Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson
February 2007

Dear Lisa: I have a 3 year old Australian Shepherd that gets very upset when we take her on walks, especially when another dog walks by. She knows sit but she barks very aggressively and she does not stay in the sit position, and we can't control her. I think she just wants to play with them. Should we get a de-bark collar? – Active Aussie Antics

Dear Active: Getting an “anti-bark” collar (de-barking is when you have the dog’s vocal chords surgically cut to prevent barking) will treat the symptom for immediate relief but will do nothing to fix the problem in the long run. Behavior modification is the only way to address this problem.

It appears from your question that you have taught the dog to sit, but not taught her to stay. I would begin with more training at home (and enroll her in an obedience class with other dogs) to teach a solid stay command. That way when you do go out in public with her and meet other dogs, you can give her the sit followed by the stay command as another dog approaches. Dogs properly taught the stay command are not allowed to bark during the stay.

Make Friends with Other Dogs
Your pet will always look to you for clues about the situation. If you get all upset, tense and start pulling on the leash, you will signal to your dog that something is wrong. This is most likely why she gets all aggressive towards the approaching dog because you are anticipating another lunging barking episode that you dread. Start to engage your friends and neighbors who own dogs to join you on walks so that having other dogs around you while on a walk is something that is enjoyable to you.

And, when a strange dog approaches, put her in the sit/stay and then ask the owner if it would be alright to introduce the dogs. Keeping her in the sit/stay and letting the other dog come over and have a proper introduction, with you staying calm in the activity, will help to communicate to your dog that letting the other dog over was your idea and that she shouldn’t fret about it. When all is done and the other dog walks away, give her a treat, praise her lavishly and only then, release her from the stay. Eventually, you will be able to release her before the dog leaves and let her sniff and walk around the other dog without much fanfare.

Dear Lisa: We just had our 11 month old English Springer Spaniel trimmed. My husband and I are of a different opinion because our girl actively walks two miles a day in a reserve, walking into mud puddles and the river bed, but usually comes home clean (thanks to the Orvis 'sling' in our Explorer) and her own need to be clean. I loved her feathering as she grew older and established a thick winter coat, but with this last trim it only exists on her legs. If, and when, will her feathering return, and how long before a full growth? – Light as a Feather

Dear Light: Puppies have different coat textures than adults and it appears like your dog may be experiencing a shed from one coat to another. In my breed, the Norwegian Elkhound, the puppy coat is dense, fluffy and voluminous. When my last bitch shed her puppy coat just after a year old, she grew in a shorter, harsher, flat-lying coat. It was a totally different, yet correct, adult coat.

Similarly, “Springers” are a double coated breed, with an outer coat of medium length, lying flat or wavy. The undercoat is softer and shorter than the outer coat. You may see a difference in the density of the coat during shedding, warmer seasons, or possible heavy handed trimming by the groomer.

Coat Protection
As for the “furnishings” or feathering you are talking about it may have been that the groomer wasn’t as close to styling her into a “show trim” which emphasizes moderate length feathering on the ears, chest, legs and belly with shorter hair on the head, front of the forelegs and below the hock joints on the front of the hind legs. Also, when hair is trimmed or cut with a clipper, it tends change the way the hair grows in or lies on the coat.

Next time you visit the groomer, let her know what length you would like to see on your dog and explain to her that the extra furnishings help to keep free of scratches and cuts when she romps in the reserve and splashes in the river.

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it to be answered here in Ask AKC.

© 2007 The American Kennel Club, Inc.