Christopher Aust, Master Trainer
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Last week we talked about what to do when faced with an aggressive dog that is off leash. This week we are going to discuss what to do if your dog is exhibiting aggressive behavior.
I believe this is an important issue as dog bites seem to be increasing over the last few years. Personally, I chalk this up to irresponsible ownership and nothing more. While we have all seen the news articles about the “dangerous breeds” out there with killing people being their only goal, in reality, those breeds are responsible for a small percentage of actual bite cases.
Now, just because your dog shows aggressive signs, doesn't mean you are a bad owner or irresponsible. What makes dog owners irresponsible is if their dogs shows aggression and they don't take solid steps to correct it.
Many of us are doing the same thing with our dogs. We love them so much we allow them to get away with undesirable behavior rather than implement a little tough love. This is a self-destructive path that I believe is one of the biggest reasons we are facing things like Breed Specific Legislation.
It is easy to blame the ignorant politicians and officials who try to pass BSL, but the truth is, dog owners really need to look at what we could be doing to contribute to the problem. If our dogs show aggressive signs, what are we doing to correct it? When we see people being irresponsible with their dogs, are we reporting it? We can police ourselves or the idiots will do it for us.
So, for the next two weeks we are going to focus on curbing our own dogs' aggression. With summer coming we are going to be out more with our pets, and I feel it is something we need to address. Even if your dog is fine, you will be able to help a friend or family member who is dealing with this issue.
Additionally, all "Bark 'n' Scratch" subscribers will be able to attend these classes for free! You heard me right. FREE! You will be able to have access to professionals who often charge hundreds of dollars for their consultations. I'm not sure how long we will be able to keep them for free so take advantage of it while you can. To register, go to:
Okay, that's it for now. I'm outta here!
Dog Chewing the Sofa? Puppy Eating Your Shoes? Or WORSE?
In today's article, (Where'd He Come From ?!) it sounded like the dog you would be walking with would be a sweet calm dog for the most part.
Ex: Yesterday I was at my parent's house and we went for a walk. Well, this dog (on a leash) is walking with his owners. My dear boy decides to bark at the Scottie. Some days he's calm and other times Gus is just full of himself. Well, Gus gets away from my dad and runs up to the dog and seems a bit confused as to what to do when he gets there.
My dad gets his leash and Gus snaps at the dog. The other dog didn't seem to care all that much and we scolded Gus. If you say "bad dog", he feels horrible most of the time and is eager to please. So what can you do in a situation where your dog is pretty much the initiator?
The one or two times he's sniffed a dog, he'd back down whining. Any period of time after the initial sniff and he'd start to act "tough". Gus was attacked last year (thankfully unhurt) so we don't walk as often as we used to. Frankly, the only time I'm confident walking now is when I'm with someone.
Also, Gus' personality changed after that and he's still loveable to those he even met once as a puppy but now he's timid around new people (and has snapped twice). He seems to want to meet people though. I'm not nervous when he meets new people because it seems sometimes he likes them (even petted), but then a minute later, they'll look at him wrong and he's snippy.
I have a Bible study group that comes over on Tuesdays and he'd cry the whole time outside that he couldn't be in with the group. Now, he goes to Grandma's for a visit at that time. I'm not even sure if my questions are making sense ... but thank you so much for the article. It helped. I just have to work on not letting my emotions get the best of me.
For me, a puppy is any dog that is 18 months or younger, regardless of the breed. Now, some dogs mature a little quicker and some a little slower, however, I use this as a rule of thumb in general. Keep in mind their physical size has little to do with maturity.
Let me explain this a little further. My son is almost 16 years old. While he is a good kid and physically “man sized,” he still has a bit to learn about life and making responsible adult decisions. It is up to me to make sure he understands what is and isn't appropriate before he develops bad habits that go on into adulthood. This is the same way we should look at our young dogs.
Aggression is a learned behavior. It doesn't matter what the age of the dog is or the breed. There are exceptions where aggression can result in dogs with genetic issues and/or a chemical imbalance, but these are few and far between.
Learned behavior is any behavior exhibited by an animal that is not instinctual in nature. Lets' look at an example ...
When puppies are born in the wild, even though they instinctively know they need to eat, they have to be taught to hunt by other members of the pack. This is done by the playing games with the puppy that will encourage a hunting behavior. As the dog becomes proficient at the game, new elements will be added until the pup is ready to go out and hunt for the pack.
There are a number of things that can happen to make a dog exhibit aggressive behavior. Sometimes it is simply a game we played with the puppy that increased the dogs prey drive. Tug-o-War (played incorrectly) is an example of one of these games, as is the chase game. The chase game is one that more often than not happens when there is a small child in the house who runs from the puppy and the puppy chases the child until he catches him.
Heavy handedness is also a good way to create an aggressive puppy. I know it can be frustrating trying to train a puppy obedience or potty train and often people will handle the dog “roughly.” Additionally, a child who hasn't been taught the proper way to handle a puppy can cause the same effect.
Under this category, I am going to include puppies that have been attacked by other dogs. Keep in mind, very few puppies understand an attack by another dog, and if the attack is significant, it will cause some long lasting effects.
