Dealing with Aggession and hiring a Professional!

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Are you dealing with dog aggression?  Whether it’s dog-dog aggression or dog-human aggression have you contemplated the possibility that maybe you should hire a pro?  In this article I am, as the author of the Hot Listed book Dog Myths, being brutally honest to protect your family, your dog or pup and your finances.  Let’s jump into it, shall we?

 

Many folks hire a professional when their dogs are becoming (or already are) aggressive.  As a professional dog trainer who deals extensively and literally on a daily basis (or almost daily…I recently stopped working seven days a week!  Yay!!) with dog’s manifesting aggression I do recommend hiring a professional to help.  However, and this is a huuuuuuuuuuuge however, big problems occur when good people hire professionals who are more than willing to take their money yet the “professional” only knows how to add more, “sit, down, stay, come, watch me, heel,” etc, etc to the situation!  Please think about this.  Please consider this all-too-common problem!  And, again, let me quote myself here and say that most training and behavior modification is based in Excitement and that is NOT beneficial when dealing with Aggression!

Let me give you a few real life examples/horror stories I’ve heard from my clients who spent thousands of dollars with other companies only to receive little to no help with the real and serious issues of aggression their dog’s were dealing with…

  1.  The professional behaviorist uses fancy talk.  They throw around “science” and “proven scientific methods” like it’s going out of style.  They will convince you that all animals can be trained using “positive reinforcement” (meanwhile they are dogmatically Negative against any and all facts, studies, opinions, contrary to their own dogmatic belief system)!  (I always say that when it comes to working with an animal the only thing a trainer or behaviorist should be dogmatic about is tailoring their custom responses and methods to each individual dog and owner and to be dogmatic about the natural way…ask yourselves What would a balanced mother dog do in the situation!)       While these “scientific,” “positive only” types adamantly disagree with any other methodology; they personally are getting horrible results with the method they keep pushing!!!   I personally agree with them that all animals can be “trained” using “positive only” or “scientific” methods of conditioning.  My point is WHO WANTS TO SETTLE FOR TRAINING when So MUCH MORE IS AVAILABLE!!!!  (Sadly, most professionals are unaware or unwilling to realize that so much more truly IS available to them and their clients!)

2.  The professional will sign clients up for as many sessions or classes as possible!  They want to keep you on the hook.  They want to keep you as a lifetime client.  Great money-making strategy!  Horrible ethics and morals!  I always help equip my clients with the motivation, education, tools and skills needed to work with their dogs themselves!  If more dog professionals were honest and open instead of conniving, thieving, con artists I know they would find greater results both morally, ethically, and monetarily.  In my company we always only start with one session even if clients call and tell me on the phone they want a package deal…I always advise just starting with one!

The goal for the professional trainer or behaviorist should be to sign the client up for the least amount of sessions and do the best job possible in the shortest amount of time (with the caveat of following mother nature’s timing).  Remember if you aren’t more than happy, impressed, and starting to see real results during and after the first session with your professional behaviorists or trainer really consider trying someone else!  (keep in mind, results always start with the owner changing and learning and then, naturally, the results flow to your dogs!)  

I would Never sign my dog up for more than 10 sessions at a time.  After 10 if you need more (some extreme cases may) you can reevaluate.  If someone tried to sell me 6 months worth of classes I’d have to ask why it would take so long…are they really that horrible at training and modifying behaviors?  (Remember, dogs live in the moment and are ready to move on from the past faster than us humans)  If they attempted to sell me a year’s worth of lessons I’d politely just walk away shaking my head!

3.  The professional needs several classes (and more money from you) because they don’t just take action and start disagreeing with the unsocial behaviors while building a healthy relationship and getting to the heart of the issue.  (Example:  Your dog is aggressive with other dogs so instead of equipping you the owners first and then jumping in the pool, so to speak and getting to work on the problem (real life stuff).  Instead they bring you to the edge of a park…I’m talking about the farthest edge possible and when your dog notices another dog a mile away they’re going to try and bribe the dog with food so it has a “positive” experience and begins to associate something pleasant = food with something it usually wants to bite and lunge for = the dog.  Sounds great, right?  Makes sense, right?  Wrong!  The problem is that if you have real aggression your dog will not be smelling once he sees the dog!  He will not be interested in eating a treat because he is not tasting at that exact moment in time.  He is staring and raising his energy and trying to fixate.  He is using his secondary senses (vision and hearing) and ignoring his primary senses to the detriment of his own sociability and to the detriment of your peaceful walk and straining shoulder muscles!  The professional who stays on the edge and bribes will never amount to much.  And, tragically, the client who hires them will think that there isn’t much help for their aggressive dog!  This can lead to the dog being put down unnecessarily!  Or the dog biting another dog or person unnecessarily!  And all due to poor training and behavior mod. methods.)

