Category Archives: Aggressive Dog Training

Dog owners beware: Anyone can buy a dog training franchise

Lately, more than ever, I am getting inquiries from clients who have already done dog training with “so and so,” or other companies, and were unsatisfied for one reason or another. These people have spent a lot of money in some cases, but didn’t get the results they were looking for. You may imagine this is sometimes the customers fault– and it is… sometimes. But as a pro myself, I can get a pretty good idea what sort of professionally-trained foundation a dog has, or has not had. I hear complaints about other trainers all the time, and I usually take it with a grain of salt, preferring that they focus on what we’re doing now and going forward. Most of these trainers I have never heard of anyway, but clients are more frequently telling me about dog training companies with multiple locations, or in many cases, franchises. These are not the big-box stores like PetSmart and PetCo that are known for their sub-standard version of “training” and wasting peoples time once a week for 150 bucks, these are companies charging a lot of money and promising big results.

To further investigate this concept, I began with a quick Google search, typing in “dog training franchise.” A flurry of results came up. Some of the names: Bark Busters, Fetch Pet Care, Zoom Room, Off Leash K9 Training, Sit Means Sit, Dog Wizard Academy, and many more. It’s not the route I chose to go in my career seven and a half years ago when I started my own business (after years of apprenticing and working for other companies), but apparently this is a popular thing. I have no particular issue with a well-researched individual purchasing into a dog business franchise to run out of their home, but it’s worth a deeper look behind the marketing.

One of the benefits to a franchise is immediate marketing power, and these companies don’t hesitate to tell you that people are willing to pay good money for dog training, and know the brand names. Each brand has something to boast– amazing fast results, guaranteed programs, a special (ultimately meaningless) certification, “featured on tv,” and soforth. But marketing can be misleading. Let’s say the trainers at the headquarters of your franchise had part in a tv episode on “Animal Planet.” Regardless of the fact that they’re not even in the same state, are staffed with completely different trainers, and did the tv spot years before you even joined the company, you can now advertise on your own website: “As Seen on Animal Planet.” That’s positive marketing power. Unfortunately, it can also work in the opposite way. In the past 2 years alone, three Sit Means Sit trainers were charged with animal abuse. Because it’s a franchise, they are independently responsible, but this is caveat emptor to you dog owners: Regardless of the company’s name, know who is training your dog.

What I am also concerned about is the amount of training these freshly minted dog trainers receive.

To see if my concerns were valid, I viewed the websites of four different dog training franchises. They all advertise solving behavior issues, off-leash training, and more. One called “Bark Busters” did not provide any information on length of franchisee training, they ask you to contact them. I have zero respect for Bark Busters as a training company, and I have nothing more to say about them at this time, other than– if you use their services, best of luck to your dog. The other three franchised companies provided more info on their offerings. A company called “Dog Wizard Academy” had a very bright, informative website and offers 12 weeks of hands-on training for new franchisees. However, the topics covered are broad, naturally, and include “aggression,” which in my professional opinion takes much longer than 3 months to even touch upon, let alone become proficient in. In the other 2 cases, companies called “Off Leash K-9 Training” and “Sit Means Sit,” offer 3 weeks of initial hands-on training to the new franchisee. Yes, that’s right– apparently, 3 weeks is all it takes to learn how to be a dog trainer, work with complex behavior issues, and operate a business… Well, that and anywhere from $15,000-$96,400.

A lot of people nowadays want to start their own business and have a career change in life, and that’s great. But dog training is not just something you jump into by hanging a shingle. You will quickly be out-classed. The following is an example of what I found online (I added the bold):

Are you interested in starting  dog training franchise?  Have you always wanted to be a dog trainer? Turn your passion into a dog training business!

As an Off Leash K9 Training trainer, you will spend 21 days at our facility in Northern Virginia, observing and taking part in over 240+ hours of dog training! … At the end of your 21 day training, you will have all the tools, knowledge, and know-how to deal with basic obedience, advanced obedience, and behavioral modification. You will be able to make dogs look like the dogs in our 500+ before/after videos! You will also have a website and everything else you need to get you started in the dog training world!

