If you live in Minnesota and are dealing with an aggressive dog, contact Robert Cole “The Dog Whisperer of MN” today for guaranteed success, email us at dogwhisperermn@gmail or call us to set up a consultation at (952)226-3595.
Always consult a qualified behavior professional before attempting any of the techniques described below.
Molly is a 4 year old Female boxer rescued from a local agency. She was told that she was a zero liability to adopt out. No aggression had been determined by the assessment team after the tests had been done. She was low energy and very very good with people.
After her adoption, her owner saw that Molly really was great with people. Hardly would bark at anyone ever, loved and became attached to her children, everything she hoped her new dog would be. Her owner recalls that Molly’s first encounter with her older Golden Retriever began with a stare off. Not thinking anything of it and having a “the dogs will figure it out” mentality she knew the Golden Retriever as being low key and non-confrontational, shortly after the confrontation started, he rolled to his side and began his new life as a follower in Molly’s control. Nothing transpired from this relationship from an aggressive stand point, though it set the ground work for Molly believing she can control other dogs.
Molly quickly became watchful of other dogs outside increasingly intensifying her glares out the window and becoming more anxious at the very site of them. On walks she began pulling towards other dogs while whining. Then pulling on leash and growling to lunging. This worried the owner for a very good reason. So she set out to enroll Molly into obedience classes for some much needed training and socialization. On leash, in a class room setting, molly did very well; with dogs and with the training it’s self. A successful investment indeed. Unfortunately, this did not transfer full to “real life”.
Week to week, her owner noticed that Molly began to stare down dogs rather on a walk with out making any sounds. Just a statue like posture, head up, eyes big. This confused her owner but did not concern her since Molly had stopped lunging and “acting out aggressively”. Not much time had passed before on a mild fall afternoon, Molly was sunbathing in the house. Her owner had the storm door open to let some fresh air into the home and to allow more sun to come through for Molly to soak up. Out of no where, Molly shot to her feet. Startling her Owner, she peered out the storm door and noticed a smaller dog walking down the road on leash. With no incidents happening in a fair amount of time, she shrugged and told Molly to leave it. Almost like a starting gun, the instant the owner finished her command, Molly, like a rocket, shot through the screen and aimed right for the unsuspecting dog. With laser sight precision, Molly went right for the other dog’s neck and pinned it on the ground. Fur, panicky screams, yelps and growls were all that were noticed as it all happened so fast.
Her owner ran out as fast as she could to pull Molly of the other dog, luckily, nothing but a couple of very tiny puncture wounds came of the “attack” and very concerned dog owners. With out much conversation, the owner Pulled Molly back into the house as she continued to glare at the dog on the street, now walking away. This created much of a domino effect for Molly started glaring at anything furry and four-legged. That same glare and posture that Molly gave that day she attacked the other dog. Nothing could break Molly’s obsession except removing her from the window or area entirely. No more trips to the pet store or casual walks. Everything had to be planned so as not to run into anything that would cue up that horrible response from Molly. The only dog Molly could be around was her Golden Retriever brother, although her owner’s trust in that was shaky at best.
The entire family loving Molly, euthanasia was not an option. So she started researching on line. Contacted a few different trainers and decided on hiring me to aid attempt at saving their four legged family member. I took on the challenge. after discussing the situation with the owner, I felt Molly’s behavior qualified for a boarding/training approach. Her owner agreed that this would be a great idea as this would kick start her rehabilitation and take away any chance of another incident at her home, which would certainly be a death sentence.
