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Training For Aggressive Dogs

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Reactivity Management – Training Overview

There is no more powerful tool than basic obedience to help you manage your pet’s reactivity (often mischaracterized as dog aggression). As with any dog training, there’s no such thing as a quick fix. Our reactivity management program is designed to support you and your dog – starting today – to help you manage and prevent worsening behavioral challenges.

This program offers specialized support to help you manage your dog’s reactivity. The foundation of the Reactivity Management program is positive experience basic obedience, and offers owner training and support to help you use those basic obedience skills to manage problem behaviors. Further, we start your learning today, with advice from our behaviorists to immediately improve your dog’s environment to set you both up for success.

Results

At the end of the program, your dog will have useful basic obedience skills and you’ll have the tools and confidence you need to manage your dog’s reactivity and gain their focus through triggers.

Recommended for 

We recommend this program for dogs that suffer from reactivity to dogs or humans originating from a lack of confidence. These dogs may demonstrate resource guarding or aggressive behaviors to other dogs and humans.

Aggression can be unpredictable. You dog may exhibit aggressive response through a variety of behaviors. Prior to enrolling an aggressive dog in our training programs, Canine Academy requires an on-site consultation with a trainer. This meeting helps us understand your concerns and ensure we can provide the right help to both you and your dog. While most reactive dogs can be helped in our program, there are rare occurrences where a dog’s reactivity puts our staff and customer safety at risk. In the event of extreme reactivity, Canine Academy may not be able to offer a training spot in our program.

Skills Learned

At the end of the Reactivity Management program, your dog will be able to:

  • Sit when asked
  • Hold in sit around distraction
  • Lay down when asked
  • Hold in down under distraction
  • Come when called from a distraction
  • Go to place and stay when there are distractions around
  • Walking in heel position on a loose leash
  • Maintaining a heel when passing distraction
  • Sit and remain sitting when handler greets a person
  • Sit by door and hold sit until given signal to go through door
  • Understanding the release command in al situations noted above


Further, you, the owners will learn:

  • How to understand your dog’s triggers and anticipate distractions
  • How to gain your dog’s attention through distraction
  • The role of basic obedience in managing reactivity
  • Habit/routine management to limit dog’s reactivity triggers

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How the Reactivity Management Program Works

During this in-home lesson, your trainer will focus on improvements that you can make today in your environment and daily habits. Before your dog even learns a new command, you can reduce the risk of reactivity with a few changes to your daily routine. Your trainer will help you understand how to set your environment up to alleviate stressors, and give you daily exercises to boost your pet’s confidence in you.

During a short stay on our campus, your dog will be introduced to our positive experience training method. They’ll learn to understand and respond to each of our basic obedience commands, and be exposed to increasing distraction to improve their ability to focus on their handler. Our care team will provide walks, supervised play groups, and enrichment during your dog’s down time, which supports safe socialization, and offers insight into your dog’s temperament. During and after their stay, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the source of your dog’s reactivity.

When you pick your dog up from campus, you’ll have your first of 3 weekly lessons with your trainer. The focus of this lesson is to teach you our training method and how to use each of your dog’s new commands. When you arrive home, you’ll start to reap immediate benefits of bonding, confidence building, and exercise for your dog. Your weekly lessons will build on this homework, offering specialized exercises to manage your dog’s problem behaviors.

Over the next 90 days, your trainer will continue to support your new habit development via scheduled telephone calls. New habits cannot be created overnight; our team is here to support your long-term success. During this time, your trainer is only a phone call or visit to the farm away.

Canine Academy offers weekly group classes open at no-charge to any of our program graduates. These classes are ideal for continuing to build your dog’s skills and confidence, and for keeping your own handling skills fresh.

Behavior Modification – Training Overview

With a command of basic obedience, you and your dog have the tools you need to communicate through reactivity triggers. Our trainers can use these new skills to safely expose your dog to those triggers, and condition a new response. This program aims to recondition the adrenal response that causes reactivity, so that your dog can more safely socialize and integrate into your life.

Results

This program builds on you and your dog’s command of basic obedience in order to safely expose them to their reactivity triggers. Using LIMA techniques identified through consultation with you, your trainer can help desensitize your dog to reactivity triggers, resulting in a lasting improvement in your dog’s behavior and alleviation of reactivity symptoms.

Recommended for 

We recommend this program for graduates of our Reactivity Management program that can benefit from additional training in order to truly modify their behavior. Not every dog and owner pair can benefit from behavior modification; some dogs achieve their best outcome after the Reactivity Management program. These dogs can benefit from a least invasive, minimally aversive training program to eliminate the root cause of reactive behavior.

How the Behavior Modification Program Works

During your Reactivity Management program, you’ll consult continuously with your trainer regarding your dog’s behavior, triggers, and potential. During this program, you’ll work to identify any potential LIMA training approaches.

During a second stay on our campus, your trainer will work with your dog in a safe, controlled environment to use primarily positive reinforcement, least invasive, minimally aversive training techniques to teach your dog how to respond appropriately to reactivity triggers. With plenty of repeated exposure, your dog’s response to those triggers will be modified.

