Today’s topic covers the serious issue of reactivity and aggression in dogs. If you have a challenge with your dog, I strongly advise that you seek out the help of a Certified Veterinary Behaviorist who is equipped to deal with these issues in a reinforcement-based program. Seek the help of a qualified professional who will, where needed, use pharmaceutical intervention to help create a different reality for your dog, so your dog does not go through life feeling the need to react.
I’m sharing how what is “different” can lead to reactivity or aggression, and how a lot of aggression is learned. It’s not that there is something wrong with the dog. You can help your dog to catalogue experiences in a way that is appropriate for their well being and yours.
In the episode you'll hear:
- Insights into why aggression can be a learned behavior.
- How you and your dog can have better outcomes.
- What stimulus is, and what’s good, innocuous and not good for your dog.
- Understanding stimuli from your dog’s perspective.
- Why “different” creates a response in your dog.
- How your dog’s curiosity could lead to reactivity.
- What a dog’s cautious curiosity can look like.
- The importance of what happens during and after our dog displaying curiosity for something that is different.
- The two strategies you need for changing a trigger and minimizing the stress of an experience for your dog.
- Why you should believe what your dog is telling you.
- What you can do to help your dog.
- Podcast Episode 4: T.E.M.P. (Tail, Eyes/Ears, Mouth, Posture)
- Podcast Episode 27: Do Dogs Need Rules?
- Podcast Episode 24: Help for the Dog who Chases Chipmunks, Bicycles, and the Neighbor’s Cat
- Video Blog: Understanding Your Dog’s Triggers
- Video Blog: Dog Body Language, Fear and Aggression
- Blog Post: Leash Aggression in Dogs: Are We Trying To Put Out A Fire With Gasoline?
My dog had a diagnosis of “easily overstimulated” from 2 trainers that had a good take on behavior.
One of them was a top disc dog as well as a top behaviorist. She didn’t say anything to me and didn’t look at her; walked by and threw food near my young dog when she saw her vocalize. She walked back and forth and did that 3 times. My dog then decided she was her new best friend. This disc dog person had her doing flips and vaults in minutes and my dog absolutely loved every minute of it. She even remembered her then next time we attended their camp a year later and was thrilled to see her and everyone at camp. Any concern about anything vanished. She is 16 now and loves attention from anyone/anything.
The other behaviorist was her new best friend right off the bat.
Wow! Lightbulb moments as I listened to this episode. I think I can pinpoint the night where Abby’s caution/fear switched to reactivity. We were walking at dusk and a neighbor with a dog appeared out of the darkness. She didn’t take it well, and I reacted negatively to keep her from lunging at the other dog. I figured that my nerves were likely playing into her continued reactivity. It has been slow going to fix that mistake, but this gives me hope.
I wish I would have done more research on my own a few months ago when my puppy was just a couple of months old and growling at people. Our vet told us to say “NO” in our “mom voice” and pick up our puppy and make her cuddle with whomever she was growling (fearful) of. Thank you Susan for all of your insight and for opening my eyes even more to just how wrong and outdated that information was.
My dog is not fearful. She is a bully.
If my neighbors dog is around and chewing on a bone or or playing ball on the back yard with his owner she wants his ball, bone,stick. Anything he has she wants it. If my Moms dog is eating his food she attacks him.
If I come near another dog she goes crazy. She will attack if I am standing there with her and the other dog. She resource guards me.
How do I fix this. She is very protective and jealous of everything.
Thank you so much for this. My dog has been barking reactively for about four months now and I have been looking for some good advice. She is an almost 1 year old Lab and her stimulus are people or dogs within a certain vicinity. It happens in a variety of contexts – on my second floor patio when people walk down below, on a leash when we are walking, in the crate in the car when folks are walking or standing outside, and even at doggie daycare (so I was told). Who she barks at is a pattern I haven’t figured out, but it is more often men than women. The other strange thing is she seems to be between excitement and alarm in that her hackles are usually up and she is in an alert position, but she wags her tail every time. Sometimes it is an excited bark and sometimes it is the alarm bark you described, Susan (great impression by the way). Sometimes she charges at the thing and sometimes she stays really close. She has also growled and snarled three times – always at a younger puppy. Once when one tried to sniff her and twice when one was pestering her to play. Those seemed more aggressive and made me want to address it immediately. I am going to try “search” with treats when I see the stimulus coming and hope that helps. I’ll be continuing to search your podcasts and we are working through home school for dogs, but I will take any specific advice I can get. 🙂
I’ve listened to this episode 2x now and understand the concept. I’m wondering if your approach in the cattle dog fence guarding example with cattle dogs would work for my 8mo old cattle dog that hears people talking from my fenced backyard in the evening (disk or dark) but he can’t see them and charges my fence and barks and barks.
