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Ask Alecia: My Dog is Selectively Aggressive!

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ask-alecia-holisticDear Alecia, How do I keep my dog from behaving aggressively towards other dogs while on walks? My dog is an 18-month-old golden retriever male, dominant, and not aggressive with people. He is not aggressive when playing with a dog in an enclosed yard but will become aggressive when other dogs go near food or other people (even people who are not his owners). – Georgette

Dear Georgette,

Thank you for asking this question as this is a common issue dog owners face with their dogs.

Based on my In Sync™ Method of Training I find that aggression is a symptom of a deeper root issue.   I often find a combination of the following with aggression on leash issues:

  1. the dog’s foundation has a few holes in it where he has been allowed to break certain boundaries that have not been corrected from an Authentic Leadership perspective
  2. the dog could have knocked out a vertebrae or two, as well as a possible rib or two in his neck or back and this could be causing unrecognized pain
  3. the dog could have had an initial incident with another dog and now when you see another dog while he’s on leash you could be projecting fear which your dog is picking up on and sensing he needs to protect you by being aggressive with the other dog.
  4. more than 90% of the dogs that I see that are labeled aggressive are actually covering up for fear often due to training tool aggression

So let’s address each of these at their root.

  1. For cases of selective aggression of any type I return to the basics of training: Sit, Stay, Down, Come, Loose Leash Walking.   I make sure that my commands are simple and I work with exactness in my dog’s response.   If I ask for a sit, I only ask once and my dog has 3-5 seconds to respond if they respond I praise by a pat on their side, if not, I offer a gentle correction of my hand on their back end to remind them that sit means sit.   When teaching come, my dog needs to come directly to me, if not we redo the command until my dog comes directly to me and I praise with a pat on the side. Training is invaluable in assisting a dog to have healthy confidence, trust their human over their own instincts and de-stresses the dog enormously. Many “aggressive” dogs are labeled “Alpha” by their humans.   Generally the exact opposite is happening; the dog is most often fearful and the aggression is a coverup for the fear. But as humans we often misinterpret this response and label it aggressive.   So working with your dog on the basic commands and having your dog be accurate and responsive to your leadership is vital in transforming this type of behavior.
  1. Make sure your dog is not in pain. While a veterinarian is the first person your dog should see for obvious signs of pain, they often are not trained to evaluate your dog’s spine for misalignments or subluxations which are much more common than most of us realize. I would suggest contacting a dog chiropractor or a body worker to evaluate if there is any pain or discomfort in your dog’s spine which could be causing some of the selectively defensive behaviors.   If there is they will be able to adjust your dog’s back and you will see a dramatic difference in your dog’s behavior.
  1. When I began learning Animal Communication (telepathic communication), the first thing I became aware of is that an animal’s primary form of communication is pictures or telepathy. This has enormous implications if you think about it because as humans we are always forming pictures in our minds, the problem is when we are not aware of it we could be sending out the opposite picture of what we want.

For example, let’s say there was an incident in which you saw your dog become aggressive while on leash with another dog. As a human we tend hold that picture in our mind each time our dog is on leash of him being aggressive and we begin to tense up as we think about it causing our dog to be on high alert because of the previous incident. Because our dog is telepathic he picks up our picture first, then our tense energy then we are verbally telling him to not be aggressive but we have already set up the foundation for him to be aggressive from our own energy.

 So we need to change our picture and clearly see our dog not being aggressive or simply walking past the other dog. In addition make sure to be breathing calmly and in a relaxed state of authentic leadership state while telling your dog to leave it as you walk by the other dog.

I also cannot stress enough the importance of proper training tools that allow dog and human to be calm and centered and relaxed in their bodies. I recommend the Walk In Sync™Humane Dog Walking and Training System. Using these tools to practice daily with your dog will assist you in teaching them to learn to harness their energy without ever choking them and turns you into an Authentic Leader in just minutes and diffuses leash aggression immensely.

  1. Often dogs are labeled as aggressive that are not.   I always run through my check list above to make sure we are good on the other areas but my real determinant for an aggressive dog is looking them straight in the eye the way an Authentic Leader would to see if they are serious or using the aggression to cover up the fear.  When I know (and remember as a highly skilled professional with over 15 years of experience, I can just tell these things- I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS FOR THE LAY PERSON) a dog is bluffing I simply remain calm, with them on leash with a close boundary and as soon as I feel them back off in the slightest I calmly turn and walk in the other direction.

As a bonus, here a podcast call on leash aggression and its root causes that I did with the wonderful Ines Gaschot who is a fabulous dog trainer in Austin, TX.

Link to Podcast:

Please remember that selective aggression generally will turn into more common aggression so nipping it in the bud is essential to your success with resolving the issue with your dog.   A qualified trainer who is calm, clear and positive is always recommended in cases of leash aggression.

Paws Up!

 Alecia Evans is the inventor of The Walk In Sync™ Humane Dog Walking and Training System with her exclusive 5 Minute Manners Makeovers using the Walk In Sync™ Harness and Accu-Grip Leash, along with her Walk In Sync™ 3 Easy Steps to teach any human/dog duos to Walk In Sync in just minutes.

The former host of the award-winning GrassRoots Aspen TV Series, The Whole Animal-An Alternative Approach to Animal Care, Alecia takes a natural approach to dog training and health care. Her work has been featured on Fox and Friends, The Sandra Glosser Show, NY 1, and in Aspen Magazine,, The New York Daily News and Woof Report.