When you pick your dog up from campus, you’ll have your first of 2 additional lessons with your trainer. The focus of these lessons is to teach you how to continue to make progress on behavior modification in your home environment. You’ll be provided with daily exercises to help both you and your dog.

Over the next 90 days, your trainer will continue to support your new habit development via scheduled telephone calls. New habits cannot be created overnight; our team is here to support your long-term success. During this time, we encourage regular participation in our graduate group classes. Repeated exposure with positive results builds confidence for your whole pack.

Canine Academy offers weekly group classes open at no-charge to any of our program graduates. These classes are ideal for continuing to build your dog’s skills and confidence, and for keeping your own handling skills fresh.

Commitment and Support

Every dog that leaves our program must achieve a good or excellent result against our training standards. Further, you’ll receive 90 days of support to ensure that you and your dog have lasting success. Finally, you’ll have lifetime access to our group classes to support your dog’s basic obedience and allow safe socialization for your pet.

Fear-Based Dog Aggression: Frequently Asked Questions

Fear-based aggression is a type of aggressive behavior that occurs when a dog feels threatened or fearful. This type of aggression is often seen as a defense mechanism, as the dog is trying to protect itself from what it perceives as a potential danger. Fear-based aggression can be directed at people, animals, or objects, and it can range from subtle behaviors such as growling or tensing up, to more overt behaviors such as biting or charging. Fear-based aggression can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, past experiences, lack of socialization, and medical conditions. It is important to address fear-based aggression as soon as possible, as it can escalate if left unchecked and can lead to serious injuries to people or animals.

Treatment for fear-based aggression typically involves a combination of behavior modification techniques, training, and in some cases, medication. It is important to work with a qualified behaviorist or veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to the individual dog and the specific causes of their aggression.

Reactivity in dogs refers to a pattern of over-responsiveness or hyper-vigilance to certain stimuli, such as people, animals, or certain types of environments. Some common symptoms of reactivity in dogs include:

  • Excessive barking: Dogs that are reactive may bark excessively at people, animals, or objects that they perceive as a threat.
  • Lunging or charging: Reactive dogs may lunge or charge at people, animals, or objects that they perceive as a threat.
  • Growling or snarling: Dogs that are reactive may growl or snarl at people, animals, or objects that they perceive as a threat.
  • High arousal: Reactive dogs may become highly aroused in the presence of certain stimuli, and may exhibit behaviors such as panting, pacing, or jumping.
  • Difficulty calming down: Reactive dogs may have difficulty calming down after being exposed to a stimulus, and may continue to exhibit reactive behaviors for an extended period of time.
  • Resource guarding: Resource guarding is a type of aggressive behavior that occurs when a dog becomes possessive of a particular resource, such as a toy, food, or a person, and becomes aggressive when they feel that the resource is threatened. Dogs may guard resources for a variety of reasons, such as fear of losing the resource, a history of scarce resources, or a lack of socialization. Resource guarding can range from subtle behaviors such as stiffening up or growling, to more overt behaviors such as snarling or biting.


It is important to address reactivity in dogs as soon as possible, as it can lead to serious injuries to people or animals and can also cause significant stress for the dog. Treatment for reactivity typically involves a combination of behavior modification techniques, training, and in some cases, medication. It is important to work with a qualified behaviorist or veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to the individual dog and the specific causes of their reactivity.

Positive experience obedience training can be an effective way to help manage reactive behavior in dogs. This type of training involves reinforcing desired behaviors with rewards, such as treats or praise, in order to encourage the dog to repeat those behaviors.  Here are some ways in which positive reinforcement training can help with reactive behavior in dogs:

  • Teaching alternative behaviors: Obedience training can be used to teach a dog alternative behaviors to engage in instead of reacting. For example, if a dog is reactive to other dogs, they can be taught to sit and look at their owner instead of barking and lunging.
  • Reducing anxiety and stress: Positive experience training can help reduce a dog’s anxiety and stress by providing a sense of structure and predictability. This can help the dog feel more secure and confident in new situations, which may reduce their tendency to react.
  • Increasing focus and attention: Obedience training can help increase a dog’s focus and attention on their owner, which can be helpful in managing reactive triggers. For example, if a dog is reactive to other dogs on walks, the owner can use obedience training to teach the dog to focus on them and follow their commands, rather than reacting to other dogs. This is referred to as attention-based training. Attention-based training can also be helpful in building a strong, positive relationship between a dog and their owner, which can help the dog feel more secure and confident, which may reduce their tendency to react. Overall, attention-based training is a positive, cooperative approach to training.
  • Strengthening the bond between dog and owner: Positive experience training can help strengthen the bond between a dog and their owner by creating a positive, cooperative relationship. This can help the dog feel more secure and confident, which may reduce their tendency to react.