Let me get this straight. You will have “all the knowledge” and “a website and everything else” in 3 weeks. In my opinion, that’s simply not possible, particularly not the “everything else.” There is no way to master these sort of skills in 240 hours… You’d be about 9,760 hours short of the “10,000 hour rule” of mastery. But even if you do gain an array of positive training and business skills, what about basic math skills? 21 days to become a dog trainer is advertised as “240+ hours of dog training.” I have never heard of such an intensive program that you go 21 days straight for ELEVEN+ hours each day. It doesn’t seem possible, and lends me a degree of skepticism (something I already have a healthy level of).

To be fair, some of these companies do offer continuing education, yearly seminars, and phone support– but what about the dogs these franchisees will be training fresh out of the gate? Do you want your dog to be a guinea pig for a brand new trainer with only a few months of experience under their belt? If you do, that’s fine, but I personally would not pay that kind of money for my dog to be a newer trainers learning experiment.

So how long does it really take to become a dog trainer? I understand everyone wants to jump in and make money, but the reality is, when I have an apprentice trainer who is learning how to train dogs, they are not even allowed to do a private obedience lesson with a customer with less than SIX MONTHS of training under their belt, and more in some cases. The average time to produce a dog trainer is ONE YEAR, for a basic-level trainer, who works with obedience but not more complex behavior issues or aggression. There is no “quick way to rake in the cash,” and you need more than a fancy website, you need more than a well-trained personal dog– you need to provide quality training from a foundation of knowledge and hands-on experience in a variety of venues.

If you want to become a successful dog trainer, buying into a corporate franchise is certainly one of your options, and it does work out well for some people. But it’s certainly not the only option. To be clear, I am not saying all the franchise-owning trainers are bad or sub-standard trainers– absolutely not– it fully depends on the individual person. If they are a driven self-learner, I’m sure they could find a way to compensate for any lack of experience, and work to become a well-versed, competent trainer. In some cases, a franchise trainer may be an already working and adept dog trainer who decided to make a smart business decision and team up with a company. But as a dog owner myself, I don’t want to simply know what “brand” is training my dog, I want to know who is training my dog. What have they accomplished, what’s the scope of their experience, and will they deliver up to the expectations of a big-name company? To know this, you will have to look past the smoke and mirrors of marketing, and learn how to choose a dog trainer.

Are aggressive dogs the fault of the owner?

They say dogs are a reflection of their owners. But when unwanted aggression becomes a big issue, can we place the entirety of blame on the dogs owners?

“Is it all the owners fault their dog is aggressive?”

First, let’s define “aggressive dog” as a dog who displays aggressive behavior with intent to bite or do harm to a person or animal.

