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I have a 7 year old Maltese named Mack. He has always been very energetic and doesn’t like to obey commands, even ones I taught him many years ago. That didn’t used to be a big problem because Mack’s mainly an indoor dog and we lived in a quiet residential neighborhood where he could go on short walks with little frustration. However, that changed last year when I moved for a new job. My spouse and I now find ourselves in a densely populated city environment. We’re in a condo right in downtown with bustling streets.

Mack is very possessive of us. When he’s on walks he gets very angry seeing other dogs on the street and will pull, lunge, and bark, requiring more restraint than his 6 pound frame would seemingly need. Obviously this is embarrassing to us. We have this tiny, little maniac we can’t control on what would otherwise be a peaceful walk.

As a result, we hired a professional dog trainer. We knew nothing about dog training and hired this person based on a few reviews we saw online and her own self promotion - 30 plus years experience training dogs of all kinds. She had references who would vouch for her.

I’ll fast forward to the end. The training failed, and it’s probably a result of our hesitancy more than anything. This trainer, let’s call her Amy, started out by giving us what she called a “corrective collar.” It was basically this thin piece of nylon that went around Mack’s little neck. If he got out of line on his walk, you gave him a little tug with a command to “heel.” At first this seemed to be working, as even a slight tug on his leash was enough to correct his behavior. The problem was he started to acclimate to the punishment and more and more forceful tugs or “corrections” on his leash were necessary to make him heel. This was especially true when he saw other dogs. If he saw a dog, he would need many very strong corrections to get him under control.

Our time with Amy was approaching the end (roughly 3 weeks), and we were concerned about how he seemed to be regressing. Her solution was to use a pronged collar. In fact, on our last formal training session with her, she insisted on using a pronged collar to demonstrate its effectiveness and that we should invest in one of our own. I let her use it for about 5 minutes, at the end of which another dog approached and a correction to Mack was given, pronged collar in place. Mack, who I love dearly, let out a scream that pierced me to my core. All I wanted to do was get that God forsaken metal contraption off his neck. And I did. We said our goodbyes to Amy and swore we would never use such a device on our beloved canine ever again. And we haven’t. Come to find out and unbeknownst to us, Amy had used a pronged collar on him during solo sessions the first week because he went so haywire around other dogs. I was not pleased to hear that, of course.

Fast forward to today: we have more or less accepted that walking won’t be the most pleasant experience. We use a harness on him now and still give him corrective pulls, which to us seem much more humane than using the nylon corrective collar Amy left us. He listens (for the most part) as long as no other dogs are in view.

Does anyone else have similar experience? Any thoughts? I’ve come to terms with how walking my dog will be - not pleasant. Have any of you accepted the same fate?

As an addendum and to clarify, we initially wanted positive reinforcement to be used in the training. However, Mack was way too distracted by his environment to be interested in treats of any kind. Even his favorite treat meant nothing to him once he was outside in the midst of all the city’s commotion. And that’s why Amy ultimately did what she did. I mean no insult to people who use such methods, but my conscience would not let me inflict that kind of pain on a creature and family member I love so much.
 

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I'm so sorry you had this experience. E-collars, prong collars, and any "corrective" collar have NO PLACE in dog training with gentle breeds like Maltese. I actually wouldn't recommend them for any breeds, as they are likely to increase aggression. Positive reinforcement ALWAYS works, however, it takes longer in many cases. Patience is needed, and most people don't have it. I train my dogs in obedience, and I have been told if I want to get to the top level, I can't stick with positive reinforcement only. Well, I am out to prove these idiots wrong. There are plenty of top level competitors who take the time to use +R and succeed. It won't be overnight, but it will be so worth it. My dogs are my children and my best friends and they deserve nothing less than kindness and compassion always.

Anyway, PLEASE look up positive reinforcement training and watch some videos by Zak George and Kikopup on YouTube. Your dog is not being possessive, he is being fearful. The trainer was punishing him for his fear of other dogs. The correct thing to do is to help him feel more comfortable. When my dogs get reactive on leash, I immediately turn around and go the other way, or I cross the street. I praise then for remaining calm.

If you're in San Jose, CA, I'd be happy to help you with Mack. I say that because we have trainers exactly like you describe and I'm wondering if it's the same people.
 

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A Maltese should never be walked with a collar, let alone a corrective one. Not only are they cruel especially on such a little guy, but Maltese are proned to trachea isuues. You are right a harness is the way to go. A couple of suggestions: you might ask your vet about small dog trainers. I would also see if there are small dog rescues in your area and see if they recommend a trainer. It is probably too dangerous right now but as he gets better a group session with a trainer can help. How to control should reakly start with why does he do this, fear, anxiety, etc - each may have a different solution.

other recommendations - a thunder shirt, walking at odd times like 5 am, pee pad training. The last suggestion might seem like you are giving up, but many of us have indoor dogs. Good luck. I would probably try a thunder shirt first.

Good luck.
 
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