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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm Michael,

I've rescued or fostered 15 rotties in 20 years. I have a beautiful boy that I rescued from the SPCA.

He loves people. Totally social, at times aloof, which I expect. However, any time I take him for a walk, if he see's another dog, he instantly alerts to the point where he goes into aggresive mode. I've done everything I can do. I have him sit, I comfort him and give him a treat when he doesn't react. Nothing seems to help. I live in a very dog friendly city. Taking him for walks has now turned into "when can I walk you without a chance for agression" rather than "can we go for a walk?"

Again, I've rehabbed Rotties for years, I've just never had one that reacted so strongly to other dogs. Any helpful input here would be appreciated. Aside from the dog agression, he's an ambassador for his breed.

Thanks,

Michael and Harley
 

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Welcome to the forums. Do you think he is aggressive or just excited?? Has he played or been near any dogs that you know? Some dogs look like they are crazy aggressive....but just crazy over the top excited. Have you got a friend or relative that has a female dog close in age, and size that you may have try to meet? Not on leash nose to nose meeting...but going for a walk side by side or have him in front and your friend's dogs slightly behind. Is it all dogs? Big, little, hairy,etc.?

Have you had him in any sorts of obedience classes? There are special classes for reactive dogs. Does your dog know the "leave it" command? The trick is to keep them moving along so they don't get a chance to focus on a dog. If you are making him "sit"....he has too much time to get worked up. I use either "leave it"...or "mind your business" command if there seems to be interest or focus on a dog....and we move right along or we do an about face and walk in the other direction.
 

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Has he been neutered? Vader is much better at much closer distances than he was before his op.. and I think that was mostly the excitement that BBD mentions. You didn't mention correcting the dog when he misbehaves? Treats for not reacting is good but corrections when he does make a mistake are important too.

Robert Cabral put up quite a good video on this the other day.

 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Welcome to the forums. Do you think he is aggressive or just excited?? Has he played or been near any dogs that you know? Some dogs look like they are crazy aggressive....but just crazy over the top excited. Have you got a friend or relative that has a female dog close in age, and size that you may have try to meet? Not on leash nose to nose meeting...but going for a walk side by side or have him in front and your friend's dogs slightly behind. Is it all dogs? Big, little, hairy,etc.?

Have you had him in any sorts of obedience classes? There are special classes for reactive dogs. Does your dog know the "leave it" command? The trick is to keep them moving along so they don't get a chance to focus on a dog. If you are making him "sit"....he has too much time to get worked up. I use either "leave it"...or "mind your business" command if there seems to be interest or focus on a dog....and we move right along or we do an about face and walk in the other direction.
Ill repley to both you and Cammy for brevity.

I'm not exactly sure if it's excitement or agression. For example. I brought him out to a bar with me, and there was a male German Shepherd. They were very alert to each other, and the other owner and I had to keep them on a short leash. After 15 minutes or so, they started playing and he was fine. An hour or two later, a smaller dog came in, and Harley was agressive. Hackles raised, growling, barking (and he almsot NEVER barks) and almost pulled me out of my chair.

I try to use positive reinforcement with him whenever possible. He is neutered, but that was fairly recent when he was brought to the shelter. He's 4 years old, but I have absolutley no history on where or who he was raised with. I can tell he's had some fairly basic obedience training. He obeys me pretty much immediately it I tell him to sit, stay, walk, etc. He recognizes my hand signals also.

I haven't tried the "leave it" approach. As I said, I live in a very dog friendly city. As I'm, a disabled vet, hes pretty much is my 24 hour companion. The problem is, that when we're out and about, alot of times it's in a confined area where my only real option is to have him sit. I hold his head up and have him look at me. If he doesn't react agressively, I give him a treat.

When we're out on a walk, I do try to do the about face. As we know, 115 pounds of muscle is not easily disuaded when they are intent on something. Most days, provided there are no other dogs, i can walk him with a pinky on his leash. He doesn't pull at all. Sees another dog? Then its me doing all I can to keep him from lunging at the other animal.

