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Categories: Search & Rescue

Q. I’ve let a playful lab turn into an aggressive nightmare. He is cross certified in wilderness and human remain detection. How can I make sure he won't be aggressive out in the field?
Good morning,

For someone who should know better, I?ve let a large playful, lab turn into a dominant, dog aggressive nightmare. I?ve been training search and rescue dogs for 15 years and he is my first dominant aggressive dog. He snarls, lunges when a new dog shows up at the house or out in public. As I never personally dealt with a dominant dog in the past, I didn?t see all the subtle warning signs as this dog developed. He is 110# 2 ? old lab and last summer he started growling and snapping while on lead to other male dogs. Unfortunately, I was one of those trainers that used the Gentle Leader on way too many dogs and not seeing each dog as having a different temperament. I floundered around never really do a good hard correction until recently, so a lot of time as gone by. So needless to say, I purchased a prong collar and dominant collar as well as your Dog Aggression DVD. I also have Tritonics collar, which I used to teach some offleash obedience work. As I weigh the same as my dog, I?m finding I need to keep the prong collar on him a fair amount of the time around other dogs. (I do need to say, the aggression shows when a dog gets about 4 feet away if not prong on, but he?s silent with prong.) When I do, he will not lift his lip at another dog and I can control him. My concern, as he is a search dog and I can?t allow his behavior offleash any more than on leash, I need some direction on steps to move him from leash work around other dogs, and I do use markers ? stinky fish treats that get his undivided attention- to offleash and searching again. He is a very talent dog that is now cross certified in wilderness and human remain detection, and not aggressive one bit to humans/children. But I can?t show up at a search and have any confidence that he will not be aggressive out in the field especially with a male dog. Any direction would be greatly appreciated.


A. There are a couple of things that need to be done.

1- With dogs like this we need to step in and not allow other dogs near them. By that I mean – dogs are pack animals. Your dog does not see other dogs as part of his family pack. If you have other dogs your dog is probably not aggressive to them.

Pack members expect their pack leader to take control of situations. They expect pack leaders to drive off strange dogs. So you needed to step between your dog and another dog when he was young – so your dog saw that you kept him safe.

It’s too late for this now. He already has his own way of dealing with this.

2- I would be training a dog like this with a remote collar (a Dogtra 1900NCP) We need to extinguish this behavior. The best way is to us the highest level of stimulation the instant the dog LOOKS AT ANOTHER DOG – not when he gets into fight drive. Simply looking gets him in trouble.

When you see the dog start to look away when in the presence of another dog we can often lower the level of stimulation down to a low level. Where people make huge mistakes is by starting with LOW LEVEL stimulation and then the dog learns to fight through the stem and then they learn to fight through higher and higher stems. So start at the highest and you can always back off.

This dog may never be a S&R dog. Not unless they let him always wear a remote collar when he works.

Kind Regards,
Ed Frawley
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