A food treat will NOT work in reversing genuine dog aggression. It may work (painfully slowly) on a dog with just a bit of reactivity but as far as a truly fearful, anxious, and or legitimately aggressive dog please know at the outset that you are WASTING your time, your energy, and your money on the behaviorist or trainer that handicap themselves because of their narrow thinking and belief that positive-ONLY is the only way to interact with a dog. The first system of the body that is shut off during a moment of Fight or Flight when the dog’s adrenal glands are pumping is the DIGESTIVE SYSTEM. This means that the truly aggressive dog will NOT eat a treat and make the positive associations that it’s supposed to during a real life moment when the dog is face to face with the neighbor or another dog that just ran up on it! This is a Massive Problem that positive only trainers have no answer for except that the dog was “over threshold” and should be placed a thousand yards back from the stimuli! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA That’s NOT Real Life! The positive-only trainer presumes that their way is the “only” way (it’s in the name of their method) and that also shows a supreme arrogance and, to be quite frank, a bizarre approach- because it’s so unnatural – to the wonderfully simple yet complex creatures we know as dogs.
Mother and Father dogs – any canine really – do NOT use food to rehab the wayward pup’s behavior. So why limit oneself if what we all should be looking for is the humane resolution of terrible behavior in the aggressive dog? Does this mean I’m saying punitive reinforcement is the best way towards reversing dog aggression? Certainly NOT! Many pro trainers that think correcting the dog through force is the only way forward can be just as handicapped in their viewpoint as the positive-only folks. Why not a balance like a good parent takes with the children they love and care for? And even more important – Why not something deeper than just pleasure or pain?
Dear Friends, I’d like to suggest to you (especially if you are a new subscriber to this blog) the idea that there is more to offer to the aggressive dog than raw reinforcement from either side. In my experience handling aggressive dogs (which is vast – I’m not going to beat around the bush. In fact my new apprentice just did the math on his limited experience professionally training dogs – he’s been training with me at the time of writing for just three months and has already handled over 500 dogs in private session after private session – and this doesn’t include his prior year working in the kennel of our Dog Language Center, and it doesn’t include his work with any of our Behavioral Board and Train dogs. In just three months my young apprentice has worked with more dogs, many of these dangerous and a majority with reactivity and aggression and fear issues, than people will possibly even see their entire life! Personally at the time of writing I’ve had a very full sixteen years of behaviorally rehabbing dogs and asking the tough questions in hopes of getting to better behavioral answers for people and dogs. As to experience though please keep in mind – it doesn’t matter much if the person’s been doing it poorly for decades. Learning with an empty cup is critical for improvement. But let’s get back to the point). There is more to offer to our furry family members than the continued fixation on reinforcement.
I’m not against an occasional treat (as the name implies treats should be infrequent. A treat is a treat…not the main meal!) I’m also not against an occasional correction (a dog goes to legitimately bite me while I’ve got it’s leash and I might, depending on the situation, correct that dog firmly all the while making sure to back it up and claim the space that it tried to take by entering my own space – teaching it that although it tried to invade mine it just lost ground because of the unsocial and possibly dangerous way the dog chose to interact with me. The main point though, Dear Reader, is that the claiming of the space is infinitely more important to the dog in most instances than the actual punitive reinforcement that just occurred. THIS is what a lot of folks seem to miss. They show very little comprehension in the way of understanding primal, simple animal and dog language and what I have coined as the 4 Pillars of Dog Language. The 4 Pillars of Dog Language are Touch, Space, Movement, and Energy. If you get those 4 aligned life with your dog is always easy and the relationships, beginning with you and your dog and spreading outward to the wide world get better and better and more and more rich and mature. It can be so good. This is the way to calmness and trust. Learning and applying the 4 Pillars is following the way of the dog.
Oh just wait because my third book on dog and human behavior is coming out hopefully in 2021 and it’s going to be my best book yet! We go over the 5 Senses of our dogs and the 4 Pillars of dog language and how they pertain to every action our dogs take and the actions we take. These 4 Pillars are primal and elemental and can be observed in every interaction with any canid, at all times, anywhere! My upcoming book details how to prevent or reverse a host of issues naturally and calmly and typically it’s easier than the majority of training methods out there! We are so excited to get it finished and out to you all.
To reverse dog aggression towards others, be they people or other dogs, the core issue and the solution for genuinely helping lies within the 5 Senses and the 4 Pillars. We must consider the sensual nature of our dogs and the order in which they developed these super senses. We must understand how the brain and body of the canine employs these incredible senses and when the initial disturbance occurs. We must observe how the dog is touching the owner. We must take serious note of how the dog receives touch from the owner and from other people or dogs. We must learn from nature and consider the effects of pressure and the release of pressure. We must understand how social grooming and how touching displays among many species reveal the family structure and an orderly or chaotic and out of control hierarchy. We must intelligently observe the environment and truly see the space around the handler’s body, the dog’s body, the triggering stimuli/other person or dog’s body. We must question all animals and seek to learn about how important these spatial adjustments are. We must cultivate the fine art of movement and get out of our own heads as we allow ourselves to enter the world of the dog and the fine movements and words that that world contains. If we cannot move well results could be stymied. We must seek to guide touch, space, and movement if we ever hope to influence the energy of the animal.
Friends, there is so much more to offer the dog suffering with aggressive than just watch me, sit, down, stay, or come. There is so much more than just immature reinforcement and micromanagement through “work” and obedience. The dog of today doesn’t need more work despite what you may have heard. Let’s not confuse the professional working dog and its high drive training methods with what most dog owners of today have and what they desire – they want a CALM and TRUSTWORTHY family member and not a hyped-up work machine! Examine most dog training methods though and it’s just more excitement and more bribery and more punishment and more work…all of which do NOT lead a dog into calmness and more sociability. Friends, there is so much more than positive-only or punitive mostly available to our dogs. The fixation of reinforcement has been holding back new discoveries in dog training and behavior for decades…let’s try and move past it, shall we? If you and I become more curious and intelligently question the 4 Pillars we’ll all be well on our way to further discovery into the elemental and terrifically clear language of animals and we’ll truly help dogs come to an understanding of their own nature. Calm the energy and any behavioral problem disappears. To get to energy though we must go through the gates of Touch, Space, and Movement! We must employ the 4 Pillars.
If you liked this one please let me know in the comments because I can continue it if we get enough response and I’ll give a couple practical, naturally calming solutions in the next one on the aggressive dog.