All dogs will display some level of aggression or reactivity at some point in their life, so learning how to address this type of behavior is critical for any dog owner or dog trainer.
With a little knowledge and preparation it is easy to prevent almost all aggression, and to quickly address any aggression issues as they begin to emerge, before they develop into problems that can quickly decrease the quality of life for dog and owner alike.
These days, I'm pleased to say that many owners understand the importance of early puppyhood socialization. Unfortunately, far fewer owners understand the important of maintaining that socialization through adolescence and adulthood, when dogs naturally become more shy and stand-offish.
All too often, a dog will get into a single dog fight that will scare their owners into avoiding other dogs, depriving their own dog of the social interaction they need for rehabilitation. Without ongoing positive social experiences, the dog's sociability only deteriorates further, resulting in self-reinforcing, downward spiral of de-socialization.
As soon as you recognize any developing reactivity or aggression you should treat it. The sooner you do, the easier it will be. And the methods used in the treatment of dog aggression are remarkably similar to those used for prevention, except that treatment usually takes dramatically longer.
Recently though, new techniques have been developed to accelerate and maximize classical conditioning, progressive desensitization and ultimately, re-socialization. These methods make it possible to rehabilitate dogs as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
- Prevent dog aggression in the first place with early puppyhood socialization and handling.
- Recognize early warning signs and address aggression problems before they become serious.
- Teach a dog to develop bite inhibition.
- Prevent dog reactivity with the concept of multiple subliminal bite stimuli.
- Treat dogs with aggression problems using Differential Classical Conditioning (DCC) to prevent the unintentional reinforcement of reactivity during classical conditioning.
- Set up training scenarios to accelerate classical conditioning (rather than trying to resolve problems in the course of every day life).
- Empower low-level primary reinforcers as the highest-level, mega-secondary reinforcers to maximize classical conditioning.
- Facilitate puppy play sessions so pups can develop bite inhibition towards other dogs.
- Immediately resolve fearfulness and bullying in puppy play sessions.
- Utilize Come-Sit-Watch commands to break stares and decrease tension and threatening behaviors between dogs.
- Objectively assess the severity of fighting and biting (Fight/Bite Ratio and Bite Scale)
- Assess treatment prognosis and the time required to retrain an aggressive dog.
- Use the Jolly Routine for classical conditioning.
- Organize a Growl Class for reactive (but not dangerous) dogs.
Dr. Ian Dunbar is one of the world's most respected experts on dog training and behavior. He received his veterinary degree and a Special Honors degree in Physiology & Biochemistry from the Royal Veterinary College (London University) plus a doctorate in animal behavior from the Psychology Department at UC Berkeley, where he researched the development of social hierarchies and aggression in domestic dogs.
He has authored numerous books and DVDs about puppy/dog behavior and training, including AFTER You Get Your Puppy, How To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks and the SIRIUS® Puppy Training video.
In 1982, Dr. Dunbar designed and taught the world's very first off-leash puppy socialization and training classes -- SIRIUS® Puppy Training. Subsequently, he created and developed the San Francisco SPCA's Animal Behavior Department, the American Kennel Club's Gazette "Behavior" column, which he wrote for seven years, and the K9 GAMES®, which were first held in San Francisco in 1993 and continue as annual events in Japan and France. He hosted the popular UK television series Dogs With Dunbar for five seasons and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including the Today Show (US) and Dash Village (Japan).
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