Day one consisted of her owner dropping off Molly at my home as I instructed her to swallow all emotion in the departure. Minimizing Molly’s anxiety. She was very sweet to me as her owner gave her a calm pat on the head as she walked away. I went through the process of acclimating her to her new temporary home. I had her follow me around the yard, rarely having to administer a correction as we walked the boundary of the back yard. She became increasingly pushy as she caught the scent of my Pit Bull, Cesar’s urine. In an attempt to slow her mind down, I stopped moving forward and gave her a firm leash correction. About three seconds later, another leash correction. With the second, she broke off her course and immediately brought her eyes to mine. This is an important step in our young relationship, as she for the first time, was looking for direction rather than plotting her own course quickly becoming more excited as she trailing the dog scent. With her level of dominance, it showed an primal need to have a confident, patient and assertive leader to enforce the rules required for her to begin her rehabilitation and move on to the dog she was meant to be. In that moment, she made the choice to give up her obsession to control and followed my every step, following cautiously, though patient. Her insecurities started to come out as I walked her toward the door, with Cesar standing, looking excitedly out at his new potential friend! She began to stare but continued to follow my lead. Step by step, closer to her perceived nemesis, anything furry and four-legged.
Watch a part 1 of the rehabilitation process with my trusty Pit Bull Sidekick, Cesar . Click Here!
Watch part 2 of the rehabilitation process with my trusty Pit Bull sidekick, Cesar Click Here.
One of, if not the most, important step in achieving balance and accomplishing behavioral rehabilitation is the first impression. Those first stressful moments often determine the flow of the training and will have an effect on the level of difficulty as well. Much like a first date, they say, a woman knows whether or not they want to be with a guy in the first 10 seconds. With a bad first impression, the guy may still get the girl but will have to jump through a lot more hoops to do so! A dog with Molly’s issues is similar in a way because the out come will greatly weigh on her trust in me as a leader in stressful and potentially overwhelming social encounters. Losing trust early on in the rehabilitation process is almost fatal to the outcome. Trust, in any relationship, is a two way street. As she let down her guard as I brought her towards the door, if I were to fail during that first approach of Cesar, she would no longer see me as an effective leader, which tends to intensify even more a dog’s level of re-activity and aggression.
This is why at the beginning of those “Dog Whisperer”, with Cesar Milan; “It’s Me or the Dog”, with Victoria whats-her-name or any show dealing with training, it has to “contact a professional before attempting any of these techniques at home” disclaimer. Not only can it be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing but will severely impact the relationship with that dog. So, even though I trust my Pit Bull, Cesar, to handle the situation appropriately, I need to be able to control his excitement with in the interaction to keep everyone on the same level energy wise. So, in the video you see me not only correcting or controlling Molly, I also had to enforce a boundary with Cesar. It is a very common occurrence to see even the best behaved dog to want to assist in controlling the one that is the behavioral outlier. In this case, it was Molly. For example you see this a lot at dog parks. You ever see that one dog being chased by every dog at the park with it’s tail down looking scared to death after trying to get bossy with another dog? This is because the groups energy before that was matched by every other dog there. They all shared the same energy, even though it was high play energy, it allowed them to co-exist- even if there was a lot of physical horse play. Then all of a sudden the new guy comes in and throws a metaphorical wrench in, tries to dominate another member of the unit, gets swamped by a half dozen other dogs. This dog it is seen determined by the group to be wrong, so the pack takes after him barking and growling. Simply put, the new guy has only two easy choices, conform or fight. it is a very cut and dry, black and white concept. Primal, instinctual or in some cases, non-human. A human sees a tussle like this and automatically thinks, FIGHT, where a social dog only sees conversation although sometimes loud. There is a reason why Wolves have been around for as long as they have. It works. No anger, no malice or ill intent, only group preservation. That is a topic for another time.
As I begin to open the door, I have Cesar back up and give space for two reasons:
- 1) so Molly can see me interacting with Cesar in a calm manner, which continues to build that trust in my leadership abilities
- 2) for preventative
maintenance, with any aggression case, safety is and should always be the main priority.