4.  The professional claims to know about aggression but they seem nervous around your dog.  You would not believe the amount of times I have heard over the years that the clients have seen and sensed that the professional they hired in the past was actual afraid of their dog!  (**note to professionals who are afraid of getting bit…please get another job!**)

5.  The professional enters your home (or you enter their facility) and they start the relationship with your aggressive dog totally the wrong way...either with excitement and bribery with treats and high-pitched human talking (trying to gain trust through the external bribe of food) or by taking an over-board, dominant approach to the point of excessive harshness and smashing the dog down in a roll or lifting a dog they just met up into a hanging.  Both methods are based in excitement and should be super familiar to you but, and here’s the kicker, both are foolish, unnatural, and applied at the wrong time so both are the WRONG way to meet an aggressive dog.  (If I had a penny every time someone greeted a dog the wrong way I’d be a multi-billionaire 10 years ago!)

6.  The professional uses his former military or police experience.  While this, of course, can be beneficial (in protection work, obedience, the sport of Schutzhund, and elsewhere) it can also be a hindrance and backfire, particularly when we are dealing with house dogs!  I see this all the time!!!  The number one requirement for a great house dog is surprisingly NOT obedience!  The number one requirement for a great house dog is calmness!  Again, almost all training and behavior mod. is rooted and based in excitement and over-excitement.  Please don’t confuse a dog performing a “Platz” or a “Sitz” as a calm animal that is learning to self-soothe, lower their own energy and eliminate their aggression.  Police and Military dogs are bred and trained for high intensity work and not as house dogs.  (I am extremely thankful and respectful of our brave veterans and LEOs who have served honorably.  I do feel I  must still warn good folks about the common traps of applying military-style dog handling and training on house dogs.)

7.  The professional makes ridiculous statements like, “Maybe your dog should Not be around people.” Or possibly “Perhaps your dog should Not have other dog friends and you can just be his friend.”  They come up with excuses instead of real solutions.  They should fully understand that a social, pack creature that was once a wolf surviving in a group and then has lived with humans and our other animals for several millenia that sociability is the heart of the matter!  (Remember these are real life stories that my clients have told me about things their previous “pros” have told them!)

Some professionals also quickly turn to the blame game and start to lay guilt trips or threaten the owners into signing up with more classes or sessions, blaming or intimidating the owner all the while.  There is a company out our way with a woman who is infamous for her intimidation and threatening tactics.  Claiming to have a Buddhist-like balance this company is run by a tyrant!  This is a horrible reputation to have.  Almost nothing is worse in business, training and in life!    Other professionals blame the dog, or the owner, or the dog’s past, or whatever else pops into their mind…anything except their own methods!

8.  The professional suggests the use of drugs before attempting natural methods first.  Talk about a current problem, this is it!  As humans many of us are sold Hook, line, and sinker on the quick fix, the new drug, the special technology or formula that can tame the beast.  Instant gratification is a curse.  Proceed with caution when they talk prozac or whatever other drug they are comfortable pumping your dog or pup full of! (Some drugs can and do work, of course, but many do NOT and can be costly in the long run.)  (*I am not a vet – I don’t claim to be)  Many dogs I have behaviorally rehabbed over the years were on drugs and the drugs were not working.  Again, just proceed with caution.

9.  The professional is part of some large, faceless daycare, pet store, grooming, or all inclusive training facility.  These places are very common.  And you may be able to find decent training but remember not all trainers and behaviorists are equipped for aggression (even if they advertise that they are!)  These places founded their business on selling food, treats, pet supplies, grooming, vet visits, dog daycare and then found out they could make more money adding dog training.  They wouldn’t be successful if they only did training and behavior modification. They also will, of course, upsell you and get you to buy all of their supplies (from clickers and treats, to ridiculous potty pads, you’ll have everything you need and many more things you don’t need in your shopping cart before you leave!)

These sort of places will offer to train you as a trainer too and it typically only costs 600-1000 bucks!  Imagine that!  Meanwhile they have training programs for your dog or pup that cost more.  Meaning they must be offering shoddy training methods to you if it cost as much or more for them to train your new puppy than for them to educate, inspire, equip, train and support you in becoming a pro trainer at their facility!   Many of these places push agility training or preparing your pup for the show ring.  The professionals there usually don’t know much of the natural, dog way.  They don’t handle aggression well.