I would not say it’s “always” the humans who have created the issue. Sometimes it is true, sometimes it’s not. There are many cases where a dog begins to show unwanted behavior, and it is not handled properly by the dog owners. They may not know what to do, or fail to get help. Or they may inadvertently be encouraging the unwanted behavior. There are some people who could virtually make a Pug into an aggressive monster (through permissiveness, mixed signals, and being a poor handler themselves), but not always. Most dog owners we work with do acknowledge that they have made some failure or some mistake in handling of their dog, which has led to worsening problems. I appreciate that they do not want to blame the dog, but recognize they are part of the problem, too. Because if they are part of the problem, they will be part of the solution.
There are cases where you could take the biting dog out of the equation and replace it with a number of other more “average” dogs, and the owners would’ve had no problems. Sometimes it is the dog. They got a dog who is a handful. I meet the dog, and I say “WOAH, that is a lot of dog.” Some dogs are just more challenging, and require more time and training than others. Maybe the dog has a lot of drive, power, or maybe has a lot of “edge” to it. Not everyone is equipped to own a more aggressive type of dog. Just like not every parent would be equipped to handle a child with a behavioral disorder. On the other hand, some dog owners choose a higher-intensity dog with more aggression to it, and they don’t mind. It’s when they are not equipped to own the dog they have issues. A strong dog often needs a strong owner who can be consistent and prepared to work out any issues. But some who are not equipped for it get a dog who is predisposed to have certain traits, and they raise it very typically, socialize it, and do their best with what they know. But it still turns out how it turns out. This is because a dogs personality is not “all how you raise it.” You wouldn’t be surprised if you got a terrier that lived to chase down critters, or a hunting dog who followed his nose, or a German Shepherd who was protective of his home. Dogs behavior is strongly influenced by genetics and instinct, as well as early rearing, training, and various experiences. So often a dog turns out with behaviors that are in accordance with its genetic programming. Especially if human owners don’t nip problematic behavior in the bud at once, the first time it rears its head. Many genetic behaviors can be tempered, re-directed, or controlled through training. That’s the work we do every day. But if not immediately addressed properly, aggression issues always get worse.
Sometimes people make uneducated decisions. A lot of times, actually. I had a client who wanted an easy-going family dog, and purchased a Cane Corso, a large powerful dog breed. They chose this breed because they had a friend with one, and that Corso was very social, chill, and almost lazy. But that was just one dog. They decided to search for a breeder, and they found an ad online for Cane Corso puppies for sale. They did not meet the dogs parents first, ask the breeder for references, or research the dogs breeding and lineage. As their new dog matured, he became suspicious of people, and was skittish and reactive, despite attempts to socialize him. He was also strong and difficult to control as he grew. One day when a stranger bent over to pet him, he reacted negatively and lashed out. He bit them in the face, sending them to the hospital for stitches. His owners decided not to give up on him and to seek guidance from a professional trainer. He was young enough to greatly improve with intensive training, and had owners who were committed and did all the follow-up lessons. So in this case, they were able to keep their dog and successfully modify his behavior. Every case is different. Sometimes a dog is genetically cut out to be nervy and sharp, or even unstable. Sometimes they’re normal stable dogs with an edge. Even good dogs do “dog things,” including protecting their territory, and this can often lead to a bite incident. A dog with little guidance can’t tell the difference between a “bad guy” he is supposed to bark at or bite, and Bob the neighbor who comes to the back door to say hi.  This is why dogs who have protective behavior have to be not only trained, but supervised and properly contained, such as a securely fenced yard. To sum it up, a dog who bites may be genetically unstable, or may be totally normal, it depends. Either way, the owners are going to have to change how they handle the dog. They will need to gain obedience control, respect, and learn to read their dog. To resolve behavior issues, they will need to change the way they live with the dog, and zero in on what behaviors they are reinforcing or allowing to continue.

The prognosis for long-term success depends on the dog and the owners. Every cause and type of aggression is different. Remember that you are your dogs leader. He depends on your guidance to navigate the human world he is a part of. Set your dogs up for success.

Most bite incidents could have been avoided, had the following been kept in mind:
1) Know your dog, and protect your dog. You may imagine you need to protect others from your dog, and this is true, but your dog needs to be protected from making poor decisions, too. For example: If you have a protective or nippy dog, and a cable installer is coming over, put your dog in another room. You know your dog might act sketchy, and you know you might be distracted. It is not worth risking your dog making a poor decision. There is no benefit to leaving your dog loose in this scenario, but there is risk. Similarly, if you know your dog can be testy with the vet, use a muzzle. Condition them to wearing it ahead of time. There is no reason to take risks that have no benefits.
2) Train early, train often, and train properly. Don’t wait until your dog has bitten 5 people, get training as soon as you obtain your dog. Even if you adopted an adult rescue dog, begin setting appropriate habits and establishing yourself as the pack leader immediately. It’s not just the obedience commands, it’s learning how to communicate with your dog, and how to handle problems as they pop up. Not all training is equal! Taking a treat-based class at  PetSmart is not equivalent to real-world obedience skills taught by a professional training facility. Dogs need a large amount of positive reinforcement, but they also need discipline. A dog who has no discipline will end up insecure and will often become out of control and unpleasant to deal with. Dogs who have only discipline and no praise will become depressed and sometimes fearful. Dogs must learn what to do (good stuff), and what not to do (unwanted stuff). There has to be a balance. Common sense tells us that ignoring a bad behavior is often not significant enough to make it stop. There are several effective ways to stop bad behaviors: Physical correction or averse response to stop the behavior, take away the benefit of doing the behavior, reinforce incompatible behaviors, or prevent the behavior from happening.
3) Feel free to get a second opinion. When you have a dog who bites, everyone you know seems to have an opinion. Some will say it’s not the dogs fault, some will say the dog has a screw loose and should be put down, and some will say “try this” or “try that.” Take the advice with a grain of salt. Speak to your vet to rule out medical causes and get a full check-up, but know that most vets are not dog trainers and may have limited knowledge of dog behavior training. Some vets may have never even owned a dog. Get opinions from qualified trainers, but feel free to get a second or third opinion. Make sure the trainer has references of similar case and uses fair and humane methods.

