Dog Aggression



The Good Dog Tip Of The Day: You can have a nervous, fearful, anxious dog that makes poor choices (barks, growls, lunges, attacks, runs, hides) towards people, other dogs, bikes, skateboards etc, or you can have a nervous, fearful, anxious dog that instead of simply reacting to their nervousness, fearfulness or anxiety, defers to you, and makes great choices around all of the above listed items.

Left to figure it out on their own, with no real information about what an appropriate response is, dogs will simply react, and are liable to make very bad choices. It’s your job to show your dog what to think, how to feel, and how to react when faced with things that unnerve them.

This takes knowledge and leadership on your part and establishing the right relationship with your dog.


By Sean O’Shea, read more at my website

The Good Dog Tip Of The Day: If your dog pulls on leash when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog lunges at, drags you towards, or becomes agitated around other dogs on walks when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog pulls you towards places it wants to sniff or pee when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog jumps on you or your guests when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog barks when you don’t want him to, and you are unable to stop him, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog races or pushes past you out of the crate, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog races or pushes past you at any doorway when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog jumps in or out of the car when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog steals food or counter-surfs when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship.

And on, and on, and on.

If your dog doesn’t respect and defer to you with these small ticket items, please don’t expect to be able to stop or block any of the big ticket items such as dog to dog aggression, human aggression, nervousness/insecurity, or resource guarding.

Until you have established the proper relationship of respect with the small stuff, it makes absolutely no sense to your dog to listen to you for any of the big stuff.

Start small, and work your way up. If you build this foundation, you can change virtually any behavior problem.




By Sean O’Shea

The Good Dog Tip Of The Day: Correcting unwanted behavior, in the moment it occurs, in a fashion that the dog takes seriously is one of the biggest reasons why a balanced training approach is so powerful, and why this approach is able to fix/solve/resolve behavior problems and issues that rewards only based training is often unable to help with. In an effort to over intellectualize dog training, many trainers have lost sight or forgotten that the greatest dog trainers – dogs themselves – never ignore unwanted behavior (if it is truly something they dislike), never put dogs in time-outs, and never reward good behavior (with anything other than continued social interaction), they simply, and effectively address the problem, in the moment, with whatever level of intensity that particular situation and that particular dog needs. When we take this most natural and common K9 communication off the training table, we end up with lots of stressed out dogs, lots of bad behavior, wasted time, frustrated owners, a compromised relationship/connection with our dogs, and in many cases, dogs being euthanized or surrendered absolutely unnecessarily.

By Sean O’Shea of The Good Dog Training and Rehabilitation,


Hey all, I was in the process of posting a video which demonstrated some of the techniques I use when introducing new dogs to my pack or home environment, and it dawned on me that maybe I should elaborate on how I approach this challenging situation.

Let’s start off by examining what I feel are the main causes of problems that owners often accidentally get into. The biggest issue, and the one I see the most often is: “let’s put the dogs together and see how they feel about each other.” Yow! This is such a perfect way to not only have a dog fight or a scuffle, but even more importantly, if your goal is to have these two dogs co-habitate, it’s the perfect way to get things off to a perfectly terrible start that will very possibly continue to escalate.


I never, repeat, never, let dogs figure out how they feel about each other without my guidance. If you have a nervous dog, a territorial dog, a dominant dog, a pushy dog, or an exuberant dog, each one of these states of mind could be the perfect storm for a fight with the wrong dog. And that’s not even mentioning or assessing the behavior of the other dog or dogs you’re bringing into the situation.


Another big cause of problems between new dogs (and often even dogs who have lived together for years), is an obvious lack of human leadership and control. When dogs sense a leadership vacuum, they start to come up with their own solutions to situations. And that my friends, is the last thing you want. This lack of leadership puts every resource up for grabs/competition. It also creates the dynamic where one dog perceives another dog to be behaving inappropriately, and decides it is his or her job to step in and correct that behavior.


The chaos and lack of structure that most dogs live in creates a free for all, wild west mindset…everything and everyone is up for grabs…trust me, you do not want the wild west in a multi-dog household. This is usually what the home environment looks like in my most challenging client situations.


Something that most owners aren’t aware of is, all of these scenarios create massive stress in your dog(s), which is a major player in causing dogs to make extremely poor, often aggressive choices.


So what is the answer, what is the best approach for creating a safe and harmonious introduction? I don’t profess to having all the answers, but I will happily share with you what works for me.




