humans how to redirect their dog’s attention. Most of the best dog behavior expert and dog trainers agree that training a dog to look at them on command is a great tool that can help with aggressive dogs and those who suffer from leash aggression.

I pulled out some high value treats and spent a few minutes training the dog to focus on me. You can watch me do this by clicking on the video link below.

By training Kevin to look up at them on command, his guardians will develop a powerful dog training technique that they can use to redirect his attention away from an approaching dog and instead look up at them.

This kind of positive dog training works so well because we are not luring the dog to look up at us. Instead we are teaching the dog that looking up to us voluntarily is rewarded. With a lot of repetition inside, this is a great command his guardians will be able to use on walks and other situations where the dog is looking at something that may provoke a response or get it into trouble.

To stop Kevin’s barking, leash aggression and other unwanted dog behaviors, I suggested adding rules and structure to his daily life.

By consistently enforcing these rules within 3 seconds for a few weeks, Kevin will start to adopt a follower’s mindset. Once this happens, he will stop feeling that it is his job to look out for and protect his humans. This will reduce his leash aggression and barking and when it doesn’t, it will be much easier for his guardians to disagree with him in a way he understands and respects.

We covered quite a bit more in this in home dog training session. I summarized most of it by shooting what I call the dog’s roadmap to success. You can watch this video by clicking on the video link below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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