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Aggressive towards strangers on walks.

10091 Views 12 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  pinkanml
This is new behavior. When we are on walks and someone passes us, my GSD has literally lunged at strangers passing by, even if they don't approach or even make eye contact with us. Twice now he has ripped these random stranger's jackets. I apologized up and down, and offered to give money to these people to replace their jackets, but luckily they were both dog owners and were understanding.

He doesn't show this type of aggression with strangers that come to our house. He doesn't show this type of aggression to strangers walking around at the dog park. It has only been on leasehd walks. I socialized him very much as a pup and took him on many walks, especially on high traffic walking paths. I think that it may stem from an incident this past summer, when he got attacked by a Golden while we were on a walk (he was about 10 mos. old when this happened). For a couple months after that incident, I did all that I could to keep him socialized with new people and other dogs, so that he wouldn't develop a fear. He also didn't show any new fears for a couple months after that incident. Slowly, the fear/aggression has gotten worse. First it started with the occasional stranger that would come up to us on walks and ask to pet the dog. He would back up behind me and get scared and then bark. So I figured, no more letting strangers approach him until we get that taken care of. Now, anytime someone is walking towards us while we are on a walk, I try to hold him on a very tight leash and get him to sit while someone passes by, but he is a very strong boy and manages to still lunge.

I am very worried right now. I don't want to stop taking him on walks, because that will make him even less socialized with the outside world, but at the same time, I can't have this liability on my hands while we go for a walk. I have a mesh muzzle that we recently got for him, I used that once on a walk, but no strangers came by, so I'm not sure if that will work. He may not be able to bite with that thing on, but he may still lunge at people.

Please help!
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wow I have to opposite. My dog is good on walks but in bad if someone walks up to the house.Maybe you can share what you do when someone comes to your house with me.As for snapping at people on walks I have a pinch on my dog and I keep him right next to me.Kinda like the dog wisperer.If he even looks at a dog or person I correct.He just looks at me now to see if he is allowed.I'm very stern with my corrections.
Great place to train ourselves in these situations is at a great set of dog classes! Prepares ourselves and our dogs for us to be a leader to guide them smoothly thru life!
I currently am in obedience classes with him. He doesn't show aggression towards others in class. But at the same time, we aren't exactly approaching eachother's dogs in the class either.

Matt - I do have my dog on a pinch collar, but it doesn't seem to do anything. He is so strong and quick, that when I try to keep him close to my side when people walk by, he still is able to jump up. I don't really know what to tell you as far as people coming to your house. Maybe have a treat jar close to the front door, and have people give him a treat when they come inside.
I noticed that you said you hold him back with a tight leash. He is probably reading the tension radiating from you through that leash and that triggers the behavior. He figures that you are obviously concerned with the approaching stranger, therefore he is, too. Try to shorten the leash while leaving it slack.

Also, have you tried walking with him on the opposite side of you as the person walking past? Kind of like shielding him? That helped with my girl who had a similar problem in the past, because I could block her with my body if she tried anything.

Naturally, given your experiences, you are going to be nervous when a stranger approaches, but that nervousness is easily picked up by the dog. Try to keep cool and calm and not let it get to you, and look on each approaching person as a positive experience. Tell yourself that it WILL go smoothly.

Also, how did you react when he lunged? Did you correct him for the behavior? Like Matt said, I don't allow my dogs to acknowledge people walking past. I tell them to Leave It if they perk up towards someone and give them a correction (pinch collars) if they ignore the command.

Sorry to ask so many questions, just trying to get a better picture. It doesn't sound like he is an aggressive dog, just very perceptive and probably picking up on your negative vibes towards the approaching strangers.
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I forgot to include TREATS! Have something really tasty to give to your dog the moment he sees a stranger coming. Try to work up to the point of having the stranger give him a treat, just like how you trained him to behave at home.
Diesel is nervous of people coming up and talking to him. He will give a quick bark and back away. Of course I got tense when out with him and it made him much worse.

What I do is take lots of yummy chicken with me and when people are around I make him sit, look at me and he gets chicken. As he is good and ingnored the people for the chicken I put on my happy face and high voice and praise him lots. I am relaxed and he is relaxed. I am now taking him to pet stores and outside supermakets just so that I can work with him and make him realise that strange people = good things.

We go dog training every week and if is fine with everyone there. Once he knows someone he is their best friend he just needs to relax around strangers.

I don't correct him as he is already nervous and I don't feel correction would help. Just redirection.

