When Lucky charges another dog, it’s typically a result of fear or lack of socialization. Lucky either wants to use attack as a form of defense because other dogs scare him, or he simply has no way of containing his excitement because other dogs are a novelty. Either way, this behavior must stop. It’s not healthy for Lucky to get worked up every time he sees another dog, and charging can also prompt an aggressive response from the recipient. Fortunately, you can correct Lucky’s charging habit using kind, positive corrective methods.
Figure out the cause
Leash Lucky and take him for a walk. It’s essential that you’re able to restrain Lucky. If your friends have passive, well-socialized dogs, ask them to help by walking their dog down the street at the same time. If this isn’t an option, take Lucky somewhere you know he’ll spot another dog, such as a dog park.
Walk Lucky toward the other dogs and monitor his body language and behavior. For example, if he becomes tense and agitated, signified by growling and a stiff and out-pointed tail, before charging, it’s probable he's charging out of fear. If he is relaxed, with a wagging tail, it’s most likely he’s incapable of controlling his excitement.
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Make a mental note of the triggers that cause charging and Lucky’s tolerance threshold. For example, does he charge as soon as sees another dog or is it only when the dog looks at him? To determine his tolerance threshold, note the maximum proximity to another dog Lucky can have before he tries to charge. For some dogs, they won’t charge until the dog is close by, others charge on sight.
Neutralize the Trigger and Correct the Behavior
Take Lucky for a long walk in a place where he’s unlikely to encounter other dogs. Wear him out a little so he isn’t a bundle of energy when you’re trying to train him.
Leash him if you haven’t already and prepare to expose him to another dog. Again, if you have a cooperative friend, use him; if not, take Lucky to the dog park.
Begin praising Lucky before he sees the other dog. This is positive reinforcement. By praising him right away, you can take away the praise as soon as he starts to charge. This helps Lucky learn that positive stimuli are removed when he charges.
Monitor Lucky and use what you learned about his tolerance threshold and body language to anticipate when he’s likely to try to charge.
Cease all praise the second he tries to charge. Use the leash to restrain him, then calmly walk away from the dog. Ignore Lucky for five minutes and give him a time-out. With sufficient repetition, he’ll learn that charging other dogs has a negative consequence, while remaining passive has a positive consequence.
Repeat the exercise daily, gradually increasing the proximity Lucky has to other dogs. Eventually, he’ll be desensitized to their presence and will learn that charging them results in praise being withdrawn.
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Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.