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Dog Aggression Workshop: July 31-August 1

Canine Aggression Cases: Why Defensive Handling and Training Skills Should Be Your Best Friends

"Leash Lock, Control Position, Back-Tie, Leash Quick Control – these are four defensive leash handling techniques that I had to use on an early morning walk with one of my fearful dogs" recalls 
Joann Rechtine from The Loose Leash Academy.

"When you have to employ these techniques, it is typically because you have run into a potentially dangerous situation for you and your dog. That morning, we ran into an off-leash dog who is fearful too. 

Being able to successfully execute the defensive handling techniques that I learned at an Aggression in Dogs: Defensive Handling and Training with Michael Shikashio and Trish McMillan workshop allowed us to keep our distance and stay safe.

Let's set the stage, it is early morning, and Elke, the fearful GSD, and I are returning home from a walk. Elke is on-leash and is finishing up her business in the woods near a neighbour's house. 

I hear the noise of a trash can being wheeled out to the street by this neighbour and have an "uh oh" moment because there is a good chance that there is an unleashed fearful dog coming out to the street too. 

Sure enough, I see the dog trot across the road to the grass. Of course, Elke finished up her business at this exact time, and I needed to react quickly. I got control of the leash to get her in closer, found a tree that we could use for a back tie, did the back tie, put on a leash lock, and got into control position. 

Bada Bing, Bada Boom, it all was done in seconds, and my first thought was, "Holy S*@*, this stuff really does work!"

If you have not taken a course in Defensive Handling, you are probably wondering what Leash Lock, Control Position, Back-Tie, and Quick Release mean? They are leash techniques that help handlers (and pet parents) stay safe when working with fearful or aggressive dogs.

Michael Shikashio
(CDBC) and Trish McMillan (MSc, CPDT-KA, ACCBC, CDBC) have spent the last few years going around the world teaching people like me about safety, defensive handling, and the behaviour modification techniques necessary to keep all involved safe. 

They are experts in the field of aggression, animal behaviour, and rehabilitation. Both saw a need for education as they encountered many situations in the dog training and shelter world where people and dogs were getting hurt. 

There was a lack of knowledge on the dog handler's part about what to watch for with so-called aggressive dogs and how to manage training and handling sessions safely.

There are many things to be considered when one is thinking about working with an aggressive dog:

✔️ Do you understand canine body language? 
✔️ Is there a safe place to do an assessment, and do you have the proper equipment? 
✔️ Can you get the dog to/from a kennel safely? 
✔️ Do you know how to break up a dog fight? 
✔️ Do you have the proper leash handling skills? The list goes on and on.

I am lucky enough to be the organiser for these workshops and have heard the insights from Mike and Trish at least a dozen times. 

They took a trainer (me) who only dealt with fluffy puppies and is a Separation Anxiety Trainer and turned her into someone who is now proficient with the leash and now even helps instruct the breakout sessions at the workshops. 

It did not happen overnight, and I was resistant to everything for a long while. I scoffed a bit and thought to myself, "I don't take aggression cases, and I am never going to use this stuff." Plus, I am super uncoordinated, and learning the techniques was hard for me. Thankfully, Trish was incredibly patient with my fumbling and went over things as many times as needed to finally get it right.

How did I get involved with organising workshops about material that was way out of my comfort zone?

I was spurred to learn more about working with aggressive dogs by a specific incident. Before I studied to become a dog trainer, I went to a shelter to volunteer to walk dogs. At the initial visit, I was told to go into the kennel area and ask a volunteer who I could take for a walk. As an aside, this was my first time EVER in a shelter. 

I did as I was instructed and leashed up a dog for a walk. As we were leaving the kennel area, a dog in a run lunged at the dog I was walking, and "my" dog lunged back. Another volunteer tried to intervene, and she was bitten by the dog that I was walking. It was traumatic for all, but mainly for the dog I was walking as he now had a bite history. All of this could have been prevented if there had been proper training and education provided.

If you have been asked to work with a dog that has been labelled aggressive, you may feel anxious and a bit fearful. Most of us are not adequately prepared to deal with the issues that this type of dog may have, nor do we have the skill set needed to ensure that we (people working with dogs), the owners, and the dog stay safe.

This two-day workshop is so much more than just hands-on practice of these essential techniques, though. The topics discussed include:
  • canine body language
  • how to work an aggression case
  • preventing dog bites
  • modifying aggressive behaviour
  • assessing shelter dogs
  • introducing dogs and monitoring play
  • breaking up dog fights safely, and so much more. 

The information you'll learn is practical, and I bet, like me, you'll put some of it to work for you immediately.

This workshop is for anyone who works with dogs at any level: trainers, behaviour consultants, dog day care workers, veterinarians and staff, shelter workers, administrative contracting officers, owners of "complicated" dogs, or anyone interested in learning more about dog aggression and how to stay safe. It is a must if you plan to take on or already work aggression cases.

My ability to assess a dog situation is much keener, and I feel much more confident in my leash handling skills. As a result, even though I do not take on aggression cases, I am much more comfortable walking my own reactive dogs.

The fact that I could safely navigate the unexpected situation with an off-leash dog is a testament to the effectiveness of this workshop. I now use the Leash Lock and Control Position on a daily basis and have the other techniques in my toolbox at the ready. To say that I am a convert would be putting it mildly. If you want to be a convert too, join us for this online workshop.

You get to learn all of the same information from the comfort of your home, next to your dog(s)! Trish and Mike will be presenting all of the same material they would as at an in-person workshop, including the leash and defensive handling skills."

Attendance will remain limited to ensure all participants have ample opportunities to ask questions.

What: Aggression in Dogs - Defensive Handling and Training with Michael Shikashio and Trish McMillan

When: July 31 - 1 August 2021, live stream in Australia (AEST). It will also be recorded. 
For more information, click here or send an email to

written by Joann Rechtine for Australian Dog Lover (May 2021)

About the writer 

Joann Rechtine
 has been working with dogs professionally for nearly twenty years and specialises in educational event and seminar planning. 

In addition, Joann is a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT), an experienced dog trainer who has studied extensively and been certified by Malena DeMartini, the world's leading separation anxiety training expert. Joann works exclusively with dogs who experience separation anxiety or isolation distress issues and uses humane, science-based protocols that are formulated specifically for your dog's needs. 

She is also a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and a Fear Free™ Certified Trainer

Joann received her initial formal education in dog training from the renowned Turid Rugaas International Dog Training Program; she's one of twelve US-based dog trainers who has received an International Certification in Dog Training.

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Dangerous Dogs - A Human Problem


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