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Removing a Denuncia from a frightening but non-aggressive dog.

From an earlier article, it would seem a simple thing to remove a Denuncia from a dog that was not aggressive. The problem is some dogs actions can look very frightening to people. The following email will explain.

Hi Alan, I have a four-year-old German shepherd castrated male dog. He is not aggressive; in fact, he is very friendly to everyone and other dogs. He does not even chase cats. Wherever we take him either on or off the lead, he is always calm, responsive to commands and very friendly except when we go for a walk in the countryside.

On such walks, we rarely see anyone, but on those odd occasions, as soon as my dog seen someone, he starts to stalk him or her like a lioness on the hunt. He is oblivious to neither my commands of come nor the clicker. His focus is solely on this person and stalks them until he then suddenly sets off towards them. When he gets near, he stops, his tail is wagging and he is very friendly, but I do accept this does look frightening.

Some months ago, he did this to a woman with her young son and their little dog. The son seeing him charging towards them, he started screaming. He was still screaming even after my dog had stopped and went up towards them wagging his tail. The woman was naturally upset and complained to the police. As a result, I now have a Denuncia against my dog.

Reading your earlier article 156 on “How to remove a Denuncia,” my vet put me in touch with another that could do this. Unfortunately, he would not help until my dog stopped stalking. He sent me to a Spanish dog trainer who together with a colleague, they set up my dog with a long rope so we could stop him when he started to stalk his colleague. This only worked whilst my dog had a rope connected to his collar.

The next thing he tried was a remote controlled electric collar that at first, seemed to be working. Unfortunately, my dog soon realised that the dummy collar he wore when in the country no longer shocks him. As a result, he now ignores me again and so we are back to square one.

Please do you have any ideas on how to correct this problem?

I wrote back that I thought the clicker was a good idea but as he said, his dog once in stalking mode, was too focused and oblivious to any recall commands. The second point was it seemed that the dog trainer had used the Come command whilst using the electric collar. The problem with this is we use this command regularly. This means that in normal circumstances if the dog learns if he becomes a little slow in returning to the COME command, he does not get shocked. As with Pavlov’s law if the dog learns it will not get food when the bell rings, then it will stop salivating.

What they should have done was use a different or obscure command like LEAVE or OMAGA. Using such commands used only in certain circumstances, the dog would associate this with obey or I will receive a lot of pain.

I requested the owner to see if the vet would consent to my attempt to stop this problem. If acceptable, he and his dog should come to the centre, where I would use a shock technique that should stop him playing this game of his.

Whilst I can sympathise with the owner that his dog was not aggressive, the stalking game would be frightening to most people. Again, I know some children will scream whenever they see a dog that is not even being aggressive, but this is not a defence.

Some parents fear that teaching a child to like dogs, one day it may approach the wrong one. Others feel a child showing so much fear only encourages a dog to attack. My own feeling is children should learn to be weary of all dogs until they know it is friendly. Even then, a dog can appear friendly one moment then attack the next.

Eventually, having gained the vet’s approval, the owner came with his dog to the centre. After talking to the owner, I went to the far end of my field to wait.

When I was ready, I telephoned the owner to take his dog out of the car and walk through my garden into the obedience field. Once I could see them, I came from around the corner as if I was simply walking in the countryside. I did not look directly at the dog but as soon as it saw me, it started to stalk. I kept walking and even though I knew the dog would stop short of me wagging its tail, it still looked quite scary.

The dog soon set off on its charge towards me. I was waiting for it to reach a point just before it would stop of its own accord. Prior to this spot, I raised my hand to the owner to shout LEAVE as loud as he could and keep repeating this until his dog returned to him for lots of praise.

When it ignored his commands, I then suddenly turned and ran towards the dog shouting and firing both my 9 mm and 6 mm starting pistols into the air. Both the noise and my running towards it had the desired effect. A dog’s normal rule of survival is anything coming towards it, back away. Anything running away then it should chase it.

I kept chasing after the dog whilst I reloaded the 9 mm. I did this to see if when I turned to run away from the dog, would it then chase me again; but it did not. The dog should now associate the order to LEAVE with this frightening experience. The dog should remember this for the rest of its life and not become desensitised to the owner’s normal use of the COME command.

Last week I received the following email.

Hi Alan, The vet was still a little reluctant to accept your report and wanted to test him himself. We met in the country where he acted like a stranger that my dog would normally stalk, but he did not. The funny thing was as soon as my dog saw him in the distance he stopped looking at him. I remember you saying that when dogs do not like something, they will not look at it as if it does not exist. He still asked me to see the other trainer, as he wanted to be certain. After three further successful tests, he had to admit that my dog had stopped stalking. On the last occasion, he said he would write his report and submit it. I have now heard that the vet is seeking to have the Denuncia removed. Thank you for all your help.

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