Reactive Dog; or My Close-Call with an Avulsion Injury

My dog, an 8yo Blue Heeler, or Aussie Cattledog, has always taken after other dogs as though to kill them. He only ever bears down upon them and gums their necks, really, but it’s scary for everyone involved.

Because he can take me to ground in a second (I don’t get it–I weigh more), I put the loop of the leash around my wrist completely and then hold the leash with that hand as well. See where the avulsion comes in?

I swear to god he nearly “degloved” me to get to a dog last night. I felt that moment in the balance–was my hand going to go with him? And not me??

So, I think I may have brought up avulsion injuries in some other thread long ago; this, however, is just asking for advice of any kind that will let me keep walking my Silas.

BTW, we have had trainers, taken classes, used treats, used clickers, varied lead lengths, taken Prozac, and… Well, probably more but you get the idea. Anything fresh is welcome.

Thank you.
Even any ideas of when and where to walk him with no other dogs around… I do take him to a huge old old graveyard in the night, but any other ideas?

Shock collar?

Make sure your dog is wearing a collar or harness that will NOT slip off, no matter what. For a hard-to-control dog, I prefer an old-fashioned chain slip collar, but get the smallest one that you can slip over the dog’s head. The chain links should be thick and large.

Loop a sturdy 6 - 8’ leash around your right wrist, preferably leather for easy gripping, take up the slack and hold it in your hand, and grasp the lower part of the leash in your left hand. The dog should walk on your left. Begin walking with a slack leash.

The second the dog lunges towards something, turn around and run in the opposite direction. You outweigh the dog. If you are moving forward and the dog is trying to go the opposite direction, you will win. If you are trying to back up and pull the dog with your arm, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. Turning around is not automatic in the heat of the moment, but I do this with dogs that significantly outweigh me and it still works.

If you want the dog to walk better on the leash and not surge ahead, every time the leash is pulled taut, turn around and walk the opposite direction. You might have to go back and forth a lot at first, but eventually the dog will catch on.

Some people consider this type of collar abusive and if it isn’t used properly, it can be. Avoid thin-linked collars, never tie a dog up with the leash on the “live” ring, and do not let the dog pull ahead gasping and wheezing while you ineffectually tug at the leash. Don’t jerk on the leash so hard that the dog is injured, obviously, but your dog is putting other lives at risk, so although this will still work with a less-harsh collar or harness, I wouldn’t personally want to waste any time in getting the dog under control. Good luck!

I walked my cattle dog on both a Halti and a Gentle Leader, and it worked wonders to stop his charging behaviors (his nemesis was the common deer).

You should NOT be letting him gum other dogs. If he needs to have a soft muzzle on when there’s a chance he’ll run into other dogs, then he needs to have a soft muzzle. I’m shocked that experienced trainers either weren’t able to break him of this behavior or didn’t suggest a muzzle.

ETA: you’ve tried positive reinforcement; have you tried an ultrasonic trainer?

I like the shock collar idea.

Time with…

Be consistent …

Patience …

No anger …

Just me: I try to never use the dogs name in an angry, disciplining way…
He/She knows when you are talking to him/her…


I had a 100 lb male Akita that took after dogs this way, occasionally. Not all dogs, but when he did, if he reached another dog he’d taken a hate to, we were going to have blood, if we were lucky.

We used the method AnaMen suggested to get him heeling like a champ on a leash. One thing to remember on that, before you turn and head the other the direction, ease pressure on the leash, dramatically. It should become Pavlovian. Pressure eases, you change direction. To the point where when you change pressure on the leash the dog should instantly focus on you.

Next, prong collar. I used a heavy weight on the Akita and on my Rottie. I prefer the prong to chain collars because I’ve had dogs that will just choke themselves in chain collars.

How I held the leash - dog on the left. Leash into the left hand. Leash continues behind the back. Leash finishes with loop over the right hand and the right hand gripping the leash. Ok, so this means you’ve got two hands that can grip if the dog lunges, and you can use your body weight with leash behind your back. With the pull distributed that way, I never felt that my hand was in danger.

The best advice I got from a trainer was make sure the dog’s attention is on you. OP if your dog knows obedience, you can ask him for more (heel, sit), when you see a dog. Something to keep your dog’s attention on you. If he has a toy that he’s very focused on, bring it along and show it to him. Use your high, happy voice. Keep his attention. If you can’t, keep your distance, and distribute the pull along the leash (both hands and back, as above).

Don’t ask your dog to do things that make him feel less dominant to a strange dog, such as lie down or roll over.

Shock collars are generally a bad idea for dealing with aggression issues, dogs misinterpret the shock and associate it with the other dog, leading them to really want to hurt the other dog.

A prong collar will offer an immediate remedy and in some dogs it can be used to train them, it’s not a consistent method.

A method that works relatively well on dogs that break early is to use a regular 5 foot leash then to also use a 20 foot at the same time. Depending on your weight/strength you stand on the 20 foot or tie it off. Let the dog pull the short leash out of your hand and they’ll quickly learn after they go ass over tea kettle running from you is a bad idea.

