Safely walk your nervous dog

Safely walking a nervous or aggressive dog

If your dog is showing regular signs of aggression, it is important to understand your dog is not being ‘naughty’ and they do not want to behave this way. The reaction will simply be because your dog does not know how to behave or cope with a situation where they feel fearful and perhaps threatened. This guide is designed to help you begin the journey towards a happier, more confident pet.

We would always recommend seeking professional advice before starting a new retraining routine. As with all behavioural issues, resolving it correctly without compromising trust takes time. Chances are that your dog did not develop the problem overnight so is unlikely to “unlearn” it overnight either. In reality, it is a process of managing the behaviour and ensuring that all interactions are positive and at a level that your dog can cope with until they become more tolerant.

Whilst avoiding the scary situation all together will not resolve the issue; it will not be making it worse either, so it is best to avoid head-on scenarios until you are able to manage your dog’s behaviour effectively and your dog is better equipped to cope.

When starting out we would recommend you take steps to protect your dog, yourself, and others by simply saying “no” to requests to meet your dog, equipping your dog with an “I need space” jacket or lead cover and introducing your dog to a Baskerville Muzzle with plenty of positive reinforcement training at home. You can learn more about how to muzzle train here:

It may also be worth keeping a Pet Corrector at hand on your walks to break up any altercations, injury, or emotional trauma.

If your pet’s aggressive behaviour is predominantly targeting other, intact males, it is worth considering neutering your dog. If there are no distinctions between the catalysts, then it will most likely be due to a territorial issue and needs to be address by a behaviourist.

It’s also important to remember that social skills are acquired, not assumed, or inherited and so, just as you can train a dog to be aggressive (guard dogs, police dogs etc.) you can untrain them. It simply takes time, patience, space, and positive reinforcement.

Expert tips for your walks:

  • Telling off your dog will not help and may make the behaviour worse!
  • Teaching your dog to just be calm when leaving the house can go a long way to help you address other issues that may occur during a walk. If your dog is pulling, barking, or lunging as soon as you leave the house then the chances of them responding well to another dog or strange person are dramatically reduced.
  • Plan your journey. Take notes about what triggers your dog so you can think about how to retrain in a controlled manner and safe environment.
  • Take your time and take breaks. Distance is good, and duration can be short at first. You can, very gradually, get closer and stay longer when your dog starts to feel more comfortable.
  • Keep it positive. Rewarding calm behaviour with high value treats, favourite toys and comforting praise will help your pet associate the scary “thing” with something they enjoy. It’s important not to give the reward when aggression is occurring as this will reinforce that negative behaviour.
  • Regularly rehearse your “sit” and “stay” commands to ensure you have control and can calm your pet

Written by: 

Dr Roger Mugford ~ Animal Psychologist and Company Founder – Company of Animals

Dr Roger is widely acknowledged as being Britain’s leading animal psychologist, with his methodologies used by veterinary surgeons throughout the UK.