This dog doesn’t need more training.  He doesn’t need to eat more treats or get hanged by the neck!  He does Not need to build a relationship based on anything external.  He Needs To Calm Down!  He Needs Real Leadership!

 

Now where, I wonder, does that leave us?  Who can you hire and trust to provide the best possible services for our own unique dogs and their aggressive issues?  Didn’t I just eliminate almost every form of professional behaviorist and animal trainer?  Do we then seek out some bizarre, incense-sniffing, hippie animal communicator?   (No, we don’t!)

We search around, do our research, make our calls, talk to people, read testimonials and pick through them and look at the types of issues the dog’s faced on the reviews/testimonials (almost any clown posing as a trainer can get some great reviews for a simple group class…but have they fixed aggression in several large and powerful breeds?  Are they recommended by laypeople and several professionals alike?)

My main questions if I was looking to hire someone to help with aggression… Is the professional doing things the natural (dog) way?  Or are they performing some cookie-cutter system?  Do they maintain an excellent reputation with their clients and other pet professionals? (Be careful about the question of reputation, especially in a digital age where any fool can post/snap/tweet/share/review/yelp about almost anything or anyone from the safety and security of their computer or phone…a few bad reviews may not necessarily mean they aren’t a top notch professional.  But the overwhelming majority of reviews and testimonials should be fantastic or great.)  Have they fixed, reversed, or cured aggression before?  Do they have a track record of success?  

Results speak for themselves…“Success requires no apologies; failure permits no alibis.”

Calmness and Sociability are what cure aggression.  The pro has to really have a deep understanding of and be able to apply the dog language.  If the professional you’ve hired isn’t calming you and your dog then your dog won’t be able to go into a social, everyday situation.  If they can’t get your dog to be social you are wasting your time, energy, and money!

Good luck and happy hunting!  I told you I’d be frank and totally honest with ya…remember it’s for YOUR benefit! (These sort of articles don’t usually win us more fans…they are risky to write – especially with today’s victimhood culture but I’ve got to be honest for my clients, my future clients, and of course, the dogs!)

And please take a moment now to order Dog Myths, my book!  When this baby comes out (Update: it is out now!) we will win a lot of new fans and a lot of new hate mail from trainers and behaviorists who are Not open to all nature has to teach.  It will be extremely practical and beneficial to anyone who wants to build a healthy, real relationship with their dogs or pups based on respect, trust, energy control, and actual dog communication through spacial manipulation, touch, and how dogs think and speak.  It will be even more beneficial to those who have a dog suffering with aggression, fear, hyperactivity, separation anxiety, etc etc.  Below is the link to order my book…

Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!

Order this bad boy.  I guarantee it will forever change the way you look at the dog –  human dynamic and that it will benefit you and your family greatly.

 

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Dog fight!!! What to do when your dog is in a dog fight…

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What should we do when our dog is attacked? What should we do when our dog attacks another dog? How do we safely intervene? How can we fix the situation?

Dear readers, here are some guidelines to consider concerning when dogs fight.

1.Stay calm.

2. Please re-read and actually follow rule number 1!  

If everyone involved were to actually follow my first two rules the world would be a better place for people and our furry companions. I bring up calmness because it would imply that you are operating with a clear mind and not one exploding with fight/flight adrenaline. If you aren’t calm you aren’t in charge. End of story. If you aren’t calm how do you expect to handle conflict resolution? If you aren’t calm whatever actions you take will just usually INTENSIFY the situation.

Example: Imagine if you were stabbed or shot and then as you arrived at the hospital the doctors and nurses were shocked, and yelling, and flipping out; some crying, some severely angered, others simply stunned. Would they be of much help to you? Also keep in mind most fights (dog or human) last a very short time (many just seconds) Panic never helps in any situation.

Keep in mind you were the one who thought it was a good idea to bring a domesticated predator into your home.  A domesticated predator whose mighty ancestors still roam the mountains and plains and hunt, kill, and feast on prey animals up to 2000 pounds!A wolf from the Canyon Pack stalks an ailing bison at Otter Creek in Yellowstone National Park. (©Meg Sommers - click to enlarge)

 

3. Be prepared to take action.  Semper Paratus.

Being prepared is great.  Besides serving as the motto for the Boy Scouts and what Simba’s plotting Uncle Scar gave for advice to his minions of hungry hyenas, being prepared is never a bad thing. Attempt to be as aware as you can of your environment.  Our dogs are usually more aware of the environment than we are.

