I have worked with many clients seeking a cure for their aggressive dogs. Their questions are usually the same:

Can you fix it?
What do I have to do?
How long will it take?

Can you fix it?

As much as all clients want their dog to be friendly towards all other dogs, the reality is, not every dog that is reactive with aggressive tendencies can be rehabilitated.

Here are a range of results:

  • Complete rehabilitation and a resumed and relaxed ease around dogs.
  • A controlled, on leash, tolerance to a certain closeness to other dogs on walks, thereby allowing you to be in public places with your dog confidently under control.
  • No rehabilitation is accomplished, requiring management of this problem for the life of your dog.

What do I have to do?

As you consider treatment or rehabilitating your reactive dog you must also:

  • Commit to 100% management of your dog during treatment. This is the physical or mechanical control needed to prevent your dog from being confronted with something he can’t handle at that point in time.
  • Obtain the services of a professional trainer or behaviorist to assist in rehabilitating your dog. Even if you are prepared, it can be very frightening on your end of the leash.

If you find that your dog is not treatable, you must commit to managing your dog for the life of your dog.

When working with your aggressive dog, understand that results can vary widely.

How long will it take?

That’s the $64,000 question! While some dogs rehabilitate quickly, it can take as long as 18 months or longer and results will vary depend on a number of factors, some of which are:

  • How successful you were at establishing a solid foundation for leadership at the beginning of owning your dog.
  • How well and methodically you performed your obedience commands. At first you worked without distractions, and then you gradually added relevant distractions.
  • How you performed your behavior modification exercises whose purpose was to set your dog up to succeed.
  • Your handling skills, your demeanor and your confidence

I have discovered that many dogs have become reactive (aggressive) because of previous training received that caused the dog to associate harsh physical leash corrections (with misuse of choke chains, pinch collars or electronic collars) to the very thing you are trying to get them to like — other dogs!

IF every time they see a dog, an inappropriate correction is given — then your dog’s association is: “Gee, whenever we see a dog, my owner yanks and jerks me or shocks me — so I now know other dogs cause me pain.

Rehabilitating your reactive or aggressive dog is not an easy task. It takes time, patience, expertise and a written program that takes you through very sequential steps to finally bring you and your dog to, hopefully, a successful conclusion.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010