Halti/Gentle Leader collar that, when the dog pulls forward, causes their head to turn to the side instead. And muzzle.

Haltis and Gentle Leaders sound great and I guess they work with some dogs, but others never seem to get used to them, stopping every few minutes to freak out, clawing at the contraption or rubbing their faces on the ground trying to get it off. I also wouldn’t trust them not to come off under duress, which you should take no chance of with a dog that behaves aggressively.

The last time I tried to walk a dog with one of those (at the insistence of her owner) will be the last time I touch one. I don’t know who hated it more, me or her!

Lots of great ideas here!

I use a pinch (prong) collar but maybe I’ll refresh my knowledge of exactly how to use them.

The Haltie type leash didn’t work with my dog. He reacted just as Anamen describes.

I tried usuing the haltie with a longer second leash. Maybe I could try other collars with two leashes.

I’ll give the suggestions a whirl and see if something works out for us. Thanks!

We use the Freedom harness and it has made a world of difference with our dogs.

Paired with a double ended leash (or two leashes, I guess) you have good control of the dog. The loop on the front helps “steer” the dog or pull him around to facing you if needed. The martingale-style tension loop at the shoulder blades provides pressure on their chest and back (instead of around the neck) and eases when they stop pulling. You can also grab them by the back loop if you really need to control them or pull them to safety or whatever.

What have the trainers you have worked with before suggested? Has any of it been effective?

I have two large dogs. Both have lots of training and obedience titles, but yet I have failed to teach them the concept of loose leash walking. Individually they are fine, but I walk them together, and they too can yank me off my feet. I use prong collars. I don’t care that people think they’re bad or mean - my safety is more important than other people’s opinion. I don’t care that they may cause discomfort to my dogs if they pull - wrenching my arm out of the socket causes discomfort to me.

So - Prong collar worn high and snug. I do not trust prong collars completely as I’ve had and seen them come apart, so when I walk my dogs, there is always a connection (a short section of thin rope with a snap) to a sturdy flat collar as well.

Lots of dogs don’t like haltis or head collars at first and will try to rub them off. Just don’t allow it. Cheerful voice, gently tug and keep moving. I also use a connector to a flat collar with this as well, just in case the dog manages to get it off.

E-colllars have their place for training, but just frying your dog every time he does something you don’t like is the wrong approach to this tool. If you choose this method, work with a trainer who understands it and can teach you how to use it effectively.

Halti-type headgear can work - it works on horses, after all. But horses are introduced to halters when they’re very young and wear them all the time, even in the stable. Dogs who wear halters need a longer time to adjust to it and they need to wear it more frequently.

Also, I’d suggest a shorter lead, not a longer one. Again, that’s how halters work on horses. Horses should be lead with the hand near where the halter connects to the lead, not out on the end of the rope. That way you’re controlling the horse’s head. For short dogs, this is more awkward. But especially at the start, I’d suggest keeping the lead just short enough for the dog to put his head down and sniff and you walking near his head at all times, so that you can grab his halter in your hand, if necessary.

Also, it needs to be asked, has he been neutered?

First, if you don’t already have one get a bike. It can be a cheap trash bike, relatively speaking.

Then get the Bike Tow Leash. Hey, don’t run off …I’m dead serious. Go to that website. Watch the videos. Especially the one of the very little girl and the very big Doberman, I think it is. That is the inventors daughter, who at the time weighed about 70 pounds and the dog wait around 90… I’m quoting from memory it’s on the website. But what’s really on the website is the video of the dog trying to pull the little girl off to the left, And failing.

My 65 pound dog, perfect in every way but one, reactivity, quickly learned that:

A: biking with mom is THE MOST FUN THING EVER!
B: it will wear his ass OUT…which automatically leads to better behavior in every way, and
C: Mom is in control. Period. Don’t even bother, dude. You may defeat me completely when I’m on foot holding the leash in my hand, but when we’re biking, you’re putty.

And yes, it is very pricey. But worth twice what it costs… Actually it is priceless because it is ridiculously well-designed and manufactured to achieve the safest possible experience for both dog and rider, to a degree that far exceeds any other bike leash available, some of which are extremely dangerous.

My nickel of very satisfying experience.

And let me re-emphasize the part about wearing him out. A cattle dog, even at 8, is bundles of energy to burn. Unless you are an Olympian you will never give him the kind of exercise on foot that will really tire him out and help him chill. It is also great for his fitness! If you take my advice, and I really hope you do because he will love it, be sensible starting out. He’ll try to go harder and longer than is safe for him starting out, so go easy. Especially on his pads! You have to really build up…but once you do, heaven for everyone.

Well, there’s your problem. Have the dog try those things.

[sub]I’m sorry, I really am, but you already have some great suggestions and that line was just laying there…[/sub]

My Saint Bernard never went for any dogs until an unleashed German Shepard went for him. After that he became aggressive to other dogs and I had to put a soft muzzle on him for a year before he got over it.

I just wanted to mention that because there may be consequences you do not see in your dog gumming others.

Good luck on getting that pup to heel.

How about just getting a pair of thin leather work glove(s) to wear when you walk your dog. That way the leash is wrapped around your glove and not the skin on your hand.