I don't know anyone with a female dog to try to socialize him with. I've even brought him to our local dog park, where we sat outside just so he can watch the other dogs without interacting. As I said, nothing seems to work.

Thanks for your replies!
 

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Thanks for more information!! The "leave it " approach has to be taught...start with basics." Leave it" with a treat sitting on the floor...."leave it" with a toy he wants to pick up....repeat, repeat, repeat...till he really understands the command. Don't try to do this when he's already focused on a dog. Taking a rescue dog to a bar is really pushing it. It's not something I would do till you really know the dog well and have a basic understanding. Usually you have the dog that you have in front of you at that age. Training will help....but this is not the breed to be taking to dog parks, or bars or BBQ's with other dogs around. He may never be social....but you can teach him to ignore other dogs...and as I say "mind your business". :) What do you do when he starts lunging? Is he corrected for this? Is he given another command?

What kind of collar are you walking him on?? A prong/pinch collar may help you get his attention back onto you and away from the dog. This is a breed that can be same sex aggressive...and if he has not been socialized while young to other dogs (all types...such as small, fluffy, barky,etc.) he may just see them as prey. I think that you really need to get some expert trainer to get to see his behavior. Find a trainer that works with working breeds such as German Shepherds, Dobs, etc.
 
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It's easy to tell you are looking after him well so far mate. Positive reinforcement is brilliant for praising wanted behaviour but it's not clear that you are using positive punishment to tell him when he's making a mistake. Note this does NOT mean being mean, unfair or hitting - a pop on the lead and a loud "no" can be correction enough.

BBD's comments about collars is a good one too.. Vader's collar is about 2" wide and is terrible for getting his attention via the lead! I'm aware of this and manage around it but have considered using a slip lead or prong collar more for better training.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
To you both.

Again, he's far from my first Rottie. I have him totally socialized with humans. He is absolutely aloof to guys, loves women, about what I expect from a big guy.

I give him a sharp tug and a strict "NO!" when he starts to pull. He responds to that very well. I have him on a 2" collar that he can't slip out of.

"Taking a rescue dog to a bar is really pushing it. It's not something I would do till you really know the dog well and have a basic understanding. Usually you have the dog that you have in front of you at that age."

Please don't take that I bring him to a bar or coffee shop wrongly. It's a long walk and we stop. Trust me, I totally understand that it might make him excited. It doesn't. he just lays down at my feet. Where we go we are always at outside tables, it's just localized and enclosed because I smoke, so that puts us on a short patio. (we live in Portland, OR, a lot of where we are is outside patio places)

I get this. We go for long walks. 2k a day. He needs the exercise. He is in play posture the minute I put my shoes on. I did the "outside the dog park" on advice of my vet.

"What do you do when he starts lunging? Is he corrected for this? Is he given another command?"

I give him a sharp "NO" and I short leash him. Then I hold his head to look at me and not whatever he was focused on. Then I give him a hand command to stay, with "halt" as the verbal. As soon as he responds (which is fairly quickly) I praise him with "good boy" and a treat. He will almost immediately do the rottie lean on me. Then he will again lie down.
 

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We hired a great trainer and she recommended a prong collar. I wasn't to keen on the idea but it turned out to be a great tool. We were just at the Vets and I had it on him. Other dogs were there and I was complimented how well trained he was. These collars work awesome, he doesn't pull after 1 correction.
 

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We have rescued and adopted many full grown Rotties. We are on #9 and 10 currently. Have kept them all their lives, all have died of old age related cancer, a couple a bit younger than they should have, but really enjoy the breed and have a lot of experience, as well.

I have to say, there are two things I think that play into the aggressiveness that these dogs display. I think the breed itself hasn't been bred well, and backyard breeders are giving Rotties a bad name by breeding dogs with uncertain temperaments that would have been better served as neutered animals.

