I have 2 chihuahuas, both 1 1/2yrs old and both adopted from the local shelter. My girl, Sophie is a very loving dog and gets along perfectly with our boy Sebastian. The problem lies when I take them on their daily walks. Sebastian is very laid back, shy but very well behaved. Sophie, on the other hand is a terror. Anyone who comes near us, she growls, barks, and pulls on her harness. But it is even worse when she smells or sees another dog. She pulls so hard on the harness it's as if she is running in place. Her barking and growling are uncontrolable, and although she has never gotten close enough to anyone or another dog to bite, it is a legitimate fear I have. I have tried to immediately turn direction away from the other dog, but it's like I'm dragging her backwards until the other dog is completely out of sight. I've tried to divert her attention immediately at just the sight of the other dog with treats, loud commands, but I've found nothing that snaps her out of it and brings her attention back on me. Now her behavior is upsetting Sebastian to when she starts this aggression torwards other dogs or people, he tries to hide behind me. I'm at my wits end and the dog trainer in my area wants $2000! That I just cannot afford. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
This first place to get control over your dog is in your home. I would work on 'sit' 'stay' 'down' and 'heel' (which is walk on the leash by your side without pulling). When you are in the home, teach her to stay no matter what is going on around her. You start this off by telling her to stay for FIVE SECONDS OR LESS, then big praise. Increase time and distance a little at a time. You also, don't let her bark at the door, or run to anyone coming in the door. She must sit/down and stay while people come in and out, no exceptions.
While you are doing this, also teach her to walk nicely on lead. Two ways to do this.
Use a slip collar and when she is pulling give her a tug to the side and say "heel"
Use a micro pinch collar which let's her correct herself, NO TUG from you.
No matter which one you use, when you are NOT tugging, the leash should be comfortably loose. (kind of keep a slight loop in it)
For outside you must teach her all the commands again. YES, she will not always know that what goes on inside is ok outside. TAKE HER OUT ALONE FOR TRAINING. She may be different without Sebastian. She may feel a need to protect him. If this is the case then you need to take Sebastian out by himself and socialize him so he is not shy. If Sebastian gets confident that could end the issue.
It is hard to show you, and a picture is worth a thousand words. If you could watch a few Cesar Millan videos you would see how calmness and assertiveness works wonder. If not, then take charge by doing what I told you.
When you come upon a dog, be ready, (you have already told me how aware you are, bravo). Use the tug system and commands to "heel" if this is not working make her "sit" and be a little stern in your attitude (not angry). The thought that should be in your head is "I am not letting you walk all over me, I love you and you will mind me because that is the safe and right thing to do."
Once you adopt that attitude in yourself, things will improve dramatically.