 

-Jennifer

Does my dog need “obedience” or “behavior modification”?

In my business I work with a large number of clients who contact our trainers because of specific behavioral problems. They often don’t see the link between obedience training and a well-behaved dog. Training is not just about concrete commands (I mean, who cares if your dog can do a fancy heel and tricks if he’s attacking other dogs). But there is much more value in obedience than a dog who “looks” behaved. Obedience and dog training in general is training of the dogs mind, giving them skills, and teaching them to make appropriate choices. We often say obedience training gives your dog a “job.” That “job” is following your direction. Imagine the confidence and security your dog will feel when he knows what’s expected of him!

I often use analogies with children, not because I equate a dog with a child, but because it’s easy for people to understand and relate to. Imagine raising a child…
Some of the traits you would hope to see in school-aged children:

  • Follows direction
  • Respects the authority of adults
  • Gets along well with others
  • Stays on task
  • Behaves appropriately for the situation, i.e. is quiet when required (in class), and plays when is appropriate (in recess)
  • Drive and desire for learning
  • Confident yet respectful of others

All of the above traits are also qualities we would like to see in a dog. These qualities begin in the home, but they are further instilled in a school environment, where children are taught order, self-discipline, and respect for adults. Just like a child, a dogs desire to learn should be encouraged. Our training encourages dogs to put in more effort, and we reward them for the efforts they give us. A task well done is praised, which builds work ethic in the dog. It builds the desire to do right.

School is not just about the actual academics. In school, we learned algebra, reading, history, etc. but we also learned important social lessons: how to behave, how to sit quietly and listen, how to follow direction. We were not given a choice to attend our classes, we were required to attend. In the evening at home, it was not “Would you rather do your homework, or would you rather go play outside?” It was required that we do our homework, and then we could go play outside. Playing outside was the positive reinforcement for completing a task that we would otherwise probably not choose to do. If we did not comply, pressure was put upon us. Mom would put her hands on her hips, stand squarely at us and command “Sit down and do it, now.” And if we still did not comply, privileges were taken away. We knew mom wouldn’t cave, because she never did. So we did not bother with protesting– it got us no results. We did our homework the first time, every time, and got to play outside or watch tv the rest of the evening.

“We knew mom wouldn’t cave, because she never did. So we did not bother with protesting– it got us no results.”

Your dog is the same way. To a child’s young mind, and a dogs ever-young mind, instant gratification is very attractive. The world is full of interesting and fun things. We all want our dogs focus at times when we need it, so you need to be interesting and fun, but also worthy of respect and able to function as a leader. Obedience training is not just about the tangible actions, no more than school is just about learning facts and figures. Virtually nobody calls a trainer to say “You know, the problem with my dog is he just doesn’t do a good sit-stay.” They call because something is bothering them, or bothering their dog. An insecure, troubled dog often lacks leadership and really we must remember, they are dogs. They have to be taught what’s ok and what’s not ok, and in a manner that is clear to them. That’s where a trainer, someone who “speaks dog,” gets a phone call.

Virtually nobody calls a trainer to say “You know, the problem with my dog is he just doesn’t do a good sit-stay.”

Of clients we work with, there are three main categories:
-My dog just needs to learn “the basics”
-My dog has some annoying habits
-My dog has some concerning behavior issues

“The Basics” Dog
When people refer to “the basics,” I will usually assume they mean obedience training. To me, a dog with basic training can walk on a loose leash (no pulling), heel, come when called (around distractions), sit, down, stay, and has manners such as not jumping, barking, or taking things that aren’t theirs. The training instills a key component: self-control. That is all covered in a basic train, and I can almost guarantee you that with proper obedience training, the dog will be a model citizen. The “basics dog” has few ingrained bad habits, and no serious behavioral problems– and because he will get a good foundation, he has a much lower chance of developing any.
One of the common mistakes I see pet owners make is thinking that just any ol’ trainer will do, since it’s just basic stuff. So they go to PetCo or another big box retail store that isn’t a professional training facility, and they waste their time and money while feeling like they did training. In reality, they are lucky if their dogs learned a couple tricks for a treat, but they certainly won’t have any solid or useful obedience skills. Because we are experienced in higher levels of training, I believe we do a better job on the basics, too. If you wanted to learn tennis, you don’t need to hire Venus Williams, but you do need someone who knows 1) how to teach, 2) how to produce good results. Unfortunately, some trainers are more like a dude down the street who took a couple tennis classes and now thinks he’s good enough to advertise as an instructor.