What is a good approach. Would having him on a leash and getting him to chase me and then doing a few commands work or giving treats and saying search?? Help please!!!!
My obedience instructor used this technique on her neighbor’s dogs who were barking incessantly at her in her driveway. Each time she was in the driveway, she chirped “it’s me!” and tossed treats over the fence. In a short time they stopped barking at her.
so happy I ‘stumbled’ across your pod casts, I know we can learn a lot. we have never had to ‘train’ our dogs before this one we have now. it was just automatic it seemed (and we have had 5 dogs previously who lived a long healthy life). our dog now was born with some health problems, so I’m sure we have ‘spoiled ‘ her and at times her behavior shows this….
Great comments everyone. I started playing “find it” whenever a car was approaching and it worked most of the time and now I realize that if I waited too long, then Benji was already in the “barking and lunging zone”… so my plan is to continue to play “find it” before he gets in the zone.
My question would be what do I do when Benji is pulling to want to say Hi! to someone? When he pulls, I believe it is a good curious so what do I do? or because he’s pulling, it’s “fear pulling” and I should play a game with him? Please let me know what you think I should do? I want him to go say hi but I don’t want him pulling to say hi? “Any thoughts or advice?
You may have to continue distracting him for now – is he still quite young?
Second time through this podcast… Tossing treats during walks with approaching dogs, walkers, runners, cyclists and kids has turned my dog around. She now looks up and says “So yeah, where’s my cookie?!” Love it! 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪
I did this throughout Home Depot to get my dog used to people. Now he does the same thing! He just looks at me with the “where’s my chicken?” face when we pass people. It works, it is quite amazing!
I did this throughout Home Depot to get my dog used to people. Now he does the same thing! He just looks at me with the “where’s my chicken?” face when we pass people. It works!!!
I’m in HSTD and recently joined Recallers. I have 3 mastiffs, with the one being an 11 month old puppy. She had great experiences at her breeder but then was abused by the man who bought her, causing fear aggression to humans and dogs. Long story short, her breeder gave her to me, and im madly in love with her. Susan’s way of training has helped her make huge strides in life. However, I definitely need to focus strongly on helping her regain her confidence so she stops posturing,etc when she sees people. I need to do this for her in addition to the regular training layers in both classes. Is there anywhere in Susan’s extensive training experience where she’s worked with dogs like mine, demonstration videos, etc that I can learn from? I have her book Ruff Love that I just started reading, and I am sure I will learn from it as well. I’ve utilized the NILIF process with other dogs which was helpful, but im thinking this book will be even moreso.
Just watched Susan’s podcast on reactive dogs. My 10mth old pulls towards other dogs and I pull back, exactly as Susan describes, however it’s only some dogs that she gets vocal and growls at and this can even happen across the street. I’ve always allowed her to say hello, with the other owner permission, but sometimes she reacts. How best to stop the pulling towards/pulling away from dogs or would it best to distract and train her from all dogs so that they become innocuous??
My rescue dog is afraid of men. I have 3 adult sons and whenever they come over, she initially barks at them, then tucks her tail and position herself so she can see them at all times, or flees to another area of the house. She does the same thing when my husband comes home from work. My husband feeds her often but that hasn’t changed anything.
So I should leash her in the house when and throw out treats wahenever they are present, controlling the distanc between her and them?
Connie, you could create a gated community as Susan shares here in http://www.shapedbydog.com/30 this way the dog isn’t tethered and you can toss the cookies in when they are present. The xpen creates the safe haven and distance. Lynda (TeamSusan)
I now understand how my gentle, curious puppy became reactive (not aggressive) and how I can help her to make less of innocuous things that occur around her. Thanks so much!
Thank you so much for this video. It’s reinforced the Home work my behaviorist has given me. I have a dog grooming shop. I take my boy Halo (was hoping he’d be an angel 😂) to work daily. I use to tell him to leave it when he would become overly pushy, not aggressive, with other dogs. I may have created him being uncomfortable. I am now setting up little Easter egg hunts, food, all over the shop including around some of my clients dogs that are safe in crates. I try to make sure I don’t let him face another reactive dog. He tends to run right to the back of the shop where the dogs are, then begins eating his breakfast. Occasionally he seems to check is dog a little longer than I like and I will say okay let’s go to get him to move on. My hopes are that he will just walk in the shop and start eating breakfast before looking for the dogs. If there’s anything you think I should do differently please let me know. My behaviorist gave me homework and tools but I am now on my own. Thank you in advance and thank you for your response. I should have seemed you out sooner.
