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Aggressive Behavior in Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide to create a training plan.

Updated: Feb 20

What should you do if your dog is behaving aggressively?


In the world of dog training, challenges can arise that require careful attention and guidance. One of the most pressing issues that many dog owners face is dealing with aggression in their canine companions. This article aims to provide you, as responsible dog owners and enthusiasts, with a comprehensive guide on how to handle aggressive behaviour in dogs. Aggression in dogs can stem from various sources, and addressing it requires a combination of understanding, patience, and effective training methods, this is why #CareyTrainsMe has created this guide on how to create a training plan for an aggressive dog.


Understanding Aggression in Dogs: Dog body language.


Grey dog with black face training with treats to wear a basket muzzle by Carey Bolduc
Dog being trained to wear a basket muzzle

Aggression is a complex behaviour that can manifest in different ways, such as growling, snapping, biting, or lunging. It's essential to recognize that aggression can have various underlying causes, including fear, territoriality, possessiveness, frustration, and even medical issues. Identifying the root cause of aggression is the first step towards addressing the behaviour effectively. Please review #CareyTrainsMe’s guide to dog body language. Pay close attention to distance-seeking communication and the ladder of aggression.


Documentation: Keep a journal of triggers, and stresses. Any health issues from skin to digestion disturbances.


Management: Remove your dog from exposed triggers until you have had your dog assessed by an experienced, reputable dog trainer committed to using positive reinforcement and never physical punishment techniques or ‘tools’ that suppress behaviour. Do not expose your dog to triggers until you have a step-by-step plan from your trainer or behaviourist. Always plan and set up a minimum of two layers of protection if your dog must be exposed to triggers. Two layers give you extra protection when management fails or human error. For example, if your dog is human reactive and you are in a small space and an emergency repair person have your dog in a crate behind a door or baby gate, use a leash with a muzzle, or behind of baby gate with a muzzle. If the baby gate is jumped over or knocked down, or the leash breaks you have the muzzle as a backup. Always, always always use two layers.


Where should you start when you have a dog behaving aggressively?


Step 1: Book a full physical exam with your veterinarian including blood work. If your dog is not about to be examined by a vet, you may need to book a telephone consultation before your vet is able to physically examine your dog. Aggression can be caused by health conditions your dog may be experiencing. Pain and health conditions will need to be ruled out before a training plan begins. During your consultation with your veterinarian inquire about behaviour medication options and if your dog is a good candidate for medication.


Step 2: Consultation with a Professional Dog Trainer, your vet or veterinary behaviourist.

It's crucial to consult a certified dog behaviourist or trainer who has experience in working with aggressive cases. They can assess the dog's behaviour, identify triggers, and create a tailored training plan.


Step 3: Assess you dog's environment identify triggers and control your environment.


The impact the environment can have on an animal's behaviour. Evaluate your dog's living conditions and routine. Ensure that they have a safe and comfortable space, appropriate mental and physical stimulation, and a consistent daily schedule. Changes in the environment can trigger or exacerbate aggression, so maintaining stability is key.


Step 4: Positive Reinforcement Training. Obedience is different from conditioning and counter condition. Obedience is the training of an animal, especially a dog, to obey certain commands, essentially paring a word/command/cue with a behaviour like sit or down. As an expert in dog training, I can testify that the effectiveness of positive reinforcement training. Positive reinforcement training involves rewarding desirable behaviours to encourage their repetition. When working with an aggressive dog, focus on reinforcing calm and relaxed behaviours using positive reinforcement to build confidence and coping skills for your dog. Rewarding these moments helps the dog associate positive outcomes with non-aggressive behaviour.


Step 5: set up control environments to safely practice counter-conditioning.

Counter-conditioning is a valuable tool and a must-have component of your dog training plan for managing and overcoming aggression. This technique involves changing the dog's emotional response to a trigger that elicits aggressive behaviour. By gradually exposing the dog to the trigger while providing positive experiences, calmly and safely, you can help them form new, non-threatening associations.


Step 6: Desensitization and habituation.

As a board and train specialist, we use desensitization daily, desensitization as a successful approach. It involves exposing the dog to the trigger at a distance where they remain calm and gradually decrease the distance over time. This method, combined with positive reinforcement, can help the dog become more comfortable around triggers that once provoked aggression.


Step 7: Patience and Consistency commit to the process.

Given your goal of selling produce at farmers' markets, you understand the importance of consistency in achieving results. Training an aggressive dog demands patience and unwavering consistency. A solid training routine, where all family members and caretakers are on the same page, is crucial. Inconsistencies can confuse the dog and hinder progress.


Step 8: Avoid Punishment.

While opinions on training methods vary, it's widely agreed upon that punitive methods are not effective and can worsen aggression. Instead of punishing aggressive behavior, focus on redirecting and rewarding positive actions. Punishment can escalate fear and aggression, leading to a more dangerous situation.


Step 9: The fun factor! Add fun to your dog's life with enrichment, brain games and confidence building.


Enrichment: Enriching your dogs life.

Canine enrichment refers to various activities, environments, and experiences that enhance dogs' physical and mental well-being. These activities include training, play, exercise, and exposure to new sights, sounds, and smells. Canine enrichment aims to provide dogs with opportunities to engage in natural behaviours, challenge their minds and bodies, and promote their overall health and happiness.


Brain Games: Tap into your dog’s problem-solving skills.

Brain games go beyond physical exercise, tapping into a dog's problem-solving abilities and instincts. Engaging in hide-and-seek games or teaching them new tricks keeps their minds active and attentive. Scent games, where they search for hidden objects, tap into their keen sense of smell and provide an exciting mental challenge. By engaging in regular brain games, you can prevent boredom, alleviate anxiety, and strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend. These activities not only provide entertainment but also contribute to a more fulfilled and emotionally balanced dog.


Confidence building: agility and fitness up, off, over, under, around and through.

Dog fitness exercises cannot be understated, especially for the well-being of your canine companions. Engaging in fitness routines like encouraging your dog to jump up to balance on an item and jump off provides mental stimulation. The benefit from exercise's positive impact on mood and stress reduction. Tailoring exercises to your dog's breed, age, and individual needs is essential to prevent injury and promote their overall vitality.


Managing aggressive behaviour in dogs is undoubtedly a challenging journey that requires dedication, expertise, and compassion. As a dog trainer and board and train specialist I have successfully created and executed many training plans for reactive and aggressive dogs. Ensure that you hire a trainer who creates a plan that has an intricate balance of training techniques and the steps below.


What steps should you take when you have an aggressive dog?


Step 1: Book a full physical exam with your veterinarian.

Step 2: Consultation with a Professional Dog Trainer, your vet or veterinary behaviourist.

Step 3: Assess you dog's environment and control your environment, keep stress low.

Step 4: Commit to Positive Reinforcement Training.

Step 5: Set up control environments to safely practice counter-conditioning.

Step 6: setup and control environments to safely practice desensitization and habituation.

Step 7: Patience and Consistency commit to the process and training plan.

Step 8: Avoid Punishment and suppressing your dog’s behaviour.

Step 9: The fun factor! Add fun to your dog's life with enrichment, brain games and confidence building.





By hiring the right professionals, using positive reinforcement obedience training, practicing counter-conditioning and desensitization, maintaining patience and consistency, introducing enrichment, brain games and confidence building you can work towards transforming your aggressive dog into a well-adjusted and happy companion. The key is consistency over time and your commitment to learning and adapting will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in achieving a positive outcome for both you and your beloved furry friend.










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2月02日
評等為 5(最高為 5 顆星)。

Very helpful!

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