"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Leash Aggression – Cane Corso

– Posted in: Aggression, Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff), Columns, Mastiff, Molosser, Newsletters
leash aggression

I have a male 11 month old Cane Corso cross with leash aggression. Up until 7 months of age, he has always been a very well socialized and well behaved puppy. At that point my ex partner stole him. It took me and the police about 4 weeks before I got him home. After then he has been very over protective (which I understand is his breed.)

He started showing signs of food aggression and was very unsure of everything. He also started to bark at other dogs and was basically just a different puppy. So, I started again from basic and worked my way back up. I got him castrated about 6 weeks ago and he had done really well with the training. I sorted the food problem and socialized him with dogs and basic every day situations.

We have done really well with a head collar and lots of positive praise. However, about a week ago he grabbed another dog whilst out on a walk (the dog was fine). Since then he seems to be getting worse by the day.

As far as the leash aggression, he will scream if he sees another dog (I know that’s just a mastiff thing.) I could distract him in a positive way to either get him to sit and wait until the dog has passed or walk on with out looking at the dog but he now seems to be lunging towards other dogs. He has also started lunging at me then back towards the dog. I have tried to snap him out of it calmly and walk the other way or out of the way but it really isn’t that easy some times.

I know there is something I’m missing or doing wrong I just need pointing in the right direction. Please could you give me some advice?

Thank You,

Amelia – Sheffield England

Hi Amelia,

The first thing I would suggest you consider in addressing the leash aggression, is that you test how much control you actually have over your dog when there aren’t high level distractions. In my experience, if a person can’t get their dog to do these basic exercises they’re not going to succeed around high end distractions contributing to the leash aggression.

1. If you were to make a cup of tea in your own kitchen and told this dog to stay on a mat while you did so would your dog, without treats or your monitoring for the slightest twitch, do so? Or would you be drinking a lot of cold tea?

2. In your own yard, does your dog come when called or does your dog react as if you’ve made a suggestion?

3. Does your dog keep the leash loose regardless of distractions when you say Heel, and walk about the inside of your own home, or yard?

If you can’t give a hearty yes to these questions I would stop walking (find ways to get your dog out to run as exercise is important) but stop the sort of outings/walking that keeps reinforcing the leash aggression. At least until you’ve taken back control.

Consider as well the following:

1.  The genetics of some dogs doesn’t always encourage accepting strange dogs without some considerable warming up. As a result, when a dog such as yours reacts that way it isn’t necessarily unnatural. That doesn’t mean they need to react in that way. They can learn to, if not enjoy the company of other dogs, at least tolerate reasonable proximity without misbehaving.

2.  Typically, trainers/dog owners tend to prematurely force the dog and the dog owner into the “deep end of the pool”. They invite them to a “reactive dog” class or to attend a group class. Training a dog to behave around a high level distraction when you cannot get the dog to comply with requests like keeping the leash loose, staying and recalling without distractions usually results in less experienced trainers resorting to food to bribe the dog’s attention away or by applying force through leash corrections and high leverage dog training collars.  Results attained using these methods are often not lasting and can result in unintended undesirable consequences.

3.  While the behaviour itself isn’t necessarily unnatural, we often get a response level from the dog that seems inexplicably over the top. This is typically for two reasons. The first is the way the dog is being handled on the street. A dog owner with a reactive dog often can only dig in their heels, wrap the leash around their hands a few times and drag the dog away. This with most dogs exacerbates its agitation over time. The second is when the solution doesn’t take into consideration the dog’s unsupervised environment. Whether the dog owner is home or not home you will find reactive dogs often are allowed to look out windows and get wound up multiple times throughout the day. This results in a conditioned aggressive response when they are on the street.

In addition, when you say that being “over protective” and go on to say “which I understand is his breed” I’m going to take issue with “over protective”. If a dog is over protective it has less to do with his or her breed and more to do with the way the dog has been bred, socialized and/or trained. You also believe that his screaming when he sees another dog is “just a mastiff thing”. Not at all. Once again that has to do with bloodlines, socialization and handling/training and not his being a mastiff.

Safety Concern

Finally I think what you’re describing when you say that he has started lunging at you when you’re trying to interrupt his aggression is what I call aggression redirection or climbing the leash. If so, considering his relatively young age I fear you’re in a dangerous situation. A Cane Corso that redirects that frustration up the leash is not to be under estimated. Get some professional assistance or get that dog into a household better suited for the characteristics of the breed. The Cane Corso breed is not for everyone. In the right hands they are fantastic dogs. In the wrong hands they can become guns with brains.

John

PS: You may find this link helpful as well: http://www.askthedogguy.com/aggressive-dog-park/

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