Leash Agression

Hi,

i have a 1.5 yr old male Basenji (Frankie). He is a wonderful dog except for the fact that he has leash aggression. He is fine around other dogs off the leash and is consistently socialized around other dogs on a regular basis. However, when he is on a leash he goes nuts when he sees another dog.

We have started bringing highly motivating treats with us on our walks to serve as a distraction when another dog passes by. If the dog is across the street he seems to stay focused on the treat in the sit position. When another dog is walking on the same side of the street no matter what we try he goes ballistic. Even if i have him in the sit position 30 ft before the dog passes by.

On our walk home from the dog park last night, we met a lady with another dog. Of course Frankie went into pyscho mode. The lady asked if she could take the leash and choked up on his collar (martingale). Frankie fought it for a bit then immediately went into the sit position and stayed calm in the presence of the other dog.

I know negative reinforcement with Basenji's or any other dog is not a good thing. However, my concern is that Frankie will only take advantage of being given treats and never learn. Has anyone dealt with Leash aggression before with their Basenji's? If so, what worked for you.

I should also mention he has had beginner's training at pet smart. I know not the best but its something!

Thank You,

Matt

Read Control Unleashed by Leslie McDivett. There are also dvd and a yahoo groups that you can join and post after you've read the book. You may also find other CU people close to you that can help. The book is available through amazon or cleanrun.com or dogwise.com. I'm not sure what has the best shipping rates to canada. You may also want to look at Click to Calm by Parsons, but since you said he was okay not on leash with other dogs, CU would probably be a better fit. With the CU, you'll learn about how to help him remain under threshhold so that he can learn acceptable behaviors. CU is all positive reinforcement and may take a while, but the results are absolutely worth it.

Thanks for the suggestion. I will check it out. Is there anything i can do in the mean time?

http://www.dogscouts.org/Protocol_for_relaxation.html

i know this exercise isn't about leash aggression, BUT it will help lay groundwork for impulse control. I use a down instead of a sit and have my pup do it on her mat. it will also help teach the dog that things can go on around him and he doesn't need to get involved. Do what you can in the space you have. the dog should remain in place for all of the day's tasks (break it down to 1/2 or 1/3 of the day if you have to) and I reward after each task. See how far you can get. You may have to do each day more than one day if you don't feel the dog performed up to your criteria. that's okay.

I'd also teach him a u-turn for now so that he doesn't practice the inappropriate behavior. Our Simon is anxious (about the people, not the dogs), and we use a u-turn instead of encountering that terrifying toddler or whatever it is 🙂 Meanwhile we keep working on helping him overcome his fear of scary people.

You can find u-turn training via google, lots of links.

Does Frankie try to protect you when he is off leash? If so, he may feel that is his role, which he cannot effectively do when on leash, hence going 'psycho'. Just a thought.

As for when you walk with Frankie, are you asking him, with the leash, to heel? If he pulls and walks ahead of you, he will think that he is the alpha of 'your pack'. Not good for a dog, especially a basenji.

Keep us posted - we learn from each other. 🙂

@Kipawa:

Does Frankie try to protect you when he is off leash? If so, he may feel that is his role, which he cannot effectively do when on leash, hence going 'psycho'. Just a thought.

As for when you walk with Frankie, are you asking him, with the leash, to heel? If he pulls and walks ahead of you, he will think that he is the alpha of 'your pack'. Not good for a dog, especially a basenji.

Keep us posted - we learn from each other. 🙂

The line my basenji came from are completely all about themselves. The only time he ever became protective over any of us is when he encountered another Basenji.

I forgot to mention he also gets frustrated when looking out the window. If he sees another dog he runs back and forth from chair to chair, down the hall then jumps back on the chairs and looks out the windows. Sometimes makes little basenji noises then calms down when the dog is no longer in sight.

I would also suggest that you use your body to block him if he gets reactive. I had a fear aggressive dog and one of the things we had to do was place ourselves between him and the stimulus.