As Cesar backed up and gave us room to come in, I made sure to keep my focus on Molly the entire time as this can turn sticky and dangerous in an instant, but also keeping my peripheral on Cesar to make sure he wouldn’t choose to move forward before I decided it was an appropriate time. Again asserting my self in calmly to both dogs as I begin to walk through the door. a few moments pass by and Cesar has given up trying to say hello to the new girl and I notice Molly is beginning to shut down slowly, her head drops a little bit and drops to the side. Trying to shrink her self. Knowing that her usual tactics in this situation were no use she, like most dogs with similar behaviors, go from one extreme to the other. Before she is able to shut herself down too much, I snap my fingers and give a sharp “HEY” to her. This was strong but not angry sounding so she responded pretty quickly by snapping her head up and making that all important eye contact once again. Using me sort of as her source of security and direction, her eyes began to soften as Cesar started to get excited again by her change in demeanor Going from anti-social ( aggressive then shutting down) to conforming to my energy and state of mind and allowing the intensity to melt away and relaxing. Cesar sees this as a plus and automatically assumes she is ready to greet and play. Me understanding her more social state of mind and posture is still newly developing, I stand steady as the “thin ice sign” cautioning Cesar and telling him to continue to give space and continue to relax, I invite Molly through the door. The change in environment caused a change in her demeanor due to what I assumed was an association of in a house, be dominant. Like “sit” means put butt on ground and get a treat. Taking everything step by step, she was allotted the time to go from a level 10 all the way down to a 1 or 2, which slowed the escalation process of her mind. This is very important not just because it was easier on me, but gave her body the chance to keep pace with her mind. Going through the normal escalation using obvious body language first, like a balanced dog. This allowed me to cue up on her step-by-step process and correct her with the lowest possible correction, my own body language. Using a confident posturing stance with the assertive yet loving eye contact and a sharp verbal correction. This is yet another important component with any behavior rehabilitation case, it is like a “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em” approach. It is not wise to jump to conclusions and over correct or be physical with a dog that, even though getting angry, is going about it in a completely acceptable manner. With over correcting or being physical when not needed, you lose your aura of calm and assertive. Rather you become the “monster” you are trying to kill. No longer would you represent yourself as an effective authority figure and you also lose trust points as well. That correction again snapped her out of her building frustration and brought back down to an acceptable level allowing us to move forward.
The next step in the process involved reassuring her that things are fine and under control. I kept my self in a position to be the qualifying presence for anything that would come in, i.e. Cesar. As she continued to maintain eye contact, Calm, cool and collected, I reached down to grasp her firmly by her collar and manipulated her positioning to have her butt face the inside of the house. She stiffly obliged, and soon relaxed again. Using an even voice, I finally directed Cesar to approach, keeping my hand up like a crossing-guard, to work as a visual cue for him in case I needed to “pump the brakes” if he came in too quickly. Keeping everything on an even level. Calm and relaxed. Giving both dogs a role model for what is expected behaviorally. As Cesar approached he made sure to do so in a very polite, non-confrontational way. Head low shoulders relaxed. Obviously holding in his anxiousness to finally get to go through the canine greeting ritual of sniffing her butt. At this point, I then let go of my responsibility and ensued a management role. The energy was appropriate from Cesar, so I allowed him to take the reins for the rest of the initial greeting. Showing the value of a good canine citizen. One who is confident as well as collected. Eager to please, but not bashful about taking on challenges. (just another reason why I advocate for the Pit Bull type breeds so strongly) Molly tensed up as Cesar made physical contact, lightly touching the ti[p of her stubby tail with his nose. Unwavering, he continued, politely, to sniff. Trying to tell her there was nothing to worry about. Trying to build some trust. Her Hackles went up and Cesar still saw nothing wrong with the interaction thus far (neither did I) In his own doggy way, Cesar was peacefully trying to communicate to her that her state of mind and bullishness was not effective and would not intimidate him to go off course. He moved from her butt and tail to her back leg and hip. Now, she is stiff, hackles raised and beginning to give him a low and steady growl. Communicating she was very displeased with his advances. At the sound of the growl, Cesar