Thursday, April 26, 2012

Baxter's Evil Twin

Yup.  This guy has an evil twin.

Hard to believe, right?  When I take him on a walk he turns into a lunging, growling, barking, jumping, crazy man. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but he's been exhibiting "aggressive" behavior around other dogs and horses when he's on his leash.  The site of another dog or horse can send him into a frenzy.  It's so out of character for him because he was socialized at a young age and spent many a day at daycare.  He's great with other dogs when he's playing off leash. There's just something about that leash. I've been trying to figure out what happened to my sweet little boy and why he's acting like this.  And I've determined that it could stem from a few different reasons.  1. He stopped going to daycare the day I quit my job (daycare is an hour + away from our house), and he doesn't get to socialize with other dogs nearly as much so when he sees another dog his excitement just takes over. 2. On a walk on a vacation this past winter, an off-leash yellow lab charged him, bit him on the muzzle (causing him to bleed), and wouldn't let go.  3.  Walking by the horse farm one day, an uneasy horse started running and charging the fence.  4. His breed plays a big part.  Airedales are very tough dogs.

I don't know if one or many of these factors is having an impact on his behavior today, but I want my sweet puppy back.  I want him to be able to sniff and greet other dogs on a walk without having people recoil in fear.  It's the people who are scared (rightfully so).  The dogs know that Baxter is full of shit and is only exhibiting this aggressive behavior because he is scared or excited.  He's never hurt another dog or human.

And that's what I think it is. I think it's a combination of him being scared and excited.  I did some reading last night about what to do with a "leash aggressive" dog. Besides calling Cesar, the options seem to be to avoid or distract.  Avoid being don't walk your dog around other dogs (who wants that?) or distract your dog around other dogs with treats, toys, etc.  I'm going to try option 2.  I bought a clicker last night and have been working with him on simple commands (sit, down, come, look), and he focused on me really quickly.  The next step is to take him to a park where there are dogs in the vicinity, but not too close and practice the "look" command (look me in the eye), using the clicker and treats as rewards.  I'm hopeful that we'll make some progress with this method, but we'll see.

Has anyone else had to deal with a leash aggressive, but otherwise awesome dog?  How did you deal with it?


  1. Hi Jess, It's Jenna. Great blog!!!!
    This one particularly caught my attention. The terrier breed in general is on the 'tougher' side. I have a terrier myself (though mine is a pitbull) We take her to training weekly to deal with any aggression issues she has (hers are also towards other animals only) I learned a few things. First, is they can completely sense if you tense up on the other end of the leash, and many times that will put them on edge because if they feel you are tense they think they have to protect you for whatever is approaching. Second, is our trainer tells us when our dog starts reacting to distract her by turning around and forcing her to walk in the other direction. Once she calms down and we have regained control of her, to turn back around towards where the problem was. The key is that if you simply avoid it, they wont learn how to deal with it and that you want them to learn to change the behavior.
    The two things that happened to your dog definitely could have caused the behavior your feeling now, as he probably doesn't feel like he is in complete control on the leash and wants to make sure to 'scare off' any threat before it becomes one, but now he needs to learn that you're there with him to add that protection.
    Hope you're doing well, your home looks beautiful!!!!

    1. Hi Jenna! Great to hear from you. Great advice about changing direction to calm him down and then turning around to face "the problem" again once he's calm. I will def have to try that. And we should probably go to training with him too. I've been putting it off, but this might be something we can't tackle ourselves. I've tried to keep calm and not tense up on the leash, but I'm sure he can still sense that I'm feeling uneasy. Also, If I don't tense up on the leash then he jumps around like a crazy man, but changing direction will def help with that. Good luck with your dog! Hopefully we can get together soon!

  2. Ohhhh, I can so relate! It's so funny a dog behavior on and off of the leash. We have 2 dogs and their behaviors have mellowed and changed quite a bit over the years, but our super serene, everyone's friend, can do no wrong dog turns into an aggressive beast on her leash. BUT only when the other dogs are on the other side of a fence, she's not aggressive when it comes to face to face contact and she never has been so I unfortunately don't have any tips for you. Just sympathy. :)


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