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Dogs/aggression ( rescue dog )


I read your bio and ratings criteria. We recently adopted a Chug ( pug/chihuahua ) male, neutered 1 and a half year old dog. My 18 year old cat loves him and they got along right away. The ASPCA said he is dog friendly and got along with other dogs there. However, when we go for a walk and he sees other dogs he goes nuts lunges, growling, barking, wiggling out of his harness & collar to go after the other dog. I am thinking small dog syndrome. We use a harness because the SPCA said never to use a collar as it would cause damage. But he is so distracted when we walk by everything that I have no control. As long as there are no dogs in sight he walks in heel position without pulling. Please help.

Hi Melissa,

I don't mind your shortening my bio and rating criteria at all. In fact, I like your wording and may use it for the future rather than the 'cut-and-paste' bit.

'Temperament testing,' behavior evaluations, especially at a shelter, may not be an accurate indication of what a dog will do out in the "real world." I'm familiar with ASPCA evaluations in my neck of the woods, and I'm not sure how they might differ where you're located, or who's allowed to do the testing. I don't know how long you've had Mr. Chug, but you may want to call the ASPCA and have him re-evaluated, and ask to observe the evaluation. Most ASPCAs with which I'm familiar offer classes and/or have a trainer(s) on staff for private lessons. Some also have 'Feisty Fido' classes which employ desensitization and counter-conditioning methods for dogs who behave like your Chug.  I would look into these. Even if he doesn't display the behaviors you've described upon additional evaluation, which I think they'd be happy to do, I am sure you will be believed when you describe how he's behaving. Even if he doesn't display the behavior at the shelter or during classes, teaching him a repertoire of cues such as 'look at me; turn; back up; target/touch; and, others, will make him more apt and able to respond to you in the real-life situations which are causing you difficulty and concern.

It is definitely a huge concern that he's coming out of his harness, especially if you don't know what he'll do if he actually gets loose, both to the other dog and to himself. So, it's crucial that you have him fitted in a better harness, or have the one he's currently in checked at the ASPCA for fit. In addition, there are other types of equipment you can use, such as a Gentle Leader, but there is a specific way to introduce your dog to the GL so he'll accept it, and also to ensure that it's fitted properly so it won't come off. Trainers describe the Gentle Leader (GL) as "power steering" for your dog. However, there is a correct way to use the GL so it doesn't cause cervical damage to your dog, which it has the potential to do if not used correctly. For this, again, I'd direct you back to the ASPCA staff and trainers. I know the ASPCA to be a very reputable organization and I can't imagine that they wouldn't help you with such a serious issue when you've adopted a dog from the organization.

For now, I might suggest that you walk him in both a well-fitting collar AND a harness with two leashes because you can't let him get out of his harness. So, until he's trained, he needs to be managed and kept safe, as well as other dogs kept safe.

As to "small dog syndrome," I'm not sure what you mean by that, as what I know as 'small dog syndrome' might be something very different than to what you're thinking; or, why you would think it's applicable to Mr. Chug's current issues. There may be tons of reasons as to why he displays the behavior(s) toward other dogs, and most likely it has to do with his early experiences and socialization with other dogs. It doesn't really matter in the long run - you've got the behavior you've got, and you need to cope with it. The best ways that I know are training which has him, ultimately, responding to the cues I mentioned under distracting circumstances, which you'll have to work up to, and managing him with better equipment and/or better fitting equipment.

Working with a knowledgeable trainer will also help identify Mr. Chug's threshold - that is, the distance at which he's triggered to react the way you've described toward other dogs. Thresholds may vary in different environments and also vary given stressors at any given time in a dog's life (thus, why the behavior may not have been seen at the ASPCA - some dogs 'shut down' under shelter stress and don't behave as they normally would in the shelter environment as they would in the 'real world').