We use body blocks with our basenji Watson as well. They can be used to teach things like "Wait".

Once you are between the dog and what he is reacting to you have to continue blocking his access until he defers…once that happens you can actually try to use your body to back him up a few paces. He gets access to the space you are blocking when he is calm and you can give him a release word. The reward in this is access to space...

Thanks everyone for your advice. I will try to implement some of your tips and see how it goes.

Leash aggression is NOT unusual. His responding to the choke makes me wonder how much is actually aggression and how much is learned behavior. But please do not ever hand your dog off to someone. Had he flipped at her choking up on him, you would have seriously risked things being worse AND him fearing strangers.

I work on serious distractions at home once a dog is taught "leave it" and "look at me." I have had people bring bitches in heat over, bounce balls, throw meat next to the dog. Once you have that brain path totally locked into responding to the commands, it does help it transfer to situations away from home. Next I'd work just in front of YOUR house with people you know to use as training. That way can do it over and over and over til he gets bored with flipping and being made to ignore.

Most of my dogs and rehab rescues, once taught "leave it" and "look at me" solid, 100 percent, at home, can be stopped before they escalate on walks and around other dogs. Remember, my breed is Rottweilers. Rottweilers who are German working lines. So while I totally GET it is distressing, but you have the option of picking his butt up at least 🙂

I sincerely would even consider adding a head collar to his leash or a basket muzzle. Some dogs, once they KNOW they cannot do anything, will give over and let YOU be in charge and protect them.

Kathy has some pretty clear instructions also:
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_AggressionToApproachingDogsAndPeople.php#s2

Aggression toward Passing Dogs
The focused attention exercise, developed by expert trainer Linda Newsome, is ideal for handling your dog around other dogs. You teach the exercise first in other settings, but soon will be able to use it anywhere and know that you can keep your dog's attention on you and off anything else. It's a humane way to be in complete control of your dog-especially when combined with a head halter until the dog is totally reliable.

The first requirement for using the focused attention exercise is to find a setting where you can provide your dog with a safe personal space. Don't ask your dog to give you full attention and ignore everything around the two of you unless it is safe to do so. Part of what makes this work is for you to become someone the dog can trust to look out for safety. A dog whose experience builds the expectation of having to always be on guard has good reason to be aggressive. To resolve this problem in your dog, you'll have to take over the job of safety officer.

Have treats on your person (later you may use a toy instead, but it helps to start with tiny, tempting treats - lots of tiny pieces), but keep them out of the dog's sight. To initiate the attention sequence, say "[Dog's Name]!" and YOU MOVE ABRUPTLY away. If you want to say "heel" or "come" or "front" or "by me," that's fine too. The main thing is, say the dog's name - this is going to become the cue for the dog to give you eye contact - and then MOVE.

When your dog moves with you, quickly PRAISE. This is when you would use a clicker if you wish, but a word of praise is fine, too. Then instantly whip out a treat and give it. Do not show a treat until you are ready to give it. This prevents the sight of a treat from becoming, in the dog's mind, part of the cue to listen to you. When you give a treat, align it between the dog's eyes and yours. You want eye contact with each treat. Soon you'll notice your dog seeking your eye contact even when you don't say the name. Always praise this, and sometimes give a treat to reward it.

You're not done. When you do this sequence, always do it at least 3 to 5 times in a row. That means each time you 1) say the name, 2) move, 3) say the praise word, 4) whip out a treat and 5) give it. This doesn't necessarily require much space, since you want it all to happen very fast and the movement is not over a great distance. You can move one direction the first time, back the other way the second time, etc. But always do at least 3 to 5 repetitions in a row before you release the dog's attention. This is what conditions the dog to SUSTAIN attention on you until you release it.

