My wife and I lucked out at the Humane Society. After meeting and playing with three different dogs, all of which were too young and rambunctious for where we were in life, we happened to chance upon Lola, the sweetest and most good-natured hound you could hope to meet.
We gave Lola a home, and continued to be surprised by how loving and wonderful she is. She is friendly and welcoming of other people and dogs, and displayed no aggressive tendencies (well, nearby birds and squirrels might have a different opinion). We were certain her prior owners must have been in some serious straits to part with such a treasure as her.
That’s why I was surprised when one day, while taking her on her daily walk, she began barking loudly and aggressively at an oncoming skateboarder. She also moved to chase the skateboard, but as always when I walk her, she was leashed.
No other vehicles elicited that kind of reaction from Lola. I thought it may have been a fluke occurrence, but her nervous agitation at moving skateboards was soon confirmed again when we encountered other skateboarders down the street.
You Are Responsible for Your Dog’s Behavior
I certainly don’t believe that she would bite a skateboarder, but I won’t take any chances, and if your dog has a similar reaction to skateboards, bicycles, rollerblades or other recreational transport, neither should you. It goes without saying that if bitten or injured by a fall from a scare, a skateboarder has grounds to sue you and you’re responsible for your dog’s behavior. Many law firms specialize in dog bite injuries and other animal-related liability litigations.
So be responsible and be aware of the things that can trigger a reaction in your dog. Furthermore, you can take the following steps to try to change your dog’s behaviors (please note: these general tips aren’t formal professional advice and results are not guaranteed):
- Leashing. This should be obvious to any dog owner: keep your dog on a leash when in public. It is illegal in most U.S. cities to walk your dog without a leash. Additionally, if you know your dog triggers at skateboarders or bicyclists, use a short leash where you can pull them aside, gain control and establish dominance in those situations.
- Exercise. Dogs need exercise, and it is common knowledge that regular exercise reduces nervous energy and aggression. They (and you) will feel happier, healthier and less agitated.
- Treat training. When you notice a trigger approaching, pull your dog aside and give him or her treats. When they begin reacting to the trigger, stop giving them treats and try issuing commands. If you do this repeatedly the dog will begin to associate rewards with not reacting to the trigger.
- Spray training. Similar to treat training, you can negatively reinforce trigger behaviors by spraying your dog with water, or a strong distasteful substance like vinegar.
- Professional trainer. Finally, if all else fails and it’s in your budget, turn to your local dog whisperer to help you correct your dog’s behavior.
There’s no reason for you not to have good times and long walks with your dog despite the things beyond your control that can trigger them. Be responsible, recognize their particular problems and try to reduce all potential risks.
Alex is a blogger for Byrd Davis Furman & Alden Law Firm in Austin, Texas. He wants to know how to control his dog’s aggressive behavior.