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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20218
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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I have a rescue dog who is wonderful in every way except one

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I have a rescue dog who is wonderful in every way except one - she turns into a demon from hell when we are in an outdoor cafe and another dog approaches. Invariably we have to take her back to the car which is not ideal. Normally off the lead she wags and sniffs with other dogs and never a problem, not even with aggressive dogs where she will simply give them a wide birth.
Any help will be gratefully received.
Kind regards
Hi Jacustomer,
My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
In order to supply you with the best information, I do need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your answer, it will likely take me about 30-45 minutes to type up your response. I hope you can be patient.
How long has this been a problem?
How does she react if you are walking her on the leash and another dog passes her?
Exactly what does she do when a dog approaches?
It sounds like you are shortening her leash or holding her when you notice a dog approaching and trying to reassure her?
Are the above things all that you have tried?
What obedience training has she had?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

We got Tilly when she was two and a half she had been too much for the man she lived with - his issues (!) not Tilly's!! However he had trained her to a degree and she always returns when calls and stays, etc.

I must admit we have not done much training of our own because we felt that everything was fine. It was only later that we find the "café" problem which she had from the first time a dog approached in one. I had never been concerned and held her back in the beginning and very often do not notice a dog approach (being engrossed in lunch, etc.) until it is already too late and she is in full flight. So I thought she must have come with this problem (I am not able to contact the previous owner).

When a dog approaches with her on the lead she gets slightly excited and I often have to drop the lead as they do the "circle dance"! And yes I think occasionally she has pulled to get to them but not too aggressively. However, it is much better if she is off the lead and seems to really like the interactions. It could well have something to do with being on the lead.

I have noticed that (rarely) when in the problem situation I have let her have a good sniff of the "new" dog she is then fine, but generally we just either hold her to calm down which she does after a few minutes or take her away.

She behaves the same way in one other situation and that is while on the lead we pass some very aggressive dogs in our village behind wire and they all go mad. This has changed because when I got her she kept quite and gave them a wide birth with a very wary look.

Thank you. Hope to hear from you soon.

Best regards


Thanks for the additional information. It is helpful. It sounds like she has a touch of leash aggression toward other dogs. Often this starts when an owner is unsure of a dog's reaction to other dogs and they are on a leash. The owner tenses up or pulls their dog back to them. The dog picks up on the fact that the owner is a bit worried and figures they are worried about the approaching dog. They then react in various manners. Some will try to flee, others will act aggressive toward the dog lunging and or barking. If you also try and reassure a dog reacting like this, it actually is positive reinforcement and will encourage the behavior the next time.
Now I know that often you are not aware of the approaching dog, but if this is an ongoing issue, it is now a learned behavior. So she will need to be taught what behavior you expect in those situations.
The first thing I would work on is obedience training even though she is very good. It helps her see you as the boss and leader which she may already view you as such, but it also helps finish her obedience work and then she will listen the first time, every time to commands. The following site is helpful for teaching you how to train your dog. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.
Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.
You will try your best to keep a loose lead and not tense up regardless of the situation. Try to ignore bad behavior if at all possible. Perhaps you can set up a cafe like area and enlist someone who has a dog to help with training. Set up the cafe area with some friends, etc and have the "strange dog" walk past your table at a distance that you think will not trigger your dog to react. When she doesn't react, reward her with calm praise and a tasty treat like a hot dog slice or liver sliver. By now your dog knows you have the treats and should be a bit more focused on you rather than other things.
Gradually have the other person and dog move past at a close distance, rewarding the desired behavior of ignoring them. If your dog should react, give a short tug to break her concentration and a firm low toned NO and repeat the exercise with the dog a little further away again. Once she is not reacting to that dog which may take weeks of daily training, switch to a different dog starting at a distance. With each successive dog, the training should go faster until she learns that you want her to lay quietly regardless of dogs and people approaching.
Now this does require that you keep an eye out for aggressive acting dogs and ask the owners if they will move their dog away or pass at a lttle distance from you. Most owners of dogs are willing to do this. I also want to give you a site that goes over non verbal dog body language so you can tell if an approaching dog is dominant or aggressive before it ever reaches you. If you are pretty confident that a dog is not going to be a problem based on body language, you will be calmer and the dog should be calmer as well.
I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
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