The Weekly Q&A: Ask Way of Life™ Dog Training
The Weekly Q&A: Giant Breed with Big Issues

Giant Breed with Big Issues

Q: I have a 100-pound female dog, unspayed, 2.5 years old, who is starting to develop behavioral issues: 1) Leash aggression (began in September while camping) 2) Off-leash bullying (began in October) 3) Ball-possessiveness (began this summer) 4) Bad recall (getting worse) 5) Bad heeling (was never good) 6) General uncontrollable “madwoman” behavior when meeting a dog or person she likes (just started this summer). She also has health issues (currently under investigation), which may or may not be contributing to these behavioral changes. Would very much be interested in your input. Many thanks!

A: Thank you very much for reaching out about your big girl. We sure feel with you! Behavioral issues are hard enough when happening with a little dog or dog of average size, but we’re in a different arena all together when dealing with large dogs who can not only easily overpower us but also pose even greater harm to the other people and animals.

With so much reactivity happening and rising behavioral issues in dogs, dog owners and canine experts are looking everywhere for answers. Recently, I would say, there’s been interest in how health issues could be contributing to a dog’s behavior. Regardless of the behavioral issues we’re dealing with, the absolute first thing to do is rule out any medical conditions. Indeed, pain and discomfort cause dogs to feel a sense of loss, vulnerability, and stress, driving a range of behavioral concerns. 

With that said, I find it interesting that we’re looking so hard for answers that are right there before our eyes: the way of life that we are asking of our dogs and the behavioral expectations we have placed on them.

No doubt there could be something off physically with your big girl but I am here to ask questions about the dog’s way of life. Therefore, we would touch on your approach to managing space and boundaries inside and outside the home. We would talk about how you manage your dog around people and animals and the level of freedom she’s being given. This is a mistake we make with dogs is thinking that them being off leash is a requirement when I see it as the privilege of a well raised dog. Giving a dog off-leash opportunities is not the priority with a dog that’s having difficulty, it’s a greater sense of safety and trust in the person handling them that needs to come first. 

We would also talk about your approach to socialization. Again, if my dog is having difficulty around people and animals and is not interacting properly, this is simply because things are lacking in the foundations of your relationship. One of the crucial elements I teach is that we need to have a foundation of socialization with our dog before introducing our dog to the rest of the world.

While there could be a health issue, I have been around long enough to know that health issues do not transform a dog and do not cause such an escalation of poor behavior. Of course, rule out any health concerns and deal with any that could be there but also consider your way of life and its impact on any dog’s behavior.

Here are ten steps you can take right now to begin addressing these issues:

Wishing you the best with your large breed dog!

#TheWayofLifeMethod #WayofLife #reactivedog #offleashtrouble #BigDogs #GiantBreeds #Caninewellness

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