“In reality, they are lucky if their dogs learned a couple tricks for a treat, but they certainly won’t have any solid or useful obedience skills.”

“Annoying Habits” Dog
This dog will probably be lacking in the basics, which is why he has bad habits. The owner may have already done some obedience training, lessons, or classes, but they did not work, either because the methods were not effective, the trainer was not experienced, or they were non-compliant students and did not follow-up with the training themselves. (When your trainer says you need to practice these new habits and routines every day… you need to practice every day. And because I assume you interact with your dog on some level every day, there is no excuse.) Some of the habits will be more ingrained. The “bad habits” dog may think his name is “No, No, Stop-That!”  The relationship between dog and human may have become strained, and people will often express to me “It’s just not fun anymore.” We may see things like barking, stealing food, mass destruction, chewing furniture, nipping, clawing, bolting away when off-leash, or persistent housebreaking trouble. Once the dog learns more positive and productive behaviors, he will not need to be naughty to get attention. Again, I can almost guarantee you that with proper obedience training, most, if not all of these issues will dissipate. For any remaining issues that are more persistent, we have specific creative solutions. The most fulfilling thing about problem-solving behavior is seeing the dog finally gain clarity. “Oh, this is how you want me to behave.” Once the dog is trained, everyone is happier and more content.

“The ‘Bad Habits’ dog may think his name is ‘No, No, Stop-That!”

“Concerning Issues” Dog
This may be a dog who has social issues, aggression, fear or anxiety, or has bitten a person or another dog. They may have already worked with other trainers or hired a veterinary behaviorist. We work with a good number of dogs with severe issues, and we are known for successful rehabilitation. Often the owners of dogs with behavior problems will specify to me “I am not worried about the obedience stuff, I really want to focus on the behavior problem.” I understand exactly what they mean, but that is a huge flaw in thinking. The goal of training is that they can handle their dog, control their dog, and that the dog makes better choices. Choices like “I have a bone I value greatly, but I am now comfortable with you coming near me and I trust the outcome,” or “I see that little yappy dog lunging at me on the sidewalk, and I kinda want to tell him off, but I am going to ignore him and move on because that produces better results for me.” But the problem is– if the dog does not listen to his owners over the small things (like an obedience command, spoken a single time), why should the dog listen to them over the big things (like not biting that random dude on the street)? You have to start somewhere. It is necessary that your dog obey you– the first time, every time. It is not your dogs job to be judge, jury and executioner of perceived “bad guys” on the street. It is not your dogs job to escape confinement that you put him in. He might think it’s his job to tear through the door to come find you when you’ve left, but we have to communicate to him that this behavior is not necessary.

“If the dog does not listen to his owners over the small things, why should the dog listen to them over the big things?”

In order to modify behavior, you need a clear line of communication. There is no magic wand. Despite what you may see on tv, your dogs issues cannot be magically fixed in a day, they cannot be fixed by being in a pack of dogs, or by pills from the vet. It takes changing the way you think, changing the way you interact, and changing the way you handle your dog. And yes, it takes obedience training.

Training in Hong Kong

This February, Jennifer Hack of Dynamic Dogs was honored to be invited to teach a seminar at a kennel and training facility in Hong Kong.

The seminar was advertised, and spots soon filled, with 12 dogs and many spectators. “Training the Dynamic Dogs Way.” The topics covered were canine behavior, obedience, and problem solving. From pets with aggression and fear issues, to competitive obedience dogs. This marks Jennifer’s second international seminar.

“I had an amazing time visiting, exploring, and most of all– learning more about the dog culture in Hong Kong. I was able to attend the Pet Expo, dog show, tour the ASPCA, do training sessions with other professional trainers, and more. I was able to work with several great dog trainers and meet many dog lovers! I am grateful to all who showed me hospitality.”

-Jennifer Hack

hk_showhk_blind

hk_3

hk_1hk_beautiful

hk_2

hk_4

hk_5

Why your dog is reactive on walks

“MY DOG IS REACTIVE TO OTHER DOGS ON WALKS!”