The second thing is when these dogs commit their loyalty to someone and get passed around to other people it is tough on them and perhaps stimulates a more intense need to protect. We currently have a big 140 lb. male (who might have a bit of mastiff in him as well, although his markings are Rottie, he's probably the most handsome Rott we've ever had) who I feel has an incredible insecurity about being with us permanently. According to the guy we got him from he had been put into the pound and then passed around to several people because he was so big and scary. (Yes, he is. He is 140 lbs of muscle, not a bit of fat on him. He has broken the rod iron screen front door while guarding the house by jumping on it - scared the bejesus out of the poor landscaping guy! He scared himself by busting that door, and came right back in the house, btw.) I had an animal communicator talk to him and he was raised with love by some people but he got too big and they got rid of him "because he was too big."

Now, you can believe in animal communicators or not, I do. I've had multiple experiences with them through the years, every time we'd adopt a new full grown dog I wanted to learn about their background. Their behaviors always mirrored what their background was. When Bea told me that Xena was going to be trouble, she got in trash, dug holes in the backyard and barked a lot (because she wasn't given any attention except negative attention) she was exactly that type of dog... and then learned that when she got positive attention it was much better. Well, with Rocky, the current big boy I didn't learn about everything he went through, but we suspect he was dumped at one time because if we are in a strange place, a field taking him to go potty, he won't get out of the car to go unless we both get out of the car too. He'll jump out and jump back in nervously.

Dogs that have been left behind don't know why these things happen to them, they only know they do. I think it leaves them with an uncertainty about life and love that is very sad. Rocky guards us like no other, very viciously and we hate it, totally discourage it. We had to resort to one of those shock collars, that we never shock, but he obeys beautifully with the tone and a verbal command. I sort of suspect he figures he has a good home and wants to make sure he doesn't lose it... they have a limited amount of reasoning skills, but these are simple thoughts and I suspect they are what makes dogs like him hyper-vigilant in guarding their owners.

Rotties will protect, but I'm talking about the hyper-vigilant to the extreme. Our Rocky will posture and look like he's going to eat anyone who comes near his truck and parents, even children to our embarrassment and dismay. We are always working on it, but it has been a constant after the first year he was with us. When we first got him he was much more friendly to strangers, but as he has come to love us and appreciate the permanence of his home, he got more possessive and protective to the extreme.

He is not competitive with the girl Rottie we have, but she too is a live wire, not as aggressive with humans but a little bit scary with other dogs... He is fine with our Chihuahuas. We recently adopted a new Chi and both Rotties are fine with him, they humor them, it's funny. The older confident Chi will hang on his neck sometimes when Rocky gets in his space and Rocky just looks at him, like, "OK, that's cute." Big dogs, no way... I don't think we will be adopting any big dogs while these two are still alive.

It takes time for dogs to mellow and be confident. Our old Chihuahua, for the first few years we had him, any time we took him on a drive somewhere unknown he would get worried and tremble constantly. After being with us for about 8-10 years he began to relax on car drives to unknown locations (not usual places we go to). Now, even though we adopted a new Chi, he is very confident he has a forever home with us, we aren't going somewhere to drop him off and nearly never trembles. (They don't all tremble all the time.)

I don't know how long it takes for some dogs, I just know our experiences. When adopting other dogs in the past, the smart ones tended to quickly understand they had a forever home and relaxed right away, and the ones that were not as quick learning and picking up stuff or were more high-strung and more abused took longer to figure it out. Just think about it, for dogs, with a limited understanding, they don't know why they were left behind, they don't know what to do to prevent it... other than keeping their owner safe, keeping their home safe... makes sense.

I'm just offering another perspective. If you want to talk to your dog via an animal communicator you can give Bea Lydecker a call (she sells vitamins too and has a website) or you can call Lydia Hiby who also has a website. Neither is prohibitively expensive. (There are some out there that are.) I've used both, they are amazing. Bea can read your mind too. They cannot tell your dog what to do, but you can begin to understand motivations and be able to give your dog some direct assurance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
To you both.

Again, he's far from my first Rottie. I have him totally socialized with humans. He is absolutely aloof to guys, loves women, about what I expect from a big guy.