casually glanced up, almost with a confused expression. I tightened on her collar as I could feel her trying to over power me and turn her head to display her frustration with what I would assume was going to be the “No bite” or most likely in her case trying to beat him up. She only fought me for a few dramatic moments as Cesar was moving to the crotch area of her underbelly. I noticed he was becoming forceful in his sniffs, nudging into her with his nose. This is an act of subtle dominance and is very disrespectful. Noticing him testing the waters I gave him a light touch to let him know, I was the only one to physically control. He understood quickly and reverted back to a few more gentle sniffs about an inch from her skin. As he got to about her ribs, he began to slow his approach to her front end as she began to relax her body. Step by step, just as she had escalated. The ears and eyes became soft and relaxed. Her head drooped to it’s normal level. Followed by her neck muscles, then went the tension from her shoulders. At this point, I began to loosen my grip in sync with her relaxation. Her weight shifted back to center and her hackles went down. She gave in. Not totally comfortable, but for the moment, she was a non-threat for any sort of reaction. At this point, I gave her some solace as I snapped at Cesar to back off completely. She officially faced her “fear of roller coasters by being present through out and riding the coaster.” The next step was her reward. Affection. Yes, there is a place for affection and reward based methods in my philosophy when the time is right. I knelt down still in between her and the rest of the house as to maintain my position as manager of space, I leaned in to her as she looked up at me with her pretty doe eyes and I spoke to her. Softly, I praised her and scratched her head and leaned in further for kisses from her. No food or treats but by showing her that the most valuable reward wasn’t a biscuit but the person in a position of leadership, being very happy and proud of her and giving her the physical affection a proud momma dog would give their pups.
After a few minutes of affection time, I stood up and turned her to face her new temporary home. Cesar walked away, no longer impressed or excited about a dog coming in to the house. I took a couple of steps forward. I would repeat the cycle of correction and reward as she went through her cycle of slow escalation, we came to the common ground that I was looking for as I fully invited her into the house, walking her around. She gave up her periodic glares at Cesar and instead would look directly up to me. This is an expected result after going through the whole process. Through the rehabilitation process, using the communications dogs use, in a situation where she would normally intensify, glare and lunge; she would quickly look up to me. This is why keeping the trust is so important. It will eventually lead to her not having to stress over anything that had before. Resolving the insecurity in that moment and prove to her that humans are fully capable of handling all the stress of decision making in social settings or situations that would normally bring about an aggressive response. Later on in the day, Cesar decided he wanted to play. Trying to coax her to reciprocating his play bows and bounces, she first would look to me, I would just look back at her calmly, never reacted aggressively slow to fully engage her self, she got to the point of full Boxer style play! Chasing and “punching” at Cesar, this would go on for about 3 minutes at a time or so. Like clock work, after play time, Cesar would walk back to his spot on the couch and relax, Molly would wiggle towards me or my wife or kids, looking for deserved reinforcement from us that she was doing the right thing. Of course, that is when having a dog becomes fun. Rehab stops and human-dog time begins, goofy baby talk, kissy noises and all letting her know we were happy and proud of her. She would indulge in the affection for a bit and then slowly mope to Cesar’s couch and lazily crawl up, plop down and would take her hard earned nap.
Molly had stayed with me for 5 days. Every day she got better. Only once, over a bone did she get in to an “argument” with Cesar. Cesar responded as you would expect a dog to who was being sneak attacked. I jumped in instantly and settled it. Keeping her in the moment, not allowing her to get more worked up or shit down, Cesar stared at her until she gave in for the last time. Never to have another incident during her stay with me. She proved to be a great follower. Always affectionate and sweet, she would cuddle on the couch with Cesar most of the day or try to wiggle up next to my wife, me or the kids. Those beginning moments were very special and very big for her. Emotionally, behaviorally, socially. Molly was a dog who began as a liability of others safety One more attack or lunge away from losing her life and her family losing an amazing, loving Boxer. She continues to improve day by day. Her relationship is continuing to grow with her owners and her family. Though the ground work was set, she is doing great, she still has a long road to being that perfect family member she is.