Ask the Dogcharmer: Bri

You don’t want an attack dog.

Courtesy Erin Clarke.

Dear Tom,

I have an 18-month-old Briard who has become increasingly aggressive. I just relocated to the Island. On the eve of my move, he tried to attack a friend’s dog. I jumped in and was bitten. Subsequently, he’s attacked two people on the Island, but missed both times.

He is my best friend, and his other side is sweet, goofy, and unbelievably loving. What do I do? I feel like a first-time dog owner with no solutions. I don’t want to get kicked off the Island, and I need to make friends. Help!




Dear Erin,

More often than not, when I get a call to help mitigate a dog’s belligerence, it’s usually dog-to-dog aggression, or dog-to-people, not both. Unfortunately, when it comes to “works and plays well with others,””Bri” gets an NI (needs improvement) on two- and four-leggeds. Depending on who you read and how you define, there are several categories of aggression, and the bite you sustained is a classic example of “displacement,” or redirected aggression. A dog in the throes of a fight will bite anything that touches him, so the dog that would never dream of biting its owner may indeed chomp on any hand that enters the fray. Considering the size of a Briard, two things need to happen immediately! First, to keep everyone, two- and four-leggeds, safe, Bri needs to get acclimated to a basket muzzle.

Second, he needs to be physically controlled without the use of pain, so that as we start introducing him to new people who offer him special treats, these meetings are not associated with pain. This will entail getting him accustomed to a gentle leader (which can be tricky with a muzzle) or an “easy walk harness.” Start by showing Bri a basket muzzle with a piece of meat in it, so that he sticks his snout into it to get the meat. Do this multiple times a day with meat, cheese, peanut butter, whatever, until he comes running to shove his face into the muzzle whenever he sees it. When you’re at that point it gets buckled on for an outdoor walk with you giving him special treats through the muzzle as long as he’s not pawing at it to get it off his face.

This is where I would strongly suggest that you get the help of a pro to teach Bri basic manners, and teach you how to extract his cooperation so that he becomes socially acceptable. Get the muzzle, get to work, and keep the faith. I’ve seen unsocialized dogs like this become manageable countless times.


Good luck,

The Dogcharmer


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