Milo's Dog Training

Dog training in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire


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Lead Aggression. Part 4: Triggers.

This is the last part of a series of posts on lead aggression. Please read parts 1, 2 & 3 first.

Think about a recent situation, which involved you seeing another owner walking towards you and your dog. What was your reaction? Did you hold your breath for a moment? Maybe you tightened your grip on the lead? Probably, you even pulled the lead a bit or started talking to your dog. Chances are, you did all three and something else, if you were walking a dog that is reactive on lead. The behaviours are not themselves a problem. The issues arise, when your dog learns to associate them with other dogs approaching him. After that you are trapped in a vicious cycle:

In addition to your behaviour and body language, there are other possible triggers for your dog. A common trigger is a certain type of dogs. For example, your dog has been attacked by a large white dog and will display aggression towards similar looking dogs. Another possible trigger is a certain place. For example, your dog may only react to other dogs on a narrow pathway or on a certain street corner.

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Lead Aggression. Part 3: Perception of Other Dogs

This is the third part from a series of posts on lead aggression. Please read parts 1 and 2 first.

Lead aggression is directly related to the dog’s perception of other dogs. Whether it is a learned bad habit or a result of a traumatic experience, aggressive or overly excited behaviour is a reaction to the presence of other dogs. Hence, you will have to change your dog’s associations with other dogs and to teach him an alternative behaviour.

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Lead Aggression. Part 2: Concentration Skills and Stress.

This is the second part from a series of posts on lead aggression. Please read “Lead Aggression. Part 1” first.

Since I’ve been writing a lot about focus, concentration and stress, I will just briefly summarize the main points. Improving concentration will involve some actual training and exercises, while stress management will be focused mostly on lifestyle adjustments. I believe, that the easiest way to deal with dog behavioural issues is to create such an environment, which will set the dog up for success.

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Lead Aggression. Part 1.

Do you find yourself hiding from other dogs during walks? Keep reading then. One of the most common complaints among dog owners is related to the so-called “lead aggression”. If your dog is lead-aggressive or lead-reactive, your walks can become a nightmare and a source of constant embarrassment. The most frustrating thing for me is to see this on the streets, while I know, that it can be easily corrected. When I say “easily”, I don’t mean “overnight” or “by a wave of a magic wand” kind of “easily”. What I mean is that this issue is curable with some simple adjustments, re-conditioning and commitment.

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The Most Versatile Dog Training Tool: the “Time-Out”.

If I could use just one dog training technique apart from clicker training, I would choose “time-out”. It can be used to correct so many behaviours: inappropriate barking, jumping, aggression… Although it clearly shows the dog that his behaviour is not acceptable, it is quite gentle and does not involve physical force. As my readers know, I will never recommend using physical force for correction, because it leads to aggression and damages the relationship between the dog and the owner.

“Time-out” is a very simple technique that even a child can use. It is a type of negative punishment, which means that you punish behaviour by removing something. In this case, you will remove one of the things your dog values most (besides food, of course!): your attention. You will need a light 5 ft. /1.5 m leash and a designated space. The designated space should be isolated from the rest of the house, and you should be able to physically prevent your dog from leaving it. Let’s try.

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Common signs of illness in dogs.

Last weekend Milo felt so bad that we had to take him to our local emergency hospital. He ended up having abdominal surgery, but he is on the road for recovery now. Hopefully, he will be discharged from the hospital today. I decided to write a post on how dogs let us know about the way they feel.

Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us, when they feel unwell or what exactly is bothering them. Or can they? If you know your dog well, you should be able to spot signs of illness. As our dogs learn to understand us, we learn to understand their body language and habits. I am sure that most owners can communicate with their dogs in much the same way as they communicate with people. Remember Gromit and his eyebrows? Gromit is a beagle and I can assure you that Milo talks using his eyebrows in exactly the same way as Gromit. Other dogs may use their tails or ears more than eyebrows. Does your dog talk to you?

So when the dog becomes sick or just doesn’t feel well, he will tell you. You just have to listen… or watch. Several typical signs of illness or pain exist. I am not talking about obvious medical signs, such as vomiting, fever or blood in stool. I will describe some behaviours that may indicate that your dog is not feeling well and that you should call you veterinarian.

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How to train an adult dog: eye contact and attention

You may have heard that you are not supposed to look a dog directly in the eyes as it can be dangerous and provokes aggression. Indeed, dogs tend to avoid direct eye contact, when signaling peaceful intention. A dog staring in the eyes of another dog is most likely trying to challenge it. So, it is true: direct eye contact can be a sign of not so friendly mood. However, I am sure that your dog(s) often look you in the eyes for the same purpose people do: questioning, demanding attention or just keeping in contact. I think they learn it from us and are not as uncomfortable with eye contact as some sources lead you to believe.

So, why is eye contact important? First, it is the primary way for us, humans, to know that we have the dog’s attention. Some dog’s are good listeners, but Milo appears to only be able to use one sense at a time, and hearing is not his favourite. Second, it allows your dog to improve its concentration abilities. Finally, teaching the dog to make eye contact, when it sees a distraction (i.e., other dogs) or when in doubt, ensures that you will have your dog’s attention at critical moments. Today I will share one of the exercises that teach your dog to make eye contact.

Exercise: “Look at me”

This exercise will teach your dog to focus on you instead of a distraction. If your dog is food motivated, use treats. If a ball is more tempting, then use a ball or a toy as a distraction.

1. Have a clicker in one hand and a few treats (or a ball) in another.

2. Show the treats to the dog. You can let it smell it or move your hand in front of the dog’s nose, teasing.

3. Move your hand slightly away from the dog, so the dog can’t reach it, but can still see and smell the treats.

4. Look at the dog and wait until it looks at you. Click and treat. Initially, you can reward the dog for just looking away from the distraction. The goal is to gradually bring the dog to make eye contact with you, when the distraction is present.

5. Once your dog starts making eye contact consistently, you can increase difficulty by changing hands, moving the distraction, bringing treats closer to the dog etc.

This exercise serves as a foundation for work with certain behavioral problems in dogs. For example, the same idea can be applied to treating reactive dogs (dogs who overreact to certain stimuli). In that case, you can teach your dog to look at you, when it sees other dogs, people or other things to which the dog may overreact.