I talk about the importance of socialization all the time but want to make it absolutely clear how important it is for puppies. Puppies MUST be exposed to other animals and people almost from day one. If they aren't, they will fear people and other animals (including other dogs) when they do finally encounter them and act accordingly. More often than not, aggression/defense is the posture they will assume.
With puppies, it is usually pretty easy to determine what triggered the aggression as they haven't been around that long. Therefore, I believe it is important to make a list of all the different parameters in the puppy's life. Has the dog been regularly socialized around other animals? Is there a particular incident that could have caused the behavior? Have we simply been to heavy handed? Take the time to honestly look at all the issues. Keep in mind, your list may end up blank but at least try.
Regardless of the reason for any aggressive behavior, it is imperative you as the Alpha step up to the plate and take control. In society today, an aggressive dog simply isn't going to be tolerated for any reason. It is the responsibility of all dog owners to ensure our puppies don't grow up to be aggressive.
I'm not saying you are irresponsible if your dog becomes aggressive. As I mentioned, some games (and even methods used by some trainers) we play can inadvertently cause these behaviors. What I am saying is if your dog starts to exhibit aggression, fixing it needs to become a priority in your life.
Crash Training (CT) is a lot like boot camp in the military. It is a matter of completely tearing down and rebuilding the behavior of the dog in a strict, regimented manner. You won't need any special equipment, but you and every member of the household must be dedicated to the task in order to see results. It is a slow process but it works.
I have been saying it forever, but nutrition affects behavior. Before you begin CT, you need to make sure you are meeting your dog's nutritional needs. You may need to change to one of the few premium kibbles or go to a cooked food diet, which is my preference. Supplements, like Tahitian Noni are also instrumental in helping to maintain the dog's health and feelings of wellness.
If you aren't sure how to evaluate your dog's diet, consult with your vet or someone who specializes in canine nutrition. I know of a couple of people who conduct such consultations for a nominal fee and will direct you to them if needed. Just let me know.
The night before you start CT, you need to make sure your house is prepared. All toys should be picked up and put away, especially if the dog is aggressive when someone tries to take it from them. If they have a bed they sleep on, it should be moved to a different location of the house. Don't allow them to sleep in a room with a human family member. Change the location of the dog's water bowl as well.
At any given point during the day, I can pretty much look at the clock and tell you what my dogs are up to. We all have a regular routine we follow pretty closely each day and our dogs do as well. I'm sure you also know what it's like to when our daily routine changes for one reason or another. It can throw off the way we do our normal activities throughout the day.
During CT, our dog's schedule is going to completely change with the exception of feeding times. If you normally take them for a walk first thing in the morning, make them wait an hour or take them on a second walk a short period later. If you put them outside at a certain time change the time and duration they are left out. In part two, I will give you a couple of sample schedules.
This is the hardest part for most people when they start CT. During CT you aren't going to be all lovey-dovey with your dogs. You will give them praise for following commands, but it will be a little subdued, verbal and with little, and preferably no, physical. No treats!
You can acknowledge the dog when you come home or enter a room but don't get all giddy with them. They need to earn that type of contact with you and, in the beginning, they simply haven't earned it.
Now I can hear some of you out there saying, “Isn't all this harsh? Won't the dog get confused and frustrated?” The answer is: yes, it is harsh. Yes, they will get confused and a little frustrated. They are also going to start to think. They will wonder what they have to do to regain their pack status. They will start to look before they leap so to speak.
You also have to weigh the alternatives. If your dog ends up biting someone, you could end up being sued, forced to euthanize your dog, or both. So, inconvenience yourself for a couple of weeks and give your dog some tough love, or kill your furkid. Hmm…that's a tough one.
My goal in life is to become as wonderful as my dog thinks I am.
~ Toby & Eileen Green ~
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Cowboy: "Hey, cool dog you got there. Mind if I speak to him?"
Indian: "Dog no talk".
Cowboy: "Hey dog, how's it going?"
Dog: "Doin' all right."
Indian: (Look of shock.)
Cowboy: "Is this guy your owner?" pointing at the Indian.
Cowboy: "How does he treat you?
Dog: "Real good. He walks me twice a day, feeds me great food, and takes me to the lake once a week to play."
Indian: (Look of total disbelief.)
Cowboy: "Mind if I talk to your horse?
Indian: "Horse no talk."
Cowboy: "Hey horse, how's it going?"
Indian: (Extreme look of shock.)
Cowboy: "Is he your owner?", pointing to the Indian.
Cowboy: "How's he treat you?"
Horse: "Pretty good, thanks for asking. He rides me regularly, brushes me down often, and keeps me in a shed to protect me."
Indian: (Look of utter amazement.)
Cowboy: "Mind if I talk to your sheep?
Indian: "Sheep big liar."
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Thank You For Reading! Have a Terrific Week!
Don't forget to send your comments, questions and suggestions on
the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter to:
Newsletter Archive: Master-Dog-Training.com/archive/
Thank You For Reading! Have a Terrific Week!
Don't forget to send your comments, questions and suggestions on the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter to:
Newsletter Archive: Master-Dog-Training.com/archive/
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