I give him a sharp tug and a strict "NO!" when he starts to pull. He responds to that very well. I have him on a 2" collar that he can't slip out of.

"Taking a rescue dog to a bar is really pushing it. It's not something I would do till you really know the dog well and have a basic understanding. Usually you have the dog that you have in front of you at that age."

Please don't take that I bring him to a bar or coffee shop wrongly. It's a long walk and we stop. Trust me, I totally understand that it might make him excited. It doesn't. he just lays down at my feet. Where we go we are always at outside tables, it's just localized and enclosed because I smoke, so that puts us on a short patio. (we live in Portland, OR, a lot of where we are is outside patio places)

I get this. We go for long walks. 2k a day. He needs the exercise. He is in play posture the minute I put my shoes on. I did the "outside the dog park" on advice of my vet.

"What do you do when he starts lunging? Is he corrected for this? Is he given another command?"

I give him a sharp "NO" and I short leash him. Then I hold his head to look at me and not whatever he was focused on. Then I give him a hand command to stay, with "halt" as the verbal. As soon as he responds (which is fairly quickly) I praise him with "good boy" and a treat. He will almost immediately do the rottie lean on me. Then he will again lie down.
We hired a great trainer and she recommended a prong collar. I wasn't to keen on the idea but it turned out to be a great tool. We were just at the Vets and I had it on him. Other dogs were there and I was complimented how well trained he was. These collars work awesome, he doesn't pull after 1 correction.
I will try the prong collar. I've been very hesitant to use them in the past, but I will give it a try. Again, he is very social to other people, even if he is sometimes a bit aloof.
We hired a great trainer and she recommended a prong collar. I wasn't to keen on the idea but it turned out to be a great tool. We were just at the Vets and I had it on him. Other dogs were there and I was complimented how well trained he was. These collars work awesome, he doesn't pull after 1 correction.
I will try it. He is amazing with other people. He can be kind of stand offish, but it's ususally with people who aren't "dog people" and he gives them their space. I've tried to stay away from prong collars, just becaue I don't much like the idea of something like that around my own neck. As I stated, I'm not sure whether his reactions are excitement or agression a lot of the time. I'll give both of your approaches a try. Thanks so much !
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
We have rescued and adopted many full grown Rotties. We are on #9 and 10 currently. Have kept them all their lives, all have died of old age related cancer, a couple a bit younger than they should have, but really enjoy the breed and have a lot of experience, as well.

I have to say, there are two things I think that play into the aggressiveness that these dogs display. I think the breed itself hasn't been bred well, and backyard breeders are giving Rotties a bad name by breeding dogs with uncertain temperaments that would have been better served as neutered animals.

The second thing is when these dogs commit their loyalty to someone and get passed around to other people it is tough on them and perhaps stimulates a more intense need to protect. We currently have a big 140 lb. male (who might have a bit of mastiff in him as well, although his markings are Rottie, he's probably the most handsome Rott we've ever had) who I feel has an incredible insecurity about being with us permanently. According to the guy we got him from he had been put into the pound and then passed around to several people because he was so big and scary. (Yes, he is. He is 140 lbs of muscle, not a bit of fat on him. He has broken the rod iron screen front door while guarding the house by jumping on it - scared the bejesus out of the poor landscaping guy! He scared himself by busting that door, and came right back in the house, btw.) I had an animal communicator talk to him and he was raised with love by some people but he got too big and they got rid of him "because he was too big."

Now, you can believe in animal communicators or not, I do. I've had multiple experiences with them through the years, every time we'd adopt a new full grown dog I wanted to learn about their background. Their behaviors always mirrored what their background was. When Bea told me that Xena was going to be trouble, she got in trash, dug holes in the backyard and barked a lot (because she wasn't given any attention except negative attention) she was exactly that type of dog... and then learned that when she got positive attention it was much better. Well, with Rocky, the current big boy I didn't learn about everything he went through, but we suspect he was dumped at one time because if we are in a strange place, a field taking him to go potty, he won't get out of the car to go unless we both get out of the car too. He'll jump out and jump back in nervously.