The first thing I like to do is, walk the dogs together…not next to each other, but on either side of you. This gives the dogs a chance to get to know each other at a comfortable distance, while insuring that no one acts like a knucklehead – which can easily cause an interaction go sour. It’s imperative that you keep the leashes short, but not tight/tensioned. If the leashes are too loose, you will not have control, the dogs will likely get into each others spaces and this will very likely get you into trouble. I would also heavily recommend a prong collar on both dogs. In order to be safe, you have to have control of the dogs…and flat buckle or harnesses will not do the trick.


If things are really dicey, and you’re not feeling that you can safely manage both dogs, have someone assist you. But lets back up a bit. As soon as I put the leashes on, I set the tone…I shift my mindset, energy, vibe…whatever you want to call it immediately. I let all the dogs involved know that I will be directing and running every aspect of this endeavor. I cannot stress enough how important it is for both dogs to be in a state of mind where they are taking you seriously. This doesn’t mean any heavy handed interaction, but simply that you control every bit of movement and behavior, and insure all dogs are acting politely, BEFORE you begin the walk. Like I said, set the tone. This tone is saying,”this walk will be 100% controlled by this human, and any monkey business will not be tolerated, and will  warrant a correction and immediate addressing.” Be sure your state of mind is relaxed and confident.


It should go without saying that both dogs should be walking right by your side…no pulling, darting around, disregarding etc. You want to create a really nice, relaxed heel.


Once again, if one of the dogs is too intense, have someone help you. They can start by walking the dog behind you or in front of you, and as things relax, they can close the distance. If you can achieve this, than I would move the dogs to either side of you. How does it look? How do things feel? Are they lunging at each other, or calmly enjoying the walk? If they’re calm, I will then move one dog out in front of the other (but do not stop moving!!), and I will create a moving, controlled, butt sniffing ritual. Be sure no one acts the fool and tries to nip, lunge, or hump. If that looks good, then I switch positions, and move the front dog into the rear position (literally!), and do the exercise all over again.


I love this exercise because it safely introduces dogs to each and gives me the opportunity to see how they feel about each other. After I’ve completed this exercise (it only takes a few minutes), and if things are feeling comfortable, I will bring them back to either side of me and continue walking them for a good amount of time. You need to be constantly watching and gauging the vibe between the two dogs. The hope is that they’re feeling more and more relaxed. If so, you’re off to a promising start. If one of them erupts and goes after the other, you have more work to do.


After walking a while, you can put them in a sit (while sill controlling their access to each other), and see how they feel…has anything changed due to the lack of movement and their ability to focus solely on each other? If you see any tension, mad dogging, or other nasty intentions, I would correct that immediately…nothing extreme, but enough to redirect their attention off of the other dog and back to you. Then back to walking.


The longer you walk, the more opportunity the dogs have to feel more comfortable with each other. Personally, when new dogs come into The Good Dog, I usually will walk them with my pack for a minimum of an hour. This will give me an opportunity to see how everyone feels about each other in a number of situations and with a number of distractions or triggers.


This is the first step I utilize when introducing new dogs, and it has worked extremely well for me – but this is only the first step. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to remind you again that THE most important component of successfully introducing new dogs on the walk, is that you take your time, move slow, and control EVERYTHING – every moment, every action, and you do it with a no-nonsense, assertive state of mind. This approach to the walk is why in all the years I’ve been doing this (and sometimes I have 10, 12 14 dogs all together), I’ve only had one problem on a walk…ever.


Next time we’ll talk about safely introducing new dogs to your pack in the house.


If you have any questions, please hit me up in the comments section! Thanks!


By Sean O’Shea

Hey all, last weekend I had the great pleasure to attend Chad Mackin’s Pack to Basics workshop in Riverside CA. Chad has pioneered an advanced concept for socializing dogs with varying degrees of behavior problems. Without this program, many of dogs would never be able to be off leash around other dogs, and would never be given the chance to recover their natural social state.

The program uses the dog’s naturally strong social drive to reduce stress and fear, and to build confidence. It’s a breathtaking thing to behold…watching dogs with issues almost instantly begin to adapt and change their behavior and their choices. It’s definitely an advanced program, and not for the faint of heart. Any time you have strong breeds off leash, that have issues, the stakes are fairly high. But the reality is, you have to be able to push boundaries, and walk the tightrope a bit to give dogs a chance to improve their behavior issues.

