I own a german shepherd. Rather, a very handsome one.
Now, german shepherds are very intelligent but with inadequate training, increasing aggression, lesser exercise and a weak alpha, you will soon end up dealing with an uncontrollable pain in the ass dog.
Sadly, my dog had become that. And I noticed pretty late, but when I did, I knew he had to change. Before that, I had to change.
You see, teaching an aggressive dog, taming him down, calming him down is 80% change in your behaviour and 20% work on the dog. Because, most of the times, my dog was reflecting my emotional state of mind.
We stepped out of the house. He pulled a bit. I got frustrated. I was even scared, a 40kg healthy dog is rather difficult to handle by an obese girl who lacks real body strength.
Letting go of my fear
First thing I did was get a muzzle. It changed my life. The problem behind my fear was that an aggressive dog bites. I couldn’t have my dog walking around biting people. Could I?
So, I got a muzzle, put it on tightly every time I took him out. I was sure in my mind that even if he gets loose and attack somebody, the maximum damage he could do was scratch a person. I could handle that. So, bye bye fear.
2. Controlling my emotions
There was fear, reluctance, and frustration. I also felt guilty of having him become like that. There was also tension. Every time a cow or a kid (both are very common sights on the Indian streets) passed, I got really tense.
Frodo hates cows. And kids would definitely run, out of fear or just to tease Frodo. Both made him bark and pull like crazy. Even the neighbours were scared like shit when Frodo was outside and they never made an effort to not let it be visible to the dog (imagine neighbours sprinting, aunties jumping, girls shouting their lungs out at the very sight of the dog).
Now, I still get tensed at times, but I know when to stop. Another thing that helped holding the leash with two hands. In one hand, I have the loop and in the other, the part that puts pressure on the dog’s neck. I used a trick. I would let all my fear and tension be on the former hand. I would hold it tight as if my life depended on it. And the other one was always fine.
So, when the cow or kid passed by, my emotions communicate that it was alright (even when I could have peed in my pants out of fear of losing control of my dog). And the dog just understood. German shepherds are that intelligent, guys. They understand your emotions much better than anybody else and luckily, sometimes, you can manipulate what they understand with the clever cues.
3. Exercising and Discipline
Dogs usually get aggressive on walks because they’re already angry. They’re angry for you don’t give them enough time and don’t walk them enough. A german shepherd needs 4 kilometres of walk every day, or maybe more. With my current stamina, I can’t even walk about 200 meters. So, did it mean my dog had to wait until I built my stamina?
No. I started going for walks way early in the morning. When not a single living soul was awake. I would take him to the ground, let him loose (with the muzzle on, see I tried my best to save humans. I’m a super hero) and make him play. And he played, until he got insanely tired.
That not only made the whole day go like a breeze but also made Frodo better eventually. Three months of doing this and now, I can take Frodo to the ground anytime and he would be fine without leash (still, muzzled), playing, minding his own business while people move around and do their jobs. Earlier, those people would have had a very bad morning because of the dog.
Dog walking itself needs discipline. It needs you to hold the leash in a certain way, and have some ground rules. The usual people who walk their dogs never follow such rules. They don’t even know about them.
But those who have aggressive dogs, they need to pay attention. Watch videos on dog training on YouTube. Start with Caesar Milan’s videos. And search for more videos on walking dogs properly. And you’ll learn everything you need to know.
Those videos taught me how to make my dog walk properly, and nine months later… he not only walks properly but can also jog with me while matching each step of mine. YES! We did that today. Our first time jogging and Frodo was matching every step, never making me uncomfortable or requiring a gentle pull on the leash. He was wonderful.
And that’s our progress in nine months. We still have a long way to go. Frodo still needs to learn to be friendly around people. But we’ll get there. Won’t we?