This is Candy, a 2-year-old Boxer in her typical pose with tongue out! Up until last October her sister, Floss, lived with them also, but due to Floss’ bullying and dominating Candy who was the more sensitive and nervous of the two, they found a new home for Floss. This was additionally necessary because it had developed into fighting and drawing blood, and the family has two young children. It is likely we could have done something about this had I been called in back then.
Straight away Candy was a happier, more relaxed dog – in all respects bar one. Where before she had been fine around other dogs, now she is extremely reactive – barking and lunging in a scary manner.
It seems she felt that the bossy Floss was the leader, protector and decision-maker out on walks and without her the burden has fallen upon Candy herself. She simply can’t cope.
At home she is mild-mannered, gentle and loving. Then as soon as the door is open she charges out, pulling. This will be very uncomfortable for her because she still pulls despite wearing a Gentle Leader head halter which she hates and tries to remove.
It is a really clear example of how dogs, especially dogs of a more nervous temperament, need leadership in the sense of ‘guide, decision-maker and protector’ (not ‘dictator’) and it would seem in Candy’s case that even Floss’ sort of leadership was better than none. The lady has taken her to classes. On walks they continually correct her by jerking the lead and saying ‘heel’. It makes no difference beyond probably adding to the stress of all concerned. All they are doing is trying to control her physically because they are stronger than she is and have the head halter. This is not what I consider to be leadership and neither, evidently, does Candy.
It would be a rare sight to see a dog that walks calmly beside a person on a longish loose lead, sniffing the ground and doing what dogs naturally do, with no gadgets like head halters or retractable leads, suddenly lunging and barking at other dogs.
Happy, calm, loose-lead walking is where it all has to start, and I show how this is achieved. Then ‘other dogs’ can be added gradually into the equation, but in controlled situations to begin with.