The program was modified by Chad after studying with Dick Russell, who pioneered the large field socialization concept of dog rehabilitation. Dick would use a rather large piece of land (5 acres I think), and had a very specific set of rules and protocol for the humans to follow. And from everything I’ve heard, he was very successful with his approach, as well as an amazing dog trainer in general.

Chad sought to find a way to modify the basic approach for smaller areas both indoors and out – which folks  thought could never work – but work it did! Now Chad travels the country putting on Pack to Basics workshops to teach both dog trainers and dog owners alike, how to better understand, and better identify aggression, as well as read their dog in general. It’s a two day workshop that will change the way you view your dog, and change the way you interact with him as well. The workshop covers both the academics as well as the hands on.

Anyone interested in furthering their knowledge, and becoming either a better, more knowledgeable trainer or owner should definitely sign up and experience this amazing workshop! This is some seriously cutting edge stuff!

PS, I’m working to get Chad out here to LA for one of these babies in July! So anyone interested, let me know!

Here’s Chad’s info:http:


And here’s the link to the new documentary about the legendary Dick Russell and his work:

By Los Angeles Dog Trainer Sean O’Shea,

Ok, so continuing where we left off from the last post, we were talking about how dogs on the walk are keenly aware of whether another dog is under human control, and how that perception either creates relaxation and comfort, or stress/nervousness/challenge.

So now, lets move this concept indoors, with a multi-dog household. Once again, the primary concern a dog has is, who is in control of their environment, and the dogs in it – am I safe, or do I need to advocate for myself?

This aspect of the human/dog relationship not being totally clear and rock solid, is what causes most dog fights in my clients home. When dogs see that no one is setting firm boundaries, or correcting inappropriate behavior, they are going to take matters into their own hands, and insure that the situation is “handled”. And you’re usually not going to like the way it is “handled”.

When dogs see other dogs in the home behaving in an anxious, pushy, dominant, possessive fashion, or simply acting nutty and hyper, they are going to take matters into their own hands. Why? It all depends on the other dogs in the scenario, and their personalities, issues, triggers etc.

I often hear about dogs from rescues or from the shelter, being introduced to a new home with other dogs by just letting them go and watching them feel things out on their own. Just saying that gives me the heebie-jeebies! I cannot stress enough what a recipe for disaster this is. You can take a perfectly viable situation, where if the right measures were taken, and the right amount of time given, a fantastic situation could be created, and instead, absolutely ruin the chances of ever having these dogs safely co-exist.

Here’s my method for introducing new dogs to my home that might have some issues: The first step is to take everyone on a nice long walk together. This way, the dogs can get used to each other’s scent and presence in a totally non-challenging, non-confrontational fashion. Watch them closely, they will give you all kinds of information about how they’re feeling about each other. And don’t feel the need to walk them side by side until you are seeing a massively relaxed conversation between them…and even then…take your time, move slowly, and be patient (this may be several walks down the road). If there is tension, you are going to have to move even slower and more cautiously.

Next, all dogs should be on leash in the house…the last thing you want one of you’re dogs seeing is a strange dog prancing about his home in a disrespectful or hyper fashion. You should immediately begin teaching the new dog a “place” command…you need to be able to have your dogs learn to exist around each other, and the “place” command is the best way for your original dog(s) to feel comfortable about the  new dog’s presence. Use this command A LOT!! All your dogs should be in a heavily structured regimen – just hanging out quietly around each other. If you’re consistent with this, you will slowly see all the dogs begin to relax around each other. The trick is to insure that all the dogs KNOW that you are in charge, and that no one but you is to be correcting, and that no one is acting the fool.

The new dog should absolutely be crated  when you leave the dogs alone…DO NOT open up the possibility for a fight simply because they seem ok at first.

As you continue the process, you will start to get a feel for the comfort level. Watch for negative eye contact, tension, avoidance (looking away when the other dog is close), growling, or a sense of unease. If things start to feel relaxed, you can then take some more steps…just move slowly and cautiously…walk them next to each other, “place” them closely (are they looking comfortable?), are both dogs wanting to engage in play, or is one growling and maddogging the other?

The trick is slow and steady. I never have fights at my place, even with known fighting dogs, because I always move slowly, and take my sweet time (and all dogs know unequivocally that I am running the show). If you’re paying close attention, the dogs will let you know when they’re ready for the next step. The biggest mistake (which sometimes can have terrible consequences), is simply moving too fast and not controlling the environment.