Thank you for this Susan, I have a 2 year old Springer spaniel who I have had from a puppy but has become more fear aggressive , I think partly because of lockdown and not being in a normal situation. As a puppy I thought I had introduced him slowly to new things but somewhere along the line I must have got it wrong. If he sees something new or suddenly he does your fear barking, I used scattering feeding to start with but as you said he didn’t want it, I would try and get him way as quickly as possible but this was by pulling him away… and as you have said that didn’t help. I now have to really watch where I walk and if I see something/ people turn round and change my walk, this is not always possible as I could be on my way back home or to the car, so I end up having a freaked out dog for a couple of days. I have started doing scent work with him and using your ideas for exercise at home and I hope I am on the right lines.
His recall is good ( when not distracted) he loves agility ( but I cannot compete at the moment because I don’t know how he will react) he loves to play ball and play with his doggy friends..he has so much going for him if only I could help him through his worries. But I will be following the advice given in this podcast and have small targets.
Great podcast! Today I hiked a beautiful mountain with my 94 lb german shepherd and he was great all the way up, but at a certain point it seemed to me that maybe he was feeling tired and thirsty. We’d run out of water and anyway I was thirsty! And so normally I call him and as long as he is recalling he stays off leash, but if he doesn’t respond I leash him and if he pulls me or drags me then he goes on the head halter (and we reverse that if he is walking nice and being responsive, he earns more privileges/freedom). So anyway, this guy was suddenly on the trail in front of me with maybe an old poodle, and as soon as he saw M’Ocean he picked the poodle up. M’Ocean didn’t recall (oopsie) but was circling the guy who was circling with the poodle in his arms. M’Ocean circled and sniffed more as the guy circled and by the time I arrived with my hand on his collar it seemed like M’Ocean was thinking about humping the guy with the poodle. So I leashed M’Ocean all the way to the head halter prize! So now I’m thinking about the training plan and where can I find a guy with a poodle! LOL! But just checking to see what you think about me giving M’Ocean a not so desirable consequence when he doesn’t respond to me. I think if the guy had just stood still and told M’Ocean to sit, he would have sat, but that didn’t happen. So I will get some volunteers to help me practice recalls away from lesser distractions all the way up to man holding poodle, but just wondering if you thanksgiving M’Ocean less freedom (leash or head halter) when he fails to respond to my cues is a reasonable plan.
The whole walk I was thinking about a class I was in recently, where the teacher was doing what to me seemed like a bad idea. She was letting the dogs sniff around in a very intensely distracting environment and then we were supposed to call the dog off the distraction. When the dogs (predictably) had variable responses she was saying people needed better treats or they needed a better cue, but to me, it was just over load of too high of a distraction, too big of a challenge, and the dogs needed practice at an easier level, for example, recall from a sit, rather than recall starting with the nose in the scent. Anyway, love you!! , I’ve been having a very hectic month or so, with a lot of clients who have what to me seem like frustrated (and that’s a big problem!) dogs and I really enjoyed the perspective I get, and the confidence that it gives me when I listen to one of your talks. Thanks for putting this out, I shared it on my page and in my training group and I’m happy to see more of my students are tuning in and taking advantage of all the wonderful training materials you have created! Well done!
Great talk! Thank you for sharing! Myrddin and me will practice your tips. She is a quite curious-full of energy 6 month old pup. And our main mission here is to stop her reactivity towards passing by cars 😬. Xxx
In the example where you had people walking by fence throw in treats to condition the dog how do you handle that when you are doing it’s your choice and wouldn’t want your dogs to get the trays without permission?
You are a blessing. Thank you for sharing your wonderful knowledge. It is so good to reinforce how I can best help my dog. The hard part is me not panicking when I see something my dog is reactive to, which of course she senses and thus it exacerbates her reaction. I can trust her, but not me yet.
Thank you for this! I see so many reactive dogs and their owners have no clue…I have personal experience with a reactive dog – my first Agility dog came to me when he was 11 months old with some very serious reactivity. I could have just managed it – he’s a Brussels Griffon, so quite small. But, I wanted him to walk through crating areas on his own 4 feet without reacting, so I trained. He got to the Master level in both Agility and Rally Obedience. After he decided to retire – he’s 11 now and we have fun with tricks – I wrote a book about our journey: Tango: Transforming My Hellhound. If others would like to read about someone who’s been there, done that successfully, using just the techniques Susan advocates, the book is available on Amazon.
Great information. Plan to share with our puppy class.
Great information. Plan to share with our puppy class.
Have tried distance and distraction (tug/treats), some sucess, but haven’t been able to change trigger yet. Am keeping on it.
Having problem finding a certified behaviouist or Vet behaviourist. I live in same area you do. Do you have a list or way I can find one? Any help appreciated. Thank you
Thank you for being such an awesome teacher! My training and behaviour clients have 100% benefited from what I have gained from you. Building value, transfer of value etc it’s all brilliant and makes so much sense. Thank you! 🙏