We deal with this training issue a lot, especially working in the busy neighborhoods of Chicago, where around 6pm, dogs are pouring out of hi-rises, condos, and houses.  “Reactive” can be a somewhat over-used term, and it can range from a dog that is social and friendly but just over-excited, to a dog that intends to bite.  Dictionary definition “reactive” a : readily responsive to a stimulus
b : occurring as a result of stress or emotional upset.

A dogs acting out on a leash can stem from several causes, and may be related to other issues:

  1. Lack of ability to self-regulate and cope with the level of frustration or stimulation… many people feel it’s like their dog is in tunnel vision.
  2. A lack of solid obedience training.  If your dog is barking and lunging, he is not obedient— and therefore needs obedience training.
  3. Often dogs with on-leash aggressive displays are described as low confidence and insecure, often taking the defensive when feeling threatened.
  4. Inappropriate inter-dog social skills.  Not all dogs have equal inter-species communication skills.  Some are more like Tarzan!
  5. Avoidant– if they aren’t reacting, they’re avoiding.
  6. MANY have lack of respect of the handler, and therefore the handler pulling them back and saying “NOOO, stop that!” is ineffective, or just makes it worse by adding high emotion to the situation.
  7. The handlers behavior as another dog is approaching– dog associates “Why is my human so tense and nervous, maybe it’s because of the other dog?”Are you choking up on the leash and changing your pace when you think a dog is nearby?  Or maybe you are giving verbal cues, you are relaxed the whole walk, but when you see another dog down the sidewalk you are whispering “Now stay with me, you better be nice, heel, heel…” and your dog is getting psyched up.  You do not want a negative association with other dogs coming.  You want a neutral or positive response to other dogs, and we reward appropriate behavior.  Your dog looks at another dog, calmly and looks away?  Great, yes them and pay them.
  8. Then there are less common, dogs who present with animal-aggression with the intent to severely fight or kill other animals, not just posture for rank.  These dogs can be a real danger, and require intensive training and behavior modification, as well as common-sense management throughout their lives.  Things like secure fencing, leash, supervision, etc.  A dog who may seriously injure another animal requires a responsible handler, and safety precautions in place.  They may or may not be aggressive towards people.  The handler of such a dog needs to be aware of any propensity for re-directed aggression, which can happen with some dogs.  This refers to when their frustration/aggression level goes high and they re-direct their anger onto the nearest thing.  Dogs who have a tendency towards this can be dangerous to people as well.
  9. Other types of aggression: For example, an in-tact male who typically goes after other males is not “reactive,” he is same-sex aggressive and may ready to fight with teeth for rank.
  10. Some dogs just *do not like* other dogs, or are very selective.   They CAN be taught to behave (through solid obedience and behavior modification) and they can be trained to tolerate, but will never enjoy interacting with certain dogs in close proximity for the sake of interacting itself.  This should be respected as part of the dogs personality, and interaction shouldn’t be forced upon the dog, or they may be negative experiences.  It’s important to address training with a professional so your dog is safe and will respond to you.  Sometimes dogs may begin to be more “grumpy” or non-social with others, due to pain or not feeling well, so make sure your pet has no health issues or body or joint pain.   A trainer who has been training for over 40 years said this to a client who wanted her dog to “be nicer” to the dogs she’d gotten into fights with: “Some dogs will never get along.  Don’t you know people who don’t get along???”  I know some people who you couldn’t just invite to the same dinner party without risking a possible altercation!  Not all dogs are as nice or patient as others.  As a trainer, we have a very good feel for which doggie personalities and energy types will mesh well together, and which will clash.  Sometimes you just have to be selective.
  11. Territorial response. Most of the dogs who are reactive on walks do not look at another animal coming towards them on the street as a “friend,” or as a neutral occurrence, but as something outside their pack that stimulates a territorial response, especially when tethered to their owner, frustration is increased on leash as well.  The look of some dogs on walks is like one of a predator hunting.
  12. They may or may not actually bite another dog… some just put on a big nasty show- that doesn’t mean they won’t get bit themselves though, if they do that display to the wrong dog.
  13. BUT MY DOG PLAYS WITH OTHER DOGS SO WELL! With some excitable types, it does not matter if they have daycare or play-groups 3x a week and are great with dogs there, it’s different when they’re moving & covering ground attached to their owner as a unit, they may begin displays that look aggressive, or are territorial.  Or maybe it’s not aggression-related at all- just barking out of frustration.  That is remedied by obedience training, teaching focus on you.  We train for our dogs to be neutral to other dogs– not overly-interested to the point of losing all focus!
  14. It’s the way you are walking your dog! You are not walking with purpose and with control– by that I mean responsiveness without physically restraining the dog on a tight leash.  A dog that has a respect for how far away he will walk before considering your proximity.  I will only walk a dog that has natural desire to stay with me, and move as a unit, no dragging me or bolting away!  I think a big part of the problem is that people walk their dogs around from the time they get them untrained, and let bad habits develop.  Except for puppies, I WILL NOT walk a dog (yard only, or field on longline) around the city until they are leash trained and not going to cause a ruckus, I dont want to rehearse bad habits.  If any bad habits surface, they are immediately corrected, and not allowed to continue.  Some dogs just like to be bullies… the dog should know aggressive behavior is something that displeases me and it will have swift consequences.

