I adopted a 4-year-old Maltese/Yorkshire Terrier mix. I was told he gets along great with other dogs, but when I take him on walks it turns out that he’s actually aggressive toward other dogs, kids on bikes, joggers and anyone else we see. He tries to go after them and barks at them. It’s hard to calm him down when this happens. What can I do?
In regards to your question, please reference “Queen of My Street,” a previous Ask A Trainer question & answer featured on our site. You should follow the same steps with your dog.
Please don’t be disheartened with your dog’s behavior after having been told he “gets along with other dogs.” This may actually be true when your dog’s not on his leash – like at the dog park – or maybe he needs training to develop good social skills that he can use in all social situations. Dogs who are adopted as adults frequently take on the role of protector of their new families to let their families know they’re valuable to their new “packs.”
Working with him as outlined in my answer in “Queen of My Street” will certainly help him understand that his job now is actually learning new social skills, commands and tricks. The more you work with him, the easier it will be for him to feel needed, and at the same time you’ll be changing his job description from protector to student.
Remember the stress you feel when other dogs come toward you when you’re walking your dog goes right down the leash to him. That tension will set him off barking because he thinks you’re afraid of the other dog. You should prepare to do the opposite of this – be relaxed, but also have a plan! Often a dog will continue with unwanted behavior because the owner isn’t prepared for all possible encounters. Follow an outline and have plans for every possible situation that might arise while on a walk.
Enjoy the training, and let me know how things progress.