It is generally not possible to completely eliminate reactivity in dogs, as reactivity is often an ingrained behavior that has developed over time and may be influenced by genetics, past experiences, and other factors. However, it is often possible to significantly reduce or manage reactivity in dogs through a combination of behavior counter-conditioning, training, and in some cases, medication.

Counter-conditioning is a behavior modification technique that is often used to help manage reactivity in dogs. The goal of counter-conditioning is to change the dog’s emotional response to a trigger (such as other dogs, people, or certain environments) from a negative or anxious response to a positive or relaxed response. Counter-conditioning involves exposing the dog to the trigger in a controlled and gradual way, while simultaneously reinforcing the dog for calm, relaxed behavior. Over time, the dog’s emotional response to the trigger should shift from one of anxiety or fear to one of calmness and relaxation. Counter-conditioning can be an effective tool in managing reactivity in dogs, as it helps to change the dog’s underlying emotional response to a trigger, rather than just suppressing their reactive behavior through punishment or other negative means. It is important to work with a qualified behaviorist or trainer to develop a customized counter-conditioning plan that is tailored to the individual dog and their specific needs.

Environmental changes can be an important component of a treatment plan for managing reactivity in dogs. Making changes to the dog’s environment can help to reduce their exposure to triggers that may cause them to react, and can also help to create a more positive and relaxed environment for the dog.

Dogs, like all animals, can behave unpredictably and may act aggressively if they feel threatened, frightened, or agitated. Children, particularly young children, may not understand how to interact with dogs safely, and may inadvertently provoke or agitate the dog. Leaving a dog unsupervised with children or other dogs can also be stressful for the dog, as they may become anxious or overwhelmed if they are not able to escape from the situation. Overall, it is important to always supervise interactions between dogs and children or other dogs, and to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and kindness. This can help to reduce the risk of injury and ensure a positive and enjoyable experience for all involved.

LIMA (Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive) is a philosophy of dog training that emphasizes the use of the least intrusive and minimally aversive training methods necessary to achieve the desired behavior. The goal of LIMA training is to respect the individual dog’s well-being and to create a positive, cooperative relationship between the dog and their owner. LIMA training involves using positive reinforcement techniques to reward desired behaviors and minimize the use of punishment or other aversive techniques. It is based on the idea that dogs are more likely to learn and cooperate when they are motivated by positive reinforcement, rather than fear or punishment.

LIMA training is often contrasted with more traditional, punishment-based training methods, which rely on the use of physical force or punishment to suppress undesirable behaviors. Overall, LIMA training is a positive, humane approach to dog training that emphasizes the well-being and respect of the individual dog, and is based on the latest scientific research on learning and behavior.

It is generally not safe to introduce a reactive dog to triggers without the guidance and supervision of a qualified behaviorist or trainer. Reactive dogs may exhibit aggressive or fearful behaviors when exposed to triggers, and these behaviors can lead to serious injuries to people or animals if not managed properly. If you are working with a behaviorist or trainer to manage your dog’s reactivity, they may recommend a program of desensitization and counter-conditioning, which involves gradually and systematically exposing the dog to the trigger in a controlled and safe manner, while reinforcing calm and relaxed behavior. This process should be done gradually and at a pace that is appropriate for the individual dog.

A behaviorist can read a reactive dog’s body language by observing their physical posture, facial expressions, and other behaviors. Some common body language cues that may indicate that a reactive dog is feeling anxious or aggressive include:

  • Stiff body posture: A dog that is feeling anxious or aggressive may stand with their body stiff and tense, with their tail held high or tucked under their body.
  • Ears back or pinned against the head: Ears that are held back or pinned against the head may indicate that a dog is feeling threatened or anxious.
  • Tense facial expression: A dog that is feeling anxious or aggressive may have a tense or tense facial expression, with their lips pulled back or their teeth bared.
  • Dilated pupils: Dilated pupils may indicate that a dog is feeling aroused or threatened.
  • Licking lips or panting excessively: Dogs that are feeling anxious or stressed may lick their lips or pant excessively.

 

A behaviorist will also consider the context in which these behaviors are occurring, as well as the dog’s past history and other factors, in order to accurately interpret the dog’s body language. It is important to work with a qualified behaviorist to properly assess and address reactive behavior in dogs.

During training, you may use safety tools, such as basket muzzles. A basket muzzle can help to keep a dog safe in several ways:

  • Preventing biting: A basket muzzle can help to prevent a dog from biting people or other animals, which can be helpful in situations where the dog may be prone to aggression or fear-based biting.
  • Protecting injured or sensitive areas: A basket muzzle can be used to protect injured or sensitive areas on a dog’s face, such as wounds or suture lines.
  • Reducing stress: A basket muzzle can help to reduce stress in a dog by preventing them from engaging in behaviors that may cause them to become agitated or anxious, such as barking or lunging at people or other animals.

 

It is important to use a basket muzzle correctly and only as a temporary measure, as it should not be used as a long-term solution for managing aggressive or fearful behavior in dogs. It is also important to ensure that the muzzle fits properly and is introduced appropriately to reduce the likelihood of exacerbating triggers.