What I NEVER Recommend For Treating Aggression In Dogs
Dog aggression is complicated!
There are a lot of reasons dogs show aggression and there are a great deal of facets to aggression.
But I have learned an enormous amount about dog aggression in the past 20 years. And for a great video series about treating dog aggression, click here.
I have learned what commonly works, and I have learned what commonly makes aggression worse in dogs.
There are a lot of techniques out there, and I suppose these techniques have worked on a variety of dogs, at some point, or the theories would not be passed on through the ages.
But there are a couple of techniques when dealing with an aggressive dog or even an aggressive puppy that can actually make aggression severely worse.
Using Pain or Corrections
Using pain in the form of leash corrections (think prong collar, choke chain or electric/shock collar).
Aggression and pain often incites aggression.
I have seen numerous dogs, over my 20+ year career, bite their owners when they were harshly corrected or pain was added to their training program.
I kind of don’t blame these dogs.
If someone punched me or hurt me, odds would be strong that I would fight back, especially if I thought I could win.
Wouldn’t you fight back?
Yelping, Squealing, or Screaming
I also wouldn’t yelp, scream or squeal when my dog or puppy nips me.
The theory is that yelping when your puppy bites you communicates to him that his teeth hurt and he should therefore stop, like we assume he would do with his littermates.
The brutal truth is that many dogs feed off of the squeal and pain of not only their littermates but other creatures.
In order for this technique to work, the puppy has to care and be fairly submissive.
The problem is that many dogs simply don’t care and are not submissive.
And, these sounds can often incite much more serious forms of aggression.
Dogs Are Predator Animals
Dogs are predator animals.
In order to survive in the wild, a dog would have to chase and kill his prey.
Even though your dog is domesticated, the majority of dogs are still predator animals and his instincts would keep him alive if he were on his own.
As hard as it is to think about, dying or suffering animals often yelp or squeal.
This sound can bring about a kind of feral reaction which brings a more grim form of aggression.
In the wild, these sounds mean the animal is dying, and the dog’s reaction is of course not to stop but to ultimately and quickly kill his prey.
I often see forms of this behavior in dogs with toys that squeal.
It appears as if the dog is just having fun crying and ripping the toy apart, when in all reality his prey instinct has kicked in and he is trying to kill the toy.
When we make ourselves sound like the toy or the prey animal, we can inadvertently make the nipping or mouthing so much worse than it would have been without adding this noise.
This is why so many of my clients report their dogs becoming much worse or attacking them after they yelp or squeal.
In my opinion, it simply isn’t worth even trying to try and figure out if you have a dog that this technique will work on… it is too risky to incite such aggression in our pets.
We Anthropomorphize Dogs
Too often we anthropomorphize our dogs.
For those who don’t know that word, that means we give them human traits, when really they are just another species who know nothing of our rules.
We think that they should just understand our “crying out in pain” and act accordingly.
When really, their instincts can and do often tell them to do something else entirely.
We need to stop trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.
We must start trying to understand them for the species that they are.
After all, aren’t we supposed to be the more intelligent species?
And, then and only then will we be able to communicate effectively with them!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.