Dudley – A Case Study In Dog Aggression
I was first called to Dudley’s home because he was exhibiting aggression toward other dogs. He was a literal nightmare on walks due to this behaviour. He would bark and lunge at any dog he encountered, and snarl and show his teeth. The owners were very unhappy with how stressful their walks were.
When I arrived for the assessment, upon entering the house Dudley immediately lunged toward me, barking profusely. In response, I made no eye contact with the dog and instead engaged directly with the owners. This was important because eye contact is a challenge to dominant dogs and will trigger them to be even more aggressive. Dudley then walked away from me into the kitchen and circled around and took a position behind his owners. This behaviour indicated that Dudley had assumed the role of Alpha in his home, which caused him a great deal of stress and anxiety. What he needed was for his owners to take on the role of leader instead.
A few short focus exercises later, Dudley became totally relaxed. Not only was he no longer exhibiting dominance or aggression but he was happy to take instruction and focus on me as leader.
We then went for a walk to see how Dudley would behave in public. With myself acting as the leader, I demonstrated a few leash handling and positioning techniques that eliminated his aggressive behaviour. What the owners were learning was that while their dog was focused intently on them, he was not able to act aggressively toward others.
The owner is a runner and he asked me if it would ever be possible for him to run with his dog. Their attempts at running in the past had only led to pulling ahead and biting at the leash, as well as lunging and barking at other dogs. Not surprisingly, those attempts were short-lived and the owner was extremely discouraged. He had no faith that his dog would ever be able to run with him. Because of the earlier exercises I had done with Dudley, I had no doubt that he would run beautifully. I then turned to the owner and said, “Let’s go for a run”. Seconds later, Dudley and I were bounding down a busy Toronto street with people and dogs all around. I ran as far as I could, before I lost my lunch, and proved to the owner that the dog could run like a dream with the right leadership.
Needless to say, they were ecstatic. They booked 5 private lessons and over the next 5 weeks we transformed the family.