4. Proceed with caution!

All dogs are very quick (certainly quicker than people). All dogs can see movement better than you or I (due to the ratio of rods to cones in the dog’s eye). All dogs come equipped with a host of amazingly powerful jaws and large pointed teeth (you know, their “canine” choppers). Dogs are famous for their bite force and are used around the world by police, military, and private training companies for just this purpose. No need to elaborate on the mouth and teeth. All dogs have sharp claws. I’ve been bloodied up many times just from an aggressive dog attempting to grab me with their paws/claws!  Almost all dogs have fur that can protect them to a degree.

And the most important part of point number four…they have the inherent nature to survive. They don’t want to get hurt and will often end disagreements quickly if they can.  This means they will fight or flight if necessary.  Dogs are highly intelligent social creatures who will simply disagree with each other sometimes and use fight to do it.  But because dogs are so social it also means they have a fantastically peaceful nature inherently and that in most cases means a disagreement will only last a few seconds.

An exception to this would be dogs that have been conditioned to fight or are constantly pulling on the leash.Leash pulling will always escalate a dog’s energy levels. In protection work we want a taut leash. In calming a dog we do not want any pulling.  Learn to develop a great “heel” command where your dog walks loosely at your side.

 

Now please take a quick look at yourself and see if you have are equipped as well naturally to jump on into the fray and break up a dog fight. Do you have an incredible bite force? Do you have claws and fur? Do you have more rods than cones in your eyes and although you cannot see color as well because of the muted color scheme you can detect the slightest movements and zero in on them? Do you have an inherent nature to avoid confrontation and get along with the pack? Do you see where I’m going with this? Or maybe I should ask… Do you value your fingers? Do you value your hands? Do you value your legs?

5. To yell or not to yell?

If you yell it should only be for a moment and even then it typically won’t really do anything (barring the exception that your dog is somewhat well behaved and is not in too immediate danger/ is already latched onto) and it could just exacerbate the problem with more sound energy!

6. Evaluating the fight…

If your dog is on leash and they are not latched (from biting the other dog) you can pull back. And quickly turn the your dog away.  If they are latched onto each other with a firm bite Do Not pull back as this will only tear the flesh more and cause real damage.

7. Leave in control of yourself and your dog and don’t inadvertently cause a behavioral problem!

If your dog is around a large group of dogs leave the area right away. After exchanging personal info at the scene of course – I would assume this goes without saying!  Unless the wounds are so small that they really won’t need any vet assistance.  I mention leaving because you don’t want more dogs jumping in because of the over-excited energy (see rules one and two!). If it is only your dog and another dog I would NOT suggest you leave the area right away as this can almost instantly cause a behavioral issue in your dog! Your dog could form a new habit and think that it was such a traumatic experience (even if it wasn’t traumatic and most times it is not!)  If it indeed was traumatic -meaning a real fight that lasted more than a couple seconds with real puncture wounds (you know they look like a vampire bit down on your dog and many lacerations) – you should literally pretend for your dog’s sake that it was no big deal.  This is when you need to be strong for your dog and in control of your thoughts and emotions.

Let me explain. Dogs live in the moment and can form habits extremely fast. I believe many animals can form habits faster than humans (we typically form then in 21 – 30 days). If you are presenting weak, ineffective, over-excitable, or any imbalanced energy you will literally be hurting your own dog psychologically. Dogs feed on the energy around them.  And, honestly, if you’re crying, screaming, dancing around ineffectively, you certainly won’t help anyone -least of all your own dog.

All lead dogs in mother nature will be the calm, cool, and collected type.  Dogs will not follow a hysterical, sobbing, out-of-control human even if they’ve had years of the typical “sit, stay, down” et cetera training. Again please see rules 1 and 2. I handle several hundred dogs a year where the owners tell me they used to be fine with other dogs UNTIL they were attacked or they got into a fight with another dog.

8. Develop resilience and a tough skin.

Do your self and your dog a favor and Pretend Everything is Fine and handle the situation like a real dog leader would. Because chances are (and I’ve seen this many times) there is minor or no damages in many cases and the humans are all worked up because their two dogs had a disagreement. This does not mean you cannot honestly disagree with the other human about their dog but this leads into my next point…

9. Be polite to the other human as best you can.

You get more flies with honey than vinegar. This is hard for most people in today’s unnatural, technology-crazed, fast food, instant gratification society. Manners are at an all time low. Be upfront and honest but try not to be rude.

