Greyt Inspirations Life

A little about our life, our business and our pets.

Aggression is a no-no

This is Dog Bite Prevention Week and, in honor of this occasion, I’d like to call your attention to a very good article that was on The Huffington Post today:  Experts Say Dominance-Based Dog Training Techniques Made Popular by Television Shows Can Contribute to Dog Bites.  I know that the idea of “dog whispering,” or being the “alpha” member of a pack that consists of your family and your dogs is very popular with some people, thanks to some popular television trainers, but the results show that this approach isn’t good for your dogs or you.




Here’s an excerpt from the article:



Dr. Jennie Jamtgaard, an applied animal behavior consultant and behavior instructor at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine gives an example.


“I saw an Australian Cattledog mix with severe aggression (lunging, growling, barking) directed at other dogs whenever they came into view, even hundreds of feet away. The dog was fine with people and had never been aggressive to people before. The owners watched the Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan regularly and dealt with the dog in a completely punishment-based way. They repeatedly tried to physically subdue the dog whenever it was aggressive. Finally, at PetSmart, the dog growled and lunged, and when the female owner tried to force the dog down, she was bitten on the arm. That was when they called me.”


Using physical force on dogs will often bring on aggression that is directed at you or another person, even if the dog has not previously displayed aggression toward people.


This excellent article continues:


Unfortunately, these bite incidences are not surprising. According to a recent veterinary study published in The Journal of Applied Animal Behavior (2009), if you’re aggressive to your dog, your dog will be aggressive, too.


Says Meghan Herron, DVM, lead author of the study, “Our study demonstrated that many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them, or intimidating them with physical manipulation such as alpha rolls [holding dogs on their back], do little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses.”


The article goes on to say that these techniques are pervasive in many TV shows and popular books on training, such as Cesar Millan’s The Dog Whisperer.  He frequently demonstrates alpha rolls, “dominance downs,” and forces dogs to be exposed to things that cause them fear or bring out aggression.  He even restrains dogs and performs physical corrections to take valued possessions away from them.


Proponents of these techniques attribute undesirable or aggressive behavior in dogs to a dog seeking to gain social dominance or to an owner displaying lack of proper dominant behavior.  They encourage owners to establish an “alpha” or pack leader role.


But according to the AVSAB position statement on The Use of Dominance Theory in Animal Behavior Modification, undesirable behaviors are most frequently due to inadvertent rewarding of undesirable behaviors and lack of consistent rewarding of desirable behaviors.


Herron adds, “Studies on canine aggression in the last decade have shown that canine aggression and other behavior problems are more frequently a result of fear (self-defense) or underlying anxiety problems. Aversive techniques can elicit an aggressive response in dogs because they can increase the fear and arousal in the dog, especially in those that are already defensive.” Indeed the AVSAB position statement and guidelines on the Use of Punishment in Animal Behavior Modification backs her up.


You don’t get anywhere with your dog using force and aggression.  Instead, it’s important to work on their underlying emotional state.  Help them get rid of their fear and anxiety.  Focus on rewarding positive behavior.  Instead of trying to dominate your dog try to understand his motivations and then you can work on his reactions.  Being consistent with your dog is also one of the most important things you can do to help him understand what you want and expect from him.  Consistency in what you want and allow also helps to give your dog more security.




May 18, 2009 - Posted by | dogs, Pets | , , , , ,

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