I hope this was informative to you and gave you ideas to think about.  Please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dynamicdogschicago and feel free to ask us any questions you might have, or share your experiences in how you were able to train your reactive dog.

Sincerely,

Dynamic Dogs Chicago Trainers

Canine Aggression Series: Territorial Aggression

TERRITORIAL AGGRESSION:  Many dogs were bred to have guarding instincts, including many of the working breeds like German Shepherds, Doberman, or Rottweiler.  Most dogs have a natural instinct to alert or guard what they perceive as their territory.  This can manifest in a dog that barks when strangers approach the yard or won’t let visitors come into the house.  Look into a breed’s history and you may find territorial aggression was a selected trait used for guarding property or livestock flocks and herds.

SIGNS:  Patrolling the yard, house, windows, or yard.  Barking or growling when people or other dogs are seen approaching.  A dog that takes regular walks around the neighborhood or marks its territory may consider the whole block part of its territory.

Territorial aggression is often made worse because the dog learns that his barking causes the threat to go away.  When the mail carrier comes, the dog barks, and so the person leaves.  The dog does not know that they were going to leave anyway- they think it was their barking that warded them off.  Similarly, if the dog growls and someone backs away, the dog learns it works.  Being in small or confined areas makes territorial aggression worse, such as a dog on a short chain in the yard, or a dog barking in the car.

TREATMENT:  This can be managed through training, obedience, teaching alternate behaviors, and leadership.  Prevention is important, as well as re-directing behavior.  For example, when your dog barks at the fence, you immediately have him come when called.  When the doorbell rings, you have him “place” on a dog bed quietly.

Canine Aggression Series: Fear Aggression

In this series we go over the types of aggression, including causes and possible treatments.
FEAR AGGRESSION: A fear-aggressive dog shows physiologic signs of fear along with aggression. A fearful dog may appear generally insecure and give off signals like cowering, shaking, or averting is eyes. Owners may describe their dog as “skittish,” “nervous,” or “snapping at people.” Not all fearful dogs are aggressive. There are different thresholds for when a dog will become aggressive towards different stimuli. For some fearful dogs, avoidance and ‘shutting down’ is their response when afraid. Others may become defensive: growling, snarling, lunging, or biting. Fear-aggressive dogs may appear worse when they are confined, such as in a crate, in their home, or on a leash. When a dog is confined by a leash, his option to flee is limited, so he may become defensive out of fear- towards other dogs or towards people. To work with a fearful animal, a trainer must be very skilled at reading the dogs body language and signals. Causes of fear aggression can include genetics (one or both parents may have been fearful dogs), experiences in early puppyhood, and lack of socialization and training. If you have a fearful dog, realize that it may be strongly genetic, as fear is a hardwired response in animals.
TREATMENT FOR FEAR AGGRESSION: A fearful dog does the best with a patient and confident trainer who can make them feel safe and give them guidance. We want to teach the dog to defer back to us for guidance in situations where he is unsure. As dog trainers, we don’t want to associate punishment with something the dog is already afraid of, example “I am already scared of dogs, and now every time a dog comes around I get punished.” We want to make a good association of “Every time a dog comes around, good things happen!” This is “counter-conditioning.” You play a big part in your dogs behavior and training. It is important to not reinforce your dogs fear through trying to comfort them when they are displaying aggression (growling, snapping, lunging), which can be taken as praise for that behavior. To counter-condition, praise and reward must come before the dog shows aggression, and the training plan should use a desensitizing technique along with counter-conditioning. First and foremost, you will need a strong and reliable foundation of obedience so you can have control, including sit, down, sit-stays and down-stays. Obedience gives your dog something else to focus on.  Your dog should be getting about 30 minutes of exercise per day along with his obedience lessons. Anxiety medication may also be recommended through your veterinarian, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), amitriptyline, or clomipramine.
TRIGGERS FOR FEAR OR AGGRESSION: Before beginning training, you will make a list of all your dogs triggers, then we will address them through training. Sometimes you will never know why your dog is afraid of a certain thing, there is no reason that we can explain as humans, because we cannot see through the animals eyes.  We cannot see things or understand things the same way they do.  Triggers are anything your dog is afraid of, here are a few common ones:

  • Children: Their movements are more erratic than adults, they make different noises, and they are often more unpredictable in movement and have a higher pitched voice. Maybe your dog was not socialized to children at a young age, or was teased by a child or touched in a way that was uncomfortable.
  • Dogs:  Maybe it’s large dogs, maybe small.  Your dog may not have been socialized to other dogs or may have been attacked.
  • Men: Males are often a trigger because they have a larger stature and a deeper or raspier voice. Your dog may have been abused by a man, but this is not always the case. Even dogs who have never been mistreated can be fearful of men just by simply not being exposed to them enough. Try having special treats at the door every time a man comes over to toss for the dog, but do not force the situation. At Dynamic Dogs Chicago, our male trainers work with the fearful dogs as well, as it’s important for that bond to develop. Once taught how to handle a situation, your dog will benefit from socialization to additional men.
  • People in uniform: Dogs develop fears to people in uniforms by generalizing. This means they initially see a “scary” person, let’s say the mail carrier, who comes “intruding” onto their property every day wearing a uniform, or the UPS delivery person carrying large boxes. They generalize that fear response to everyone wearing uniforms.
  • Elderly or disabled individuals: Remember, a fearful dog is afraid of novel things and situations. People who use a mobility device like a wheelchair or walker may not be something the dog is used to. Older people move differently, they may walk slower or limp, and that causes the dog to think there is something different (and therefore potentially scary) about them.

PRECAUTIONS: Safety is a top priority when working with a fearful or aggressive dog. Do not try to force or lure your dog into an uncomfortable situation. If you are passing children on the sidewalk, for example, you may want to make a u-turn or have your dog walk on the other side. It is not worth the risk of potentially putting anyone in danger.  Do not act nervous or anxious, or your dog will pick up on that. Saying “its ok, its ok” may make your dog even more nervous, because he is picking up on your insecurity.   Be calm and confident at all times, and be up-beat while you are turning away to walk in another direction, do not jerk your dog away. Behavior triggers should be addressed with the supervision of a dog training professional.

Canine Aggression Series: Types of Aggression in Dogs

Aggression is a serious matter and very stressful for everyone involved.  Dog owners want to know why their dog is being aggressive.  It’s often complex, with some dogs having multiple types of aggression as well as unique triggers.  It helps to first understand that there are many types of dog aggression.  In this series, we will explain the types of aggression and the various behavior modifications that may be utilized.  For any type of aggressive behavior, professional help from a Chicago trainer behaviorist is required.  The definition of aggression in dogs can include barking, growling, biting, or any attempt to injure or harm.  There are many signs a dog may give that precede aggression.

Types of aggression we will cover in this series:

  • Fear Aggression
  • Territorial Aggression
  • Predatory Aggression
  • Dominance Aggression
  • Possessive Aggression (resource guarding)
  • Food related Aggression
  • Pain-induced Aggression
  • Redirected Aggression
  • Intra-sexual Aggression (male/male or female/female)
  • Punishment-induced Aggression
  • Idiopathic Aggression

We will discuss the various types of aggressive behavior, triggers, precautions, as well as treatments.  Treatments can very depending on the dog.  It does not mean the dog is bad, or even “dangerous,” but it is a natural part of animal behavior.  All dogs need to be taught acceptable ways to behave.