Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Louie the Lunger" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Louie the Lunger

By Charlotte Peltz

Louie is the sweetest dog in the world. Except. Except, for example, when he heads off for a walk and spots another dog. Wow! His behavior is what could easily be used to define "ballistic." Since it has become impossible to avoid walking without seeing other dogs, Louie never gets out anymore. Is there hope?

Well -- let's investigate this picture. There may well be many, many factors feeding into Louie's behavior, and what appears to be the height of aggression may well be -- fear! Yup. He could be afraid, and not be a monster salivating in anticipation of devouring the dog he sees. How do we know for sure? That is a tough one and, maybe, it isn't absolutely necessary that we know the answer to treat the problem.

One way to deal with this issue is to carefully document precisely what happens: all dogs, only big dogs, only small dogs, dogs that are within 20 feet, 40 feet, 60 feet, 100 feet, only when L.L. is with the owner, (as compared to the dog walker, trainer, etc.,) only on Tuesdays, (just kidding!) and any other variable that can be considered.

When we know that, we can begin to deal with the problem. For example, if the issue is any dog at 50 feet, we try to go to an area where we have a 60-foot view of things and, armed with the most fabulous treats that you can possibly present to your dog, you are ready to begin. First of all -- just what are "fabulous treats?" Only your dog knows. It could be turkey frankfurter slices, cheese, bits of chicken liver, etc. But, it better be good!

Dealing with a 50-foot trigger point, you will be pumping out those treats like crazy when the dog is at 60 feet. Right -- 60 feet. Before Lunging Louis begins his leaping act. Then you turn and leave the scene. End of lesson. Not too tough, right?

Slowly -- the speed depends on how L.L reads the lesson plans -- you allow yourselves to be a bit closer to the visible monster (read loose dog with no interest in L.L. or some similar scenario,) pump out the treats, and again head the other way. If you can get the help of a friend with a dog and set this up, all the better, but it works either way.

How about real life situations such as you have this wonderful plan, and then out of a doorway, from around a corner, dropping from the sky -- there is a dog! L.L. is lunging and you are not about to get him to respond to a filet mignon draped in front of his face. Hmmm. Well -- with a head halter, such as the product Gentle Leader, you can simply back up until you have some attention, and begin to praise that, regroup and plan for the next event. Get a sit -- attention, really -- and end on a positive note.

This very same technique can be applied to situations where Fretful Flo is afraid of all men taller than six feet, all women carrying garbage bags, the delivery person, people carrying umbrellas, guests entering your home, or you name it.

BUT -- you cannot allow anyone or any animal to be endangered by your dog during training, so it may well be necessary to get the help from a professional, use a muzzle (under guidance, please, because that is another whole issue in itself,) get a Gentle Leader (and learn also about the proper fit and use!!!), get an interpretation of how your behavior increases the problem, etc.

Finally, fear can offer one form of aggression, but there are others. Often we can resolve problems without knowing for sure if that is the case, but often we must deal with guarding issues, health problems, and more, so be prepared to dig deeper for the right answers. What is wonderful about these new approaches is that dogs who were destined for death in the past can become trustworthy members of the human/canine world with appropriate help. That makes dog training and behavior handling issues so much more rewarding for me as a trainer and for the owners of dogs with "problems."

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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