Dogs that have been left behind don't know why these things happen to them, they only know they do. I think it leaves them with an uncertainty about life and love that is very sad. Rocky guards us like no other, very viciously and we hate it, totally discourage it. We had to resort to one of those shock collars, that we never shock, but he obeys beautifully with the tone and a verbal command. I sort of suspect he figures he has a good home and wants to make sure he doesn't lose it... they have a limited amount of reasoning skills, but these are simple thoughts and I suspect they are what makes dogs like him hyper-vigilant in guarding their owners.

Rotties will protect, but I'm talking about the hyper-vigilant to the extreme. Our Rocky will posture and look like he's going to eat anyone who comes near his truck and parents, even children to our embarrassment and dismay. We are always working on it, but it has been a constant after the first year he was with us. When we first got him he was much more friendly to strangers, but as he has come to love us and appreciate the permanence of his home, he got more possessive and protective to the extreme.

He is not competitive with the girl Rottie we have, but she too is a live wire, not as aggressive with humans but a little bit scary with other dogs... He is fine with our Chihuahuas. We recently adopted a new Chi and both Rotties are fine with him, they humor them, it's funny. The older confident Chi will hang on his neck sometimes when Rocky gets in his space and Rocky just looks at him, like, "OK, that's cute." Big dogs, no way... I don't think we will be adopting any big dogs while these two are still alive.

It takes time for dogs to mellow and be confident. Our old Chihuahua, for the first few years we had him, any time we took him on a drive somewhere unknown he would get worried and tremble constantly. After being with us for about 8-10 years he began to relax on car drives to unknown locations (not usual places we go to). Now, even though we adopted a new Chi, he is very confident he has a forever home with us, we aren't going somewhere to drop him off and nearly never trembles. (They don't all tremble all the time.)

I don't know how long it takes for some dogs, I just know our experiences. When adopting other dogs in the past, the smart ones tended to quickly understand they had a forever home and relaxed right away, and the ones that were not as quick learning and picking up stuff or were more high-strung and more abused took longer to figure it out. Just think about it, for dogs, with a limited understanding, they don't know why they were left behind, they don't know what to do to prevent it... other than keeping their owner safe, keeping their home safe... makes sense.

I'm just offering another perspective. If you want to talk to your dog via an animal communicator you can give Bea Lydecker a call (she sells vitamins too and has a website) or you can call Lydia Hiby who also has a website. Neither is prohibitively expensive. (There are some out there that are.) I've used both, they are amazing. Bea can read your mind too. They cannot tell your dog what to do, but you can begin to understand motivations and be able to give your dog some direct assurance.
I only know what the family who surrendered him to the shelter chose to share. That's pretty much been the case with all my rescues. He was great with other dogs at the shelter, but that environment doesn't mean a lot. It very well may be that he hasn't been with a human that has him 24/7 by his side and is "making up for lost time" and doesn't want to lose his person. He DOES get separation anxiety even when I go check the mail without him, so that might be a factor. Thanks for the insight!
 

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Sounds like he is too over threshold to be able to cognitively function. A sit may be the last thing a dog may want to do when they have all this energy to disperse from being so worked up.

What has worked for me and my Rotties (and other reactive dogs I have worked with in the past) is using a front-attachment harness (or a head halter for the most severe cases) and working on attention heeling versus sit. This keeps the dog moving and stays nicely focused as a treat is carried at my eye level and given every few steps. I have to use super ammo for this, like baked liver for my last reactive Rottie, who once reached social maturity, started disliking other dogs within her "space bubble."

I think this approach offers a win-win as you're giving the dog an alternative behavior to engage in, while also creating positive associations with other dogs (counterconditioning) in case he doesn't like them and has a "space bubble."

When other dogs are too close for comfort we may do an emergency U-turn and do attention heeling to get out of the area.

It sounds he may have done well with the German shepherd and maybe after spending some time there, he may have gotten a little "territorial." I have noticed a certain tendency in this, when Rotts spend some time in a place and another dog comes along, joining in.