Remember, all your dog wants to know is, that you’re in total control, of yourself, the new dog, and the other dog(s) in your pack. This combined with good rules and structure create the opportunity for a harmonious integration. Take your time and you’ll be surprised how little friction/problems you’ll see.

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By Sean O’Shea

Hey all, I’d like to talk about something that doesn’t get much attention, but that I think is super important when walking our dogs. And what is this important doggy insight?

Dogs are acutely aware when other dogs are under human control…or not. 

What do I mean by this? Well, in almost every situation when dealing with problems on the walk, there are two primary things a dog wants to know:

1) Is my owner in charge and in control?

2) Are the other owners in the area in charge and in control of their dogs?

If you’re walking your nervous dog down the street, what does he think when he sees another dog pulling its owner, lunging, barking, and carrying on? He sees a direct threat. Your dog is keenly aware that the aforementioned dog is NOT under control, that its human is not running the show, and that at any moment it could close the distance and inflict harm on him. This is why nervous dogs freak out when other dogs are misbehaving or acting up – they can tell that no one is truly in charge, and when no one is truly in charge, everyone is in danger.

Now what if you have a very confident, assertive dog and he sees this same dog misbehaving and carrying on? He sees a dog that is once again NOT under control, but instead of being frightened, he feels challenged and disrespected, and feels the need to put the dog in check.

The nervous dog feels threatened by the lack of control, and the confident, assertive dog feels challenged. Either scenario, the result is a negative reaction.

Of course, the opposite end of this is YOUR dog’s behavior, and what other dogs see in your dog. If YOUR dog is the one misbehaving and sending out nervous, fearful, anxious, dominant, assertive ju-ju to the other dogs in the neighborhood, and if you’re not being the leader your dog needs, you have to expect the other dogs to take exception with this behavior and react accordingly.

We are all responsible for keeping harmony in our doggy community! We can’t blame others in the neighborhood if we aren’t on top of our own game.

Remember, leadership creates comfort and relaxation, whereas the lack of it creates anxiety and stress.

In the next post, I’ll explore further how this impacts dog behavior in multiple-dog situations, both indoors and outdoors…


By Sean O’Shea,

Socialization! In the dog world we hear this over and over…socialize, socialize, socialize. And don’t get me wrong, having early positive experiences with other dogs, people and environments is a big part of creating a stable dog.

But the problem I see is this: So many owners/trainers lately seem to be focused on some magical process that will supposedly transpire when dogs (most of whom are older and have behavior issues) are forced to spend time/engage with other dogs or people in a haphazard, unstructured, and leadership free fashion. Which is simply an uninformed, and clumsy attempt to create positive associations and “teach” them to “like” each other just by being around each other – and that hopefully they’ll figure out on their own.

I see it all the time…’I’m bringing my dog who has some issues to Petco, the dog park, or walking him up to my neighbor’s barking, lunging dog to get him “socialiized”‘. Yowza! Attempting to “socialize” an unstable dog is the perfect recipe for disaster. Somehow this myth, that just being around dogs or people will make everything great, has been propagated and sold to the dog public. I’d like to make a bold suggestion here: Stop worrying about socialization! At least for the time being.

Socialization (for a dog who is exhibiting issues) should always and only be done after a proper relationship with you, the owner has been established…and NEVER before. Bringing  an unstable dog, who has no leadership, and no sense of boundaries or what is expected/allowed, into a situation where he is triggered, is setting the table for a serious incident.

Here’s the secret to starting the process of sorting out behavior problems towards people or dogs (or anything else for that matter): Create a fantastic, balanced relationship with your dog, through structured exercise, rules, consequences for inappropriate behavior, and affection at appropriate times (when the dog is relaxed, mellow, behaving in a stable fashion). Then, when your dog is respectful, relaxed, and will defer to you in sticky situations, you can start slowly bringing your dog around things they have problems with. And I do mean slowly…do not walk up to the nearest dog or unleash him at the dog park…slowly walk him closer to the triggers, and earn his trust and respect…he will show you exactly how far the two of you have come by how reacts as you close the distance in these situations.

Once you have convinced your dog that you are actually his pack leader (and I mean 100% convinced!), you are then able to change your dog’s perception/feelings regarding issues/triggers/whatever…he will, rather than act out on his own, defer to your requests…but this takes time, lots of practice, commitment, and work.

So, remember, lead first, then socialize.

