Q: My dog came to my home as a stray one night in a terrible storm. I could not even get near her; she would crouch down as if I was going to hit her. Now with some work, she has turned out to be a pretty good dog. When I’m outside, she requires my attention 24/7, which sometimes is annoying. Her favorite thing is to catch a tennis ball, which she would do all day long, nonstop. She’s very hyper so I take her on nightly walks, thinking this will calm her down. But to no avail. She is still tightly wound. I thought it might help to get another dog to keep her company. What do you think? She isn’t used to being around other dogs and can get aggressive with them. So how do I get her to behave around other dogs? Sometimes she even gets aggressive.

A: It’s great you have taken this dog into your home and tried to provide a safe environment. A professional dog trainer is needed in cases such as this to set you up on a behavior modification program. The trainer should only use positive methods—no choke collars, jerking, hitting, yelling, pinning to the ground, etc. (I am in the Los Angeles area if you’re nearby). I suggest checking with the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.APDT.com) or The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (www.NADOI.org). These groups list trainers by city and state and many of them use only positive methods.

A medical check up is advised, especially a “comprehensive blood panel” to make sure all blood chemistries are normal and that there are no physiological problems influencing your dog’s behavior. Medication might be needed for a short while just to help the dog relax but this would only be used if absolutely necessary.

In addition, much more information is required before advice can be given or a behavior modification program can be set up. This would include the dog’s daily routine, the dog’s age, where the dog sleeps, the dog’s diet, training history, whether there are any dogs at all that your dog likes, the level of aggression, etc. That being said, in cases such as this, three things are necessary:

  • Setting your dog up to be safe and successful;
  • Changing the way you dog feels about things by linking things your dog is afraid of with positive things like food; and,
  • Increasing your dog’s confidence and establishing a strong leadership role through positive training

I do not recommend getting another dog until the aggression problem is dealt with. Once again, only a professional can help you with this.

Recommended Resource:

My DVD The Dog Whisperer, Beginning and Intermediate Dog Training for Puppies and Dogs and book The Dog Whisperer may also be very helpful.