Training a German Shepherd to Focus to Stop His Leash Aggression

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 28, 2017

By David Codr –


Zlatin is a four-year-old German Shepherd who lives in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles with some of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever meet. His guardians set up this dog behavior training session to address a new problem; displaying aggression towards other dogs when on walks. This behavior started when the husband recently began working out of town and is unusual as Zlatin spends time at dog day care without incident.

Zlatin was pretty calm when I arrived for the session. His guardians had been watching my videos and started to increase the distance between the dog and the doorway which they reported had helped.

While increasing the distance between the dog and for when someone knocks is a great approach, I would prefer the guardian uses her movement and energy to move him back and away from the door instead of pseudo-shoving him with her legs. This is accomplished by moving directly at the dog in an assertive, deliberate and sudden movement. You can find a number of session write ups that display this approach with this link.

Zlatin was really laid back during the session. So much so that he wasn’t very interested in treats or interacting with us. His guardians later said this was unusual behavior for him.

Because they had been watching my videos and reading the write ups, the guardians had already started to incorporate rules and boundaries which were starting to make a difference, I suggested a few modifications and additional rules before covering a few dog training tips and new ways to communicate with their dog.

Being able to get your dog to give you its full attention is a great skill to develop; especially when you have a dog who is reactive to other dogs or people. To give Zlatin’s guardian the ability to redirect him before he reacts to a dog he sees on a walk, I walked his guardian through a Focus exercise. You can watch how we did this in the video below.

Hopefully once Zlatin is “on his game” this exercise will go better. Teaching a dog to focus is a great way to help your dog avoid trouble before it happens. Because of his low energy the day of the season, this exercise was more challenging that usual.

The key to the focus exercise is to practice it over and over, in progressively more challenging situations. You want to master the skill first, then start adding in distractions gradually until you eventually work up to real world scenarios.

We wrapped up the session by going out for a short walk. I took Zlatin out by himself first and got to see his dog reactivity in person. I wanted to see if his behavior was a case of an over protective dog or leash aggression. Since it happened absent his guardian, Im guessing its more of the later.

I showed his guardians (who were some of the nicest clients I have ever worked with) how to use a Martingale collar with the special twist of the leash. This seemed to give them more confidence due to the control it affords the handler without using any of the negative or punitive measures that come with a print collar (which we hate and NEVER use as they cause stress and anxiety. Plus we don’t feel like punishing a dog or inflicting pain is the way to teach or lead them).

I handed my phone to one of the guardians when we were finished to shoot a roadmap to success video. You can check it out and get some free dog training tips by watching the video below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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