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'Bad Dog Challenge' takes on leash puller

Posted July 24, 2008
Updated October 12, 2011

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— The latest subject in WRAL's Bad Dog challenge is a 5-year-old Boxer who is nearly impossible to walk on a leash.

Marj Santoro, of Raleigh, volunteered Mugsy to find out if a trainer could turn her big bad dog into a good one.

Mugsy, weighs 95-pounds, and is as sweet as he can be. However, his bad behavior on the leash is hard to handle.

“He has pulled me onto the pavement. He has pulled me down the greenway (and) almost into the creek. I've come home with pine straw in my hair,” Marj Santoro said.

Mugsy's bad leash behavior is so awful no one in the Santoro family wants to walk him.

“No, I definitely don't want to walk him, but I'm forced to,” son Patrick Santoro said.

“Oh, he likes to jump up, but you have to be ready for it. One time I wasn't and he knocked the wind out of me and I'm a big guy, you know,” father Dom Santoro said.

Mugsy also gets overly excited when other dogs cross his path.

“He like props (sits) up and sees the dog and then he goes crazy,” Tony Santoro said.

Mugsy isn't trying to terrorize other dogs, he just wants to make friends. The problem: other people don't know that.

“He has terrorized the neighborhood. He has probably alienated all the other dog owners. I'll never have them as friends,” Marj Santoro said.

After witnessing Mugsy's bad leash habits, dog trainer Jenny Marconyak, of Bark Busters, talked with the Santoro family about their four-legged family member.

“He's very friendly, very outgoing and unfortunately that makes a highly distractable dog,” she said of Mugsy.

She then offered advice on how to correct bad habits – and not just Mugsy's.

“So you're going to have this nice and loose," Marconyak said as she showed Marj how to hold the leash. "We've got to get out of that controlling habit."

Dom and Marj Santoro then took turns walking Mugsy.

“If he's trying to walk in front of you, cut you off to stop you from walking or doing those kind of things," you need to offer "a correction and then encouragement," Marconyak said.

After a couple of walks where Mugsy's bad behavior was corrected, Marj Santoro said she saw a lot more good dog than bad dog.

“Good job Mugsy. Very nice. Now that was a different dog," she added.


WRAL will catch up with all three dogs featured in our Bad Dog series in a couple of months to see if the training sticks. Also, each Thursday at 8 p.m., tune into WRAL for the CBS show "Greatest American Dog."

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  • for_shame Jul 25, 2008

    As far as how to tell if it will bite...ask: does it have teeth? If so, then the animal is capable of biting and should be treated with respect. I go running where there are a lot of uncontrollable dogs (on leashes!) and I will definitely spray a growling offender with pepper spray! I have had people look sad as I run by saying "rinse his eyes with saline"! But if some loose dog is charging you what choice do you have! I have noticed that owner in particular get good control of that dog after that incident.

  • Grits58 Jul 25, 2008

    I have been dawg bitten once - years ago. It is a trama - Afterwards, I was scared to see dawgs outside of my car while I was driving. I dont think an owner can guarantee their dawg wont bite. Even cocker spaniels are known to be biters. Most ppl say its the way they are rasied but I think the breed has to be taken into consideration as well.

  • ABM Jul 25, 2008

    I don't understand how, or why other dog owners don't see anything wrong with this. I hear all too many times, he/she wont bite... Yet the dog is either running around free or pulling the owner.. I hate to say it, but looking at that first picture, if that "nice harmless dog" ran up to me, I would try to hurt it before it hurt myself..

    Owners beware, I am not going to ask if he bites, nor believe you when you tell me he doesn't bite.. I am simply going to hurt your dog before it hurt me, or someone with me..

    Dogs should not be allowed 99% of the places I see them..