I can't outline an actual training plan here for you. Doing so would take a curriculum over the time of at least a couple of months and become a training booklet. I hope you appreciate what I'm able to suggest in this context at Allexperts. I appreciate your question and your taking the time to read my bio and rate my response. Sorry you're not closer to my neck of the woods. I would have loved to help out in-person, and if the ASPCA would have allowed it, I would have donated a portion of my time and cost at the shelter to help you out. As it is, though, I would call your ASPCA as soon as possible. The more Mr. Chug practices this annoying and potentially dangerous behavior, the better he'll become at it and the more neurologically ingrained it will become for him. Best to nip it in the bud and deal with it right away.

Best regards,
Madeline Friedman, M.A.


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Madeline Friedman


I respond to public questions only. I'm not a veterinarian & do not respond to medical questions.Suggestions: Submit a question in one area of priority, as what I am able to address in this venue is limited. Provide as much detail re: the behavior & issue as you can. Tell me how & if behavior is a change from previous behavior & when the changes occurred. Let me know what you think may have triggered such changes & what you have tried so far to resolve it, & what the results were. Let me know what you want help with & what are your concerns & questions about the behavior. I have set up a payment/donation to myself for responding to questions. I donate most of it to animal shelters & rescues. I keep a small portion for my time. The minimum donation is $25.00 on PayPal. When I see that a donation has been made, I will respond to your question. You will be prompted to make the donation before submitting your question. When you have read & rated my response fairly, which must be at the time you read it, I will refund $5.00 back to you IF YOU REQUEST that I do so in your rating comments. If I ask for more details, please respond as a "follow-up" & not as a new question. If I don't respond to your question, I will refund your donation less $5.00. DO rate me fairly at the end of our exchange. I will be pleased if you DO nominate me for volunteer of the month - why not, if I was generous in my response? I may suggest something you were not necessarily ready to hear, but I am honest in the interest of helping your dog, & that is my goal. Please keep that in mind. Please do NOT contact me privately about Allexperts questions through my e-mail or website unless I have invited you to do so. That is an invasion of my privacy - thank you for respecting it. If you would like to contact me for actual dog training & behavior consulting, you may contact me through my website.


Professional dog trainer and behavior consultant full-time since 2002, and hands-on owner and operator of my dog training business; professional dog portrait artist and professional painter for over 20 years. Professional State Certified Educator since 1992. AKC Certified Canine Good Citizen Trainer and Evaluator and AKC S.T.A.R. Trainer and Evaluator. Service and Therapy Dog Trainer (I do not, however, certify dogs for service or therapy work). Experience working with many people on the autism spectrum, including Asperger's Syndrome, both children and adults. Former college and public school instructor. Majored in: Counseling Psychology; Animal Science; Studio Art and Illustration. Professional Teacher since 1992. Degrees: B.F.A.; Master's Degree.

Founding Member of The Behavior Education Network (B.E.N.) of Animal Behavior Associates. Five year professional member of APDT. Two year member of ABMA. Was Animal Science Major, Rutgers University and Psych Major, Caldwell College. Permanently Certified NJ State Instructor Since 1992 and dog trainer/behavior consultant since 2002; AKC Certified Canine Good Citizen Trainer & Evaluator, same for AKC S.T.A.R. training and evaluating; multi-species experience with cats, horses, swine, agamids, birds, rodents, with primary focus on domestic dog. Please keep questions related to dogs only in this forum.

Chronicle of the Dog, Yankee Dog, local news writings, "Popular Dog" Series magazine - Housetraining issue, quoted in Tonawanda (NY) News, July 2007 Join my Facebook page which is NY, NJ and Florida Metro Areas Dog Training if you'd like to have ongoing access to me for occasional questions and advice.

Master's Degree, State Teaching Certification, plus additional undergrad college credits in psychology, and accredited college study in Animal Science.

Awards and Honors
Published author on dog training and dog behaviour, and business aspects of dog training. F.I.T. "Commitment to Illustration and Excellence as an Illustrator" award. Second place internationally in Society of Illustrators international art competition. Jellybean Photographics Award (for illustration). Rondout Valley Instructor's Training Course (I.T.C.) best dog training coach award (which I consider the highest award they gave out for that five day workshop!). I am a true believer that the best is usually saved for last.

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