Practice everywhere, and don't be quick to discontinue the treats. Keep them up at least occasionally forever. Because you're not dangling the treat in front of the dog before giving it, you're conditioning the dog to respond even when you don't have food. You want to make the behavior quite strong and build the importance of other rewards (praise, petting, play, toys, etc.) in the dog's life before moving away from food.

Praising before each treat or other reward will make your praise more motivating to the dog. Eventually you'll be able to praise for the behavior you're rewarding, and use your voice as a bridge while you walk to the treat jar or refrigerator at home. The dog will understand the treat is a reward for the behavior you praised. In this way you can reinforce behaviors you want to see more of – such as coming quickly to your call -- when the dog does them at a time you weren't expecting to do a training session.

Do not postpone intervening in your dog's aggression issues with the focused attention exercise, a head halter or muzzle, and appropriate expert help in-person. These problems do not magically disappear. Dogs don't just outgrow aggression. It usually gets worse unless the right interventions are done.

The sooner you start working on the problem, the greater your chances of success. Every single time the dog acts on the aggression, the habit gets stronger. It will then take a longer period of time and more reconditioning sessions to change the habit-if it can be changed at all. These problems often emerge in adolescence. This is a volatile time for dogs and a period of their lives when time is running short for you to effect significant change in the dog's adult personality. There is no time to waste!

If you immediately start the focused attention exercise every single time you spot another dog on outings with your dog, you'll soon find that your dog automatically looks at you when another dog appears! In many cases, you can actually turn a problem and a weakness in your dog's temperament into a special strength! This has been noted over and over in humans who put a great deal of effort into overcoming some disability or disadvantage in life, and you can do the same thing for your dog.

@DebraDownSouth:

Leash aggression is NOT unusual. His responding to the choke makes me wonder how much is actually aggression and how much is learned behavior. But please do not ever hand your dog off to someone. Had he flipped at her choking up on him, you would have seriously risked things being worse AND him fearing strangers.

It's possible it was learned. He always felt the need to have to smell other dogs no matter what and i guess over time the need to approach passing dogs escalated. Possibly restraining him with the leash just intensified his frustration leading into aggression.

He knows the "leave it" command and the "watch me" command. We are consistent in using them. However, i find he only follows them when it benefits him or if there is a highly motivating treat involved. If the dog passes by across the street we are ok but if its close nothing works. I will try and slowly get dogs to come closer and closer as he progresses.

I will read the article you posted. Thank you for the response.

My young male Basenji would like to approach every dog he sees, but if on the lead should I let it happen, chances are it would end in hackles rising and some Basenji swearing - because he is on the lead he is not able to control the situation and approach according to doggy etiquette and so he gets anxious. It is nothing to do with guarding me, he feels anxious as he cannot move as he needs. I'd be just the same if I was tightly tethered in a busy bar or pub and wasn't able to dodge the drunken leery patrons and iffy chat-ups lines!

If we are in a situation where I cannot keep space between me and the other dog - eg walking towards another dog on a narrow pathway - before my guy starts getting stressed, I just pick him up and tuck him under my arm. I don't have to bother saying anything, he relaxes and is happy to observe the situation, knowing he will not be put in a threatening position. This will not work for every dog - some dogs get foolishly brave if picked up and more agitated. However whilst I consciously stay relaxed with him under my arm I still hold the lead and I am always very aware of the other dog as we pass by, and make sure the dogs pass by away from the side that I'm carrying my boy on.

You might might find this is helpful whilst you work on the a more permanent solution with training/behaviour modification as you don't want to allow any dog to continue practising bad behaviours if you can't avoid coming in close contact, but it does depend on how he reacts when picked up as to whether its appropriate for your guy.

djaan, remove the spam link, get a job, something.

@DebraDownSouth:

djaan, remove the spam link, get a job, something.

Rather then responding to spam, send a note to the admins of the group

@tanza:

Rather then responding to spam, send a note to the admins of the group

LOL you firing my OWN advice back to me? I know, I know… fail.

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