We are doing very good so far.
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Hey, who is pinkanml and where did they come from? Cause they are BRILLIANT. I agree with all the suggestions and comments. A tight leash usually is communicating stress down to the dog so we less control not more. TREATS for when our dog is doing well rather than corrections for doing wrong work much better (once again, which are more condusive to relieving stress). Your body position in relation to the oncoming strangers (you need to be between your dog and the whatever to show you are in charge and the leader...). is a great article with more hints about this, not an uncommon situation for many of us.
I feel your pain. My dog has gone off on some random people... but I noticed a huge difference when I tried to keep a loose leash, ensuring that I'm in between the dog and the person. I also won't let him walk ahead of me.

I was accosted by some drunk crazy guy a few weeks ago, and I started yanking on the leash. Boom! The dog started going off like a fire cracker!
Thanks, MaggieRoseLee! I've been pretty much a lurker for a long time because there were often good comments made already that I felt I couldn't really add to.

However, the threads asking about Shiloh Shepherds a month or so back and the recent one about daycare kick started my butt into gear and I've finally began to contribute whatever I feel might help. Haven't introduced myself formally because I felt kinda silly, having been lurking for so long.

KJ - that's awesome! Bet the look on that guy's face was priceless! I've "encouraged" some shady people to walk by my house/car a little faster, too, and it's so amusing.

Doc_Brown - please let us know how it goes! It really does sound counterintuitive to loosen up the leash, but it can make a world of difference.
THanks for all of the suggestions so far.

I started doing a tighter leash because he would jump on strangers passing by and scare the living daylights out of them! So I tried to keep him close to me (and on the opposite of me), but apparently this backfired and made it worse.

I am just really scared to do the trial and errors with true strangers walking by (I can't practice with setting up friends to walk down the street, because my dog already knows them!) so I'll just have to bring something REALLLLY yummy on the walk to distract my dog.
It's great you keep him close and on the opposite side, you just want to be aware of how much tension you put on the leash. Also, is he normally allowed several feet of lead, but then "reeled-in" close to you when people approach? That could also do it, besides the increase in tension.

Don't be scared, just have a firm attitude. I see from your post he has clearly acted fearful before when a stranger attempted to pet him, and now is likely lunging out of that fear. However, he MUST learn that despite that fear, he can NOT leap on or try to bite people. You must reinforce that you call the shots, and that he isn't allowed to take charge of a situation simply because he is frightened. Use the treats to help lessen the fear, but I think you should also give him a hard correction whenever he does try to go after someone.

Often, the combo of reward-for-good and correction-for-bad can work pretty fast. GSDs are smart and figure these things out quickly.

Just to clarify, if I pissed anybody off about the correction thing, I only condone strong physical corrections when in very serious situations (such as attempting to bite a clearly neutral/friendly person or animal). If my dog was terrified and reacted this way to ALL strangers, that would not be my approach. In that case, it would be strangers=treats for as long as it takes to make the dog comfortable.

However, if I know he can ignore some people and only does this with certain others, I would work on reinforcing my authority under distractions (in this case, strangers approaching). Meaning, a correction for willful disobedience, despite their excitement/fear/whatever.

It may not necessarily be the best way, but when it may mean life or death for my dog, I would rather err on the side of caution and KNOW that my dog knows better than to cross me in such a situation, whether he/she is nervous or not.

Good luck to you and hope the treats work!
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I didn't mean to jump so fast into the corrections. Let me explain what I think you should try before that:

Leave plenty of distance between you and a regularly used path/sidewalk (enough so that he can't reach if he lunges). Give him a treat as soon as you both see someone coming. Tell him to sit (I like to calmly repeat "stay," every second or two as the person approaches), and keep the treats coming as the person gets closer and walks past. If he does jump/snap, calmly but firmly say NO! (or whatever word you use), restrain him and place him back into a sit or whatever position you put him in before he reacted. Tell him he's a good boy and treat when he's calmly sitting there. Repeat this until he no longer reacts to passerby, then get a few feet closer. Do the same all over again, then ask people to toss treats from a few feet away, then continue walking. Soon, you can work up to having people hand your dog treats, and eventually to pet him.

You really want to stress to him what you expect from him, before you start into the corrections, if you go that route. Adding corrections when he is worked up, scared (i.e. not thinking clearly) can make him confused and worse. I had to use a couple hard corrections on my girl because once she overcame her initial fear of strangers, it became an aggression/protectiveness thing, and she was actually trying to BITE people who came close, not just jump on them.
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