Our 6-year-old Lab/Newfoundland mix gets along great with all dogs at the dog park and neighborhood except two. One dog looks like one who tried to bite him once and moved away. He barks and strains at the leash. The other one tried biting his neck once and lives two houses down. Every time I try to walk him past that house, he gets very anxious, and if that dog barks, he lunges at his fence in an aggressive manner. My doctor says I’ve already gotten a pulled bicep from trying to hold him back when he does this. Any suggestions?
—Krista Sherinian, Naperville, IL
A leadership and desensitization program is needed. First, stand in front of your dog and ask him to sit. Show him a food treat and hold it out to your side. Wait for your dog to look at the treat (distraction), and then look back to you (attention). When he does, reward from the opposite hand. Secondly, we want to pair something positive (treat) when your dog is not (before) reacting to the dogs.
I have a 9-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier who used to love cats. As he ages, he has a tendency to chase after cats. I have been his guardian for almost all nine years and have had cats in the past with him. Over the summer, he was a little rough with one of the cats, and since then he is not cat-friendly. Is there any way around this? We would love to welcome another cat into our home. However, with Spike around, I’m not sure we can have one. Are there tips on training you can pass this way? Please help.
A counter-conditioning program combined with desensitization is where we should start. We would need to begin with your dog on lead and prevent him from the self-rewarding behavior of chasing the cats. We would want to pair a reward (treat) with the cat being present, but only when he doesn’t react. This conditioned response will soon override the impulsive behavior of chasing the cats.