*I would avoid confined areas until you have things better under control. Confinement gives him only the option to "fight" rather than take flight and leave the area/increase distance. Distance is your best friend to keep your dog well under threshold.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
It sounds he may have done well with the German shepherd and maybe after spending some time there, he may have gotten a little "territorial." I have noticed a certain tendency in this, when Rotts spend some time in a place and another dog comes along, joining in.

*I would avoid confined areas until you have things better under control. Confinement gives him only the option to "fight" rather than take flight and leave the area/increase distance. Distance is your best friend to keep your dog well under threshold.
Now that you mention it, I think this may be spot on. He's fine in a new place. He will mind his business and lie down and be ok. He will alert to another dog, but he won't be agressive. After reading this, It occurs to me that he only seems to get agressive on our general walks (where we follow the same route) or places where he's been before multiple times.

I've curbed our outings to just longer walks. Ultimately him and the others arounds us being safe is my primary concern. Again, he's a beautiful and sweet boy. I tried the prong collar this weekend with him. The first time he lunged he made an awful sound. I don't think I want to do that with him. I'll try the harness next. Thanks so much for all the useful comments here !
 

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Now that you mention it, I think this may be spot on. He's fine in a new place. He will mind his business and lie down and be ok. He will alert to another dog, but he won't be agressive. After reading this, It occurs to me that he only seems to get agressive on our general walks (where we follow the same route) or places where he's been before multiple times.

I've curbed our outings to just longer walks. Ultimately him and the others arounds us being safe is my primary concern. Again, he's a beautiful and sweet boy. I tried the prong collar this weekend with him. The first time he lunged he made an awful sound. I don't think I want to do that with him. I'll try the harness next. Thanks so much for all the useful comments here !
 

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But after the awful sound did he pull again ?? After a few corrections he will be a new dog. Don't give up so quickly.
I agree! It's always better to give one good correction....then keep nagging with small corrections. I have had rescues that had probably never walked on a leash in their life. Trying to walk a 120 lb dog on a flat collar that has no training is useless. I don't like head collars like Gentle Leaders or Haltis...because often all the dog wants to do is roll or rub on the ground and get it off. The also can be dangerous if the dog lunges and can hurt their necks. Prong collars if fitted correctly....may give a correction that is needed once or twice...but after that it's usually smooth sailing. These are all tools....and the faster you can teach your dog to walk properly and behave...the faster you and he will be out enjoying yourselves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I agree! It's always better to give one good correction....then keep nagging with small corrections. I have had rescues that had probably never walked on a leash in their life. Trying to walk a 120 lb dog on a flat collar that has no training is useless. I don't like head collars like Gentle Leaders or Haltis...because often all the dog wants to do is roll or rub on the ground and get it off. The also can be dangerous if the dog lunges and can hurt their necks. Prong collars if fitted correctly....may give a correction that is needed once or twice...but after that it's usually smooth sailing. These are all tools....and the faster you can teach your dog to walk properly and behave...the faster you and he will be out enjoying yourselves.
I do understand this. Harley is not my first Rottie. Most of mine have been abused where I've had to rehab them to people or food agression. I just hate hurting a dog even as a training tool. I understand that on the prong collar he is in control of what happens. I just don't like the idea of inflicting pain as a a training tool.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
You were all right. I took him for a walk tonight with the prong collar. I'm certain hes had it before. He did not go more than three feet from me. NO pulls. He saw another dog, alerted, did not move beyond the length of his leash. Thanks for educating me on this. There is no bad dog, just ignorant owners. Thanks for teaching us, it means a lot.
 

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I do understand this. Harley is not my first Rottie. Most of mine have been abused where I've had to rehab them to people or food agression. I just hate hurting a dog even as a training tool. I understand that on the prong collar he is in control of what happens. I just don't like the idea of inflicting pain as a a training tool.
Note that a prong collar used properly does not hurt the dog, it distributes the weight of the pull / correction around the entire neck instead of just on the throat like a flat collar would do. This makes the tug on the leash more noticeable and therefore helps you communicate better.


 
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