My dog suddenly started lunging/barking/biting me while on a walk.

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Barked: Thu Jul 15, '10 1:13pm PST 
Last night while on a walk (on leash), my dog suddenly started lunging, barking and biting me after encountering several dogs. The bites didn't break the skin, but it definitely scared me.

Some background...My dog is 1 1/2 years old and I just adopted him. I was told he was from a small town in BC so he probably was off leash and had lots of space(I live in downtown Vancouver and all our walks are on-leash.) He's very sweet in the house and 'loves' people, but he is reactive with other dogs. He gets stressed and lunges at them - sometimes he growls/barks, but not always. I believe he's getting very excited and wants to play with the dogs, but he's also trying to be dominant. A few other dog owners that we've encountered have allowed the dogs to interact and they usually end up playing -- it's very rough (and probably rude) playing, but playing none the less. I thought trying to socialize him would help.

However, I've noticed a few worrying behaviors in the past few weeks that I believe are linked to his anxiety with other dogs.

Out of the blue on a walk he has grabbed his leash, started chewing it aggressively while tug a warring with me. When this happens he's totally out of control -- almost as if he's trying to cut the leash off himself. He's pulling so hard he's even airborne at times.

I bought a chain leash the other day, thinking this would stop the tug of war. Instead, his aggression towards me got worse. Last night we encountered a few dogs that I pulled him away from. He immediately started jumping on me and barking (out of frusteration perhaps). This escalated to biting and lunging. I put him in a nearby tennis court to safely run off some steam, but there were off leash dogs in the area that came up to the fence. When I took him out of the tennis court, the lunging/jumping/biting got worse. He was even tugging my clothes aggressively.

I was finally able to subdue him, but I'm very concerned. This is a very sweet dog 90% of the time that seems to "snap" under certain circumstances. It's only happened a few times and so far, he hasn't hurt other dogs or me, but I believe this a warning. I'm not sure what is setting him off and why he suddenly directed his aggression at me.

Has anyone out there had a similar situation and how did you deal with it?

Only my cover is- scary. Read my- book.
Barked: Thu Jul 15, '10 2:47pm PST 
Oh boy, seems you got a bit of a project along with a pet. Your dog is redirecting his aggression on you because he can't get to the approaching dog. Yes it can get worse. The good news is it can also be fixed with some work.

He needs to become desensitized to the approaching dog. Inlisting a friend with a very calm and stable dog is one way to start.

- Start as far away as your dog will allow without reacting. Might be a whole block.

- Start walking towards your friend with her dog.

- First sign of aggression, turn and immediately (but calmly) walk in the opposit direction.

- Stop when you're farther away, turn back around and begin again. Each time he's reactive turn back.

You need to build up to a point where he is comfortable little by little until you can eventually pass your friends dog without incident.

Please be advised make sure there is a very wide birth when passing each other, so your dog can't suddenly grab your friends dog.

Others will be along to elaborate on this method. I've seen it done, but have never been in a position where I needed to put it into practice.

In the end you may be out of your league here and need to find a qualified trainer for some help.

All the snow- belongs to me...
Barked: Thu Jul 15, '10 2:53pm PST 
I went through some of this when Sabre was a puppy, though I never saw it as aggressive. I would call it weak impulse control and the times that he would bite the leash, jump and nip at me it seemed like it was out of frustration--I wouldn't let him meet the other dogs so he'd take it out on me kind of deal. I still remember the bruises on my arms. I had to train him to run with me too because when he was younger, running meant play, but play his way--he'd turn and face me and start the jumping and nipping. We managed to work that out too. A chain leash did work for us until he learned to stay off the leash solidly. At first the trainer had us use 2 leashes, so if he started biting the one, I could just drop it and have hold of the chain one. The nipping and jumping at me decreased with time and work.
Now of course, he was just a puppy and was still learning, and I never felt it was aggression like you do.

I'm sure your situation would require more professional assistance/advice than just my own limited personal experiences, but I wanted to let you know that I sympathize nonetheless. It was quite disconcerting for me as a new dog owner and someone who used to be afraid of dogs!!


Barked: Thu Jul 15, '10 4:17pm PST 
Wow beautiful dog!
I am sure you will get some more great responses for training soon but I will tell you that ACD's can seem aggressive when they are just being 'bossy'. I personally would suggest a trainer/behaviorist or if you can't find that an experienced trainer with herding expertise since they will have worked with ACD's that will help to teach you the best way to lifelong train. I would bet that it is less aggression and more a need to learn imulse control and manners but a behaviorist evaluation will go a long way in determining that. They are incredibly intelligent dogs and will find ways to demand what they want if not shown the proper way to behave. Being in the 'teenage' phase makes this a problem but it can be done. If the biting hasn't been serious then there is already some 'bite control' there that just needs to be made better. My 2 try to vocally tell me what to do all the time, but since I work on their manners all the time and we train at least an hour a day on commands the 'bossiness' never involves teeth. But they vocally nag me all day long..."we wanna go outside, throw the ball! I want a treat!" We work on impulse control a lot (the only thing that has saved the deer and neighborhood cats) by teaching them a 'leave it' command and since mine are avid fetchers the object of 'fetch' gets thrown but they have to wait for a release word before they go fetch it. All of this along with at least an hour of HARD excercise a day (with rests and plenty of water in the heat) helps them to be calm enough to focus and learn the behaviors I want them to display.I can't stress enough how important enough excercise is and keeping their mind busy, a tired ACD is a good ACD. A bored undisciplined one is a nightmare.
Never reward the unwanted behavior, so no letting him play with the dog if he has been naughty, not advancing on the walk till he is complying, not giving any sort of attention when he is jumping and biting (steping on the leash to limit how far off the ground he can go is a good protective measure for you as he is learning his manners).

Edited by author Thu Jul 15, '10 4:20pm PST


All the snow- belongs to me...
Barked: Thu Jul 15, '10 4:34pm PST 
yes, Holly I forgot to mention that my trainer had me stepping on the leash to kind of give an on the spot time out.

we will dance in- the ring without- words
Barked: Thu Jul 15, '10 6:35pm PST 
OK, there is simply not enough information to tell if this is reactivity, aggression or impulse control. What would he do if a dog approached and made contact with him?


Try to run?

Becky RNCL

My Hat is Two- Sharks
Barked: Thu Jul 15, '10 8:09pm PST 
Luca, I live in Vancouver also. Check your pawmail, I sent you a message!