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Pack Mentality Aggression in Dogs

Expert advice on pack aggression

By: Colleen Safford

Last Updated:

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Pack Mentality Aggression

Q: I have two fixed male Jack Russell Terrier crosses. When walked separately they are great on leash, greeting other dogs with respect, but when they’re walked together, they get into a pack mentality, lunging and barking at other dogs, often scaring them. How can I keep this from happening, other than walking them separately? —Troubled by Terrible Twosome

A: Ah, confidence in numbers. The troublesome twosome is something commonly seen with siblings both on leash and off. Your mantra for addressing this is “walkie time is fun time!” It’s very important that you are engaged with your dogs during their walk—you need to be more valuable and fun than the temptation to terrorize other dogs. Fill your walks with games like tug, short distance fetch, and obedience practice. Your dogs must see you as something other than the anchor at the end of the leash. Be sure to always have an exciting toy and enticing high value treats, the stinkier the better! Here’s how to develop the strong, reliable, basic obedience skills essential for them to remain calm in the presence of their biggest trigger, other dogs:

Attention exercises Each dog must learn “look” or “watch me.”
To begin, place a high value smelly treat crumb (tiny bits for training!) at his nose and bring it up to your face, saying, “look!” When your dog’s head follows that treat towards your face, mark the behaviour with a clear, “yes” and reward him immediately. Over the course of a few days, increase how long you expect your dog to maintain focus on you before rewarding him.

"Let's go"
This is an about-face command that will give you and your dogs space if you need it. During your walks, grab your dogs’ attention with “let’s go,” and quickly turn and walk in the opposite direction. As soon as your dogs hurry along with you, reward them for keeping up and moving with you.


1. As soon as YOU spot another dog in the great distance, ask your dogs for a “look.” Stay happy, loose and positive! Continue to keep your dogs’ attention and reward, reward, reward. Do NOT wait to see if your dog notices the other dog or is going to bark at the dog. Any time you see a dog, simply start the routine of saying, “Mommy wants you to look at her (instead of bark at him).”

2. BEFORE you get too close and lose your dogs’ attention, do a “let’s go,” and walk away from the oncoming dog to allow your dogs some space as the other dog passes.

3. Gradually work up to passing by other dogs while your dogs are staring every so politely at you.

4. If your dogs explode into ferocious furies during one of your walks, just realize they were pushed too far and next time give them a “let’s go” at a greater distance while continuing to practice “look at me.”

Commit to this easy training routine and soon your trouble twosome will be two stepping in peace and harmony!


Trainer Colleen Safford raises awareness on pet-child safety, and understanding dog body language. Colleen’s companies, NY Walk & Train and Far Fetched Acres, have been voted “Best of NY” by New York magazine. Colleen receives daily training from her children and is proudly owned by her rescued Boxer(ish).

Last Updated:

By: Colleen Safford
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