Please imagine two somewhat, normal people and now picture their dogs fight for a few moments and now ask yourself this question…Do you think anyone of the people actually wanted a fight to take place? If their dog was the initiator don’t you think the owner would be concerned about the behavior?

10. Don’t be a victim!

If you are the victim don’t act like it. Acting like a victim has never helped anyone ever in the whole history of the world.  If you are incredibly worked up you have that right but, again, it won’t do you any favors when interacting with the other owner. And what’s more, you may be inadvertently hurting your dog with all the Human Drama. Please check rules 1 and 2 just one more time. Eliminate all Human drama. It is unnecessary and a foolish waste of energy. If you are wasting energy what are you teaching your dog?  Now is the time to Calmly Lead.  Now is the time to show how you handle adversity!

If you have the dog that started the fight – settle your dog down by controlling the eye contact (this means breaking it) and spinning them away if you can safely do so. Some experts suggest grabbing them by the back legs and spinning them in a circle away from the other dog. I say good luck with that. Make sure to go and see the other dog (if the owner is still there and if you can safely do so). Make sure you see if there is damage and what sort. Offer to pay the vet bills as this is customary and the right thing to do. Unless, of course, the owner doesn’t want to see you or talk to you (some clients tell me this has happened to them and the other party just yelled at them and walked off. This usually means there is little to no injury to their dog and they just want to get out of the situation. Let them.) Don’t cause more human drama. However, if you can stay on the scene a bit this can help most dogs settle down and not go right from Fight into Flight.  Remember, we don’t want any new unsocial habits forming.  Just being around (at a safe distance where they cannot get at each other) even with the dog they just had the disagreement with while the owners correct and calm them can shockingly be beneficial and hammer home that sociability is the only way.

11. Prevention.  Prevention.  Prevention.

The best option is to obviously not let your dog get into a fight in the first place.  You can usually prevent dog fighting drama if you develop an excellent relationship with your dog, socialize the heck out of them but make sure you maintain the lead (remember that “heel” I mentioned earlier?).  And in many cases where the dog already has dog aggression you need to continue to get them out and about (cautiously) but the risk is worth the reward if you know what you are doing because deep down dogs are always ready to learn to be social.  That being said, if it happened to you or ever does please learn from the wisdom of the dogs and shake off stress and cares, live in the moment, keep moving forward, forgive and forget, remain in control of your energy and learn to control your dog’s energy!

Learn to read their body language. Do not allow your dog to stare at other dogs!  Do not allow your dog to throw it’s head over other dogs shoulders when meeting or playing.  Be a tension calmer.  Many misunderstandings can be prevented if the dog’s language is fluid and the human owner also understands canine communication. Sadly many, many dogs are aggressive, do pull, lunge, snap on the leash and off and have a horrible dog language and do not know how to get back to a calm, peaceful place! Seek professional help and someone with an excellent reputation for rehabbing aggressive, fearful, or dangerous dogs (remember, while almost all training companies and behaviorists advertise that they handle aggression- the sad truth is that many Mishandle it.

True dog aggression cannot be fixed with treats and “watch me” commands.  It will not be fixed from attending a “Growly Class” (think for a moment how foolish the human concept of a “Growly dog class” is.  Dogs are social creatures who learn from other people and dogs so why would I place my dog into a large group of other dogs with the exact same issue?)  Instead, get your dog extra exercise, structure and discipline, a great “heel”, proper house manners, don’t let him over-touch you or others, and eventually you have to “jump in the pool” and get your dog more social and around other calm “example” dogs.  Whatever the behavioral question is… the only answer is more sociability!

Need help? Give me a call!  I behaviorally rehab fearful and aggressive dogs with great success on a daily basis!  And order my HOT Listed book, Dog Myths (hundreds of folks are reserving their copies Now- hopefully thousands soon!)  Find out why it made the HOT List for so many weeks consecutive.  Find out why the dog training and behavior modification industry is largely crap and not helpful.  And then, after you are shocked, you will be educated, equipped and inspired in the beneficial ways of natural dog handling and I promise you will notice BIG changes once you begin applying even a few of the amazing techniques contained within the pages of Dog Myths!

Here is the link.  Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! by Garrett Stevens

Keep it peaceful,
-G