Q: Hi I have a 3-year-old German shepherd-Siberian Husky mix named Maya. She is friendly and full of energy sometimes, but sometimes she is aggressive and bites dogs. She resource-guards and tried to bite people she was unfamiliar with. She also pulls a lot on her leash. We need of help but I’m on a tight budget and it’s tough. I wanted to inquire on the options for us and hope to hear from you soon. Thank you so much!
A: Thank you for reaching out about your dog Maya. I too had a dog named Maya once and she taught me a lot about living with dogs in a way that hopefully your Maya will as well.
Though I would want to know more about the incidents you mention, biting other dogs and trying to bite people, even if ‘sometimes,’ is not something to minimize. ‘Sometimes’ is enough to tell you something is going on. A steady dog is dependable and acts predictably, with thought and without putting themselves at risk. Pulling on the leash can also be dangerous, not to mention frustrating for both humans and dogs.
The first thing I want you to consider is the age and breed of your dg. You have a relatively young dog that’s the product of strong working breeds, the Siberian being an ancient breed with strong instincts. The first thing we would work on is channeling your dog’s primal nature in stimulating games and training exercises.
The second thing to consider is your approach to socialization and the freedom you are giving this dog. You are basically giving her the freedom to make mistakes. You get mad at these mistakes but the dog knows that you’re the one who put her in that situation. I hope you see how this would undermine your relationship. Having this level of access to people and other dogs is something I give dogs who are mature and raised well. That’s not the case with Maya yet, so roll back on these encounters for the time being.
My clients and I frequently have talks about our ideas and attitudes and how these might help or hinder our work. So for example, is Maya “friendly” if she occasionally bites dogs, threatens to do the same with people, and guards her resources? I am not asking you to judge or dislike your dog but rather to adopt a more objective view. If Maya were a dog you were fostering for a rescue, would she be eligible for adoption?
Lastly, I understand the matter of the tight budget. Yes, trainers can get expensive but the good news is that much of what really helps dogs is less about training the dog and more about managing the dog in the day-to-day life, which does not cost much. Way of life is what you’re doing every day and that’s where the answer to your issues lies.
I wish you and Maya well!