Next post, we’ll go deeper into the mental programming of our dogs, and how this concept of pack structure/leadership is at the heart of their DNA…and therefor at the heart of your relationship, and your ability to train or rehabilitate your dog.

Visit our website here to learn more about Sean.


The Good Dog Training and Rehabilitation want you to know about the following:

I think it’s time we give our dogs a bit more credit. There’s a giant difference between having some information/understanding some concepts, and mastery. We seem to understand this intuitively when it pertains to humans, but somehow think the rules change when we’re dealing with k9’s – oh if only that were true – dog training would be a cinch.


So what exactly am I getting at here? Ok, lets imagine you’ve decided to learn how to rollerblade. You’ve got your blades, and you have your friend who’s pretty good who’s going to help you along. You start off super shaky and super uncoordinated, but after an hour or so, you’ve got a bit of a handle on it. Fast forward to later that week, you’ve been practicing diligently, and (in your mind) you’re really starting to make some magic happen on the blades. But here’s the thing, yes, you are technically rollerblading – you are standing up, you are moving forward, and you only swing your arms around in a life saving gyration to regain balance every 100 yards or so…but just because you are technically rollerblading…yes, you are doing the act…this doesn’t change the fact that to every person who sees you careening down the street, that it’s obvious that you are a beginner, a novice, a newbie.


And just how exactly does this have anything to do with dog training? Well, like I said earlier, I think it’s time we give our dogs more credit. Just like the person witnessing your attempt to master (or just do) rollerblading clearly understands that at this point in time you aren’t very good at what you’re doing (even though you are technically doing it). Our dogs sense the same thing when we are attempting to be pack leaders, when we engage in training, or are working to fix behavior problems…it’s painfully obvious to our dogs that we are a long way from mastery…that we are in fact often flailing about. And here’s the deal, it’s the mastery of all the little things: timing, reading your dog’s body language, using the appropriate intensity for corrections, keeping yourself relaxed and staying absolutely cool under fire, not tensing up on the leash, having multiple strategies for dealing with a situation (and many other components), that create and transmit a sense of certainty and confidence to your dog. That’s all your dog wants to know: are you certain? Can you convince me that you know what you’re doing, so that it makes sense to my DNA to follow you?


The biggest thing that good dog trainers bring to the table is confidence and certainty, born out of experience, and lots and lots of practice. Dogs immediately sense when someone is experienced, confident, certain…masterful…and when they are not…and they respond accordingly, without exception.


So the point of all this is to remember, like any skill in life that is valuable or worthwhile, it usually takes lots and lots of time to move from bungling, to proficient, to good, and if your truly dedicated, finally to masterful. And no one knows better your degree of skill than your dog. So if you’re struggling with basic training, advanced training, mild to severe behavior problems, remember, it’s not your dog that is the problem…and I know this is a tough one to swallow, but it’s you…it’s you and your ability or lack of that determines your dog’s progress. How good your dog becomes is a simple reflection of your abilities as pack leader, authority figure, dog trainer, and behavior modification expert. Your dog will simply be as good as you are…as you get better, your dog will get better.


So instead of getting frustrated with yourself, or your dog, relax, and remember it’s a process, a journey, it’s gonna take time. It’s not about overnight success, it’s about small continuous victories and steps that are headed in the right direction. This is the journey of earning your dog’s respect.  And if you hold mastery as your goal, you should at least hit pretty damn good, and for most dogs that will be more than enough.


Hey all, I want to talk about a simple concept/formula I share with my clients who are working on fixing their dog’s behavior problems. Now, it’s not complicated, and it certainly isn’t rocket science, but when you truly wrap your head around it, and master this simple formula, you will dramatically improve your ability to affect and change unwanted behavior in your dog.

Ok, you ready?

Here she is: Address the smallest infraction, the split second it begins.

Too simple, too easy, right?


Mastering this simple concept, by becoming adept at seeing the FIRST sign of a behavioral shift, and getting your timing/reaction so solid, and so quick that you are on top of it at this first sign, is a skill that all great dog trainers have in their tool box (and what usually allows them to create the appearance of magical abilities – Cesar is someone who is a master of this). You can have it as well – but it takes dedication and consistent work.

The beauty of this simple formula is, if you consistently catch the problem at it’s smallest or its least intensity, and you’re able to prevent its escalation, you will likely never see the problem in its full bloom.

And that my friends, is indeed a good thing!

Feel free to share your thoughts below!