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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19667
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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Just rescued a pitbull a few months ago. Was not socialized

Customer Question

Just rescued a pitbull a few months ago. Was not socialized with dogs and pulls and lunges on the leash when passing one. My neighbor was walking his dog off a leash and had him come over my dog bit him. I'm very upset about this. Any thoughts ?? Is it fear based , protective ?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

Hi JaCustomer,

My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I do have an appointment in about 15 minutes so to devote enough attention to your answer I'll wait until that is done to respond. I hope you can be patient.

Were you on your own property or on the neighbors property?

Have you done any obedience work with him yet?

When walking does he pull on the leash a lot?

Now the other person's dog off the leash?

What breed was the other dog?

How is he with other people?

Is he neutered?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
We were both not on our property both were walking w the dogs on the sidewalk. My female dog is spayed. I had one session with a trainer using a choke collar I wasn't so open to using the collar. My dog is great with other people. She pulls a lot on walks when seeing a other dogs. The other dog was a male boxer. Very well trained off leash the owner commanded him to come up to her (was trying to help socialize her) this is very upsetting
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The owner of the other dog said it was his fault for bringing him over bc I did say please don't she's not good with other dogs. The boxer walked right up to her non aggressively but she attacked
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

It does sound like it could be fear based, but I'll be thinking of your situation while I have my appointment and think of what we can do to correct the situation.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
He left with a bloody ear that will definitely need to be stitched. She's so well behaved in the home and welcoming of all people
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Was it also a bad approach that she was on a leash and the other dog wasn't ? Maybe more of a threat
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Also what are your thoughts on the choke collars. Not the ones w prongs. I'm not a fan but maybe it's a safer option. Right now I have her in a harness type leash and she pulls
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

Hi. The client was going to euthanize the dog if I could not show an improvement in his aggression so it took me a little longer than I thought.

For your situation, I'm sure we can help. The first thing that should be done is to rule out a medical cause for the sudden aggression. You can read about these here:

If there is no medical cause for the aggression, then it is strictly behavioral. Dogs are aggressive toward other dogs for a variety of reasons. It might be that they are fearful of other dogs and thus are aggressive before the other dog can be. In other cases, a dog is aggressive in order to dominate the other dogs and be the alpha member of the pack. Other causes could be that the dog feels they are the alpha member of the pack and as the alpha member they must protect the pack (you) from threats (other dogs). In this case, I think fear is a likely cause for the attack. Pit bulls were bred for dog fighting in many places so the dog on dog aggression was encouraged in the breed. This sometimes occurs even in dogs that have not been bred from dog aggressive parents. In addition, if she was ever attacked by another dog, she would be more likely to take the offensive.


In addition, owners sometimes make the situation even worse by tensing up and worrying about what will happen. The dog senses the owner worry and feels that she is justified in his aggressive stance because you are obviously worried about the dog. They don't know you are worried about them attacking, they just feel that you are worried and assume it is the other dog.


For a dog like this, total control is necessary. This means not only physical control but on a mental level, you must be the boss. To accomplish this, you may want to have the dog wear a basket muzzle anytime she is not in your own house or yard. This will not only prevent bites but also allow you to feel more at ease when walking her.


Many dominant dogs are described as well behaved until you try to get them to do something they do not want to do, and then they reprimand you either with a growl or bite if you don't heed the growl. Things like taking away something they want, making them move when they don't want to, waking them up, etc can cause them to reprimand (bite) you. She hasn't done this but you should watch to be sure this doesn't start.

Do not allow her on the furniture. Dogs that are allowed on furniture (even if put on the furniture) tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level, they mentally feel elevated as well in the pack order and thus are the boss. Keeping them on the floor can help lower them mentally back to a submissive position in the pack. So the first thing is to not allow her higher that the humans or even on the same level. In addition, humans shouldn't be on the floor with her either. A small short stool is enough to keep them higher than the dog when petting the dog. Attach a leash and use it to remove her from the furniture. Give a correction in the form of a quick tug and firm "NO" when she attempts to get on and a treat when she starts not trying to get on the furniture. Thus you are providing negative reinforcement for the getting on the furniture and positive reinforcement for the desired behavior (not attempting to get on the furniture).


You will need to have her obedience trained. If you can, I would do group classes (with the muzzle if necessary) and let the trainer know of the problem your dog has. It might take you a few months of basic training before she is ready for group class. . Before you can get into classes, I'm going to include a site that is very helpful for teaching your dog obedience yourself. Classes help you finish the training around other dogs. Be sure and click on the link to the left on obedience. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.


Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.

You will also want to keep a leash on her at all times initially to grab if she should disobey. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your dog does with training. Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. Give this a try and see how it works for you.

It will be helpful if you can find someone with a dog to help you once you have your dog listening to commands consistently. Perhaps your neighbor. What you will do is have your dog on the leash. You will have your helper off in the distance. Your helper will gradually move their dog a bit closer to you preferably walking past your position in the distance. As long as your dog ignores them, you can give your dog praise and a treat. The second you see her fixate on the other dog or show any other sign of aggression (hair standing up, etc.) give your dog a correction by giving a short tug and a firm low toned "NO". It shouldn't take your dog long to realize you will not tolerate the aggression and that if she ignores the other dog, she gets treats. Once this happens you can repeat the training moving the other dog closer until she is no longer trying to lunge at other dogs. You will need to practice this when you and your dog are walking as well.

Bat training may help as well.


Since I wasn't there to observe the two dogs, I can't say who was the aggressor. Dogs say a lot with their bodies, so you need to learn body language to determine if an approaching dog really is friendly or if they are transmitting dominance or aggression with their body language.


I do believe in using a chain collar but not in strangling a dog. I use it to give a short tug that they can feel if they pull. They now make a front clip harness that is pretty effective since if a dog lunges or pulls, it turns their head back around toward the owner so the dog learns not to pull as a result.


In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques on the previous website, you may have to consult a professional behaviorist. You can usually find a behaviorist by asking your Vet for a recommendation or you may be able to find one using the following site.

I hope this information is helpful to you. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have . If you do find this helpful, please take this opportunity to rate my answer positively so I am compensated for my time.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Can you reccomend a choke collar that I can buy ?
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

This is the kind I like the best.

I also don't feel prong collars are such a bad thing if used properly. With both collars you do not keep the collar tight on the dog? You don't jerk it so hard as to do any damage. The prongs are not sharp at all and with blunt ends they do not puncture the skin and simulate another dog's teeth sort of. It makes it like a reprimand. Most dogs don't pull with one on but they can not be used as a full time collar and should only be used for training purposes.

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.
Hi Grace,
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Jane Lefler
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

Hi again,

Just writing to see how things are going. I'm hoping my answers were helpful. If they were, please let me know. Feedback is important.

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