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Defensive Handling

Sue Sternberg




  • don’t make direct eye contact (the dog will read your eye contact as a threat or challenge, and neither is good news)
  • don’t think you need to dominate or show the animal “you’re boss” (this only makes the bossy dogs angry and the fearful dogs defensive – be neutral )
  • don’t go in the cage/run with a dog who still has his food bowl or who is eating
  • don’t put your face near a dog’s face
  • don’t grab or pull a dog by his collar or scruff to move him
  • if a dog gets loose in the kennels, use a leash to catch him, if he’s fence fighting, be extra cautious – noose the dog and slowly pull him away from the other dog (remember – arousal and high levels of excitement can trigger aggression)
  • don’t punish/discipline, or ‘correct’ a dog, not even by ‘popping’ or ‘jerking’ the leash, (you could get ‘corrected’ back – with a bite)
  • try not to use the catchpole on a fearful animal – keep your body language sideways and non-threatening, move slowly and gently, use your lead to keep the dog’s head and muzzle away from you


  • do use a gentle, steady pressure with the lead, no yanking or sudden pulls
  • be big, be neutral (keep your balance, don’t let a dog pull you over)
  • do wear non-slip shoes and comfortable clothes with nothing too loose or jangley, tie your hair back, avoid dangling earrings
  • be prepared, aware, move deliberately and confidently and gently and slowly
  • do let the dog make first contact and come to you, instead of initiating and going to the dog before he may want you or need you or like you
  • love dogs, but respect dogs

Courtesy of

Rondout Valley Kennels, Inc.


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