How Justin Silver Would Treat Aggression

Justin Silver, the dog trainer from ‘Dogs In The City’ has a very good technique for treating common behavior problems.

I would summarize his technique as:

Reward The Good– RedirectBe In Charge

So let’s apply his method to treating the problem of Dog Aggression:

Let’s Define The Problem

The majority (but not all) of dog aggression is  fear or dominance aggression.

It is important to understand what kind of aggression you are dealing with.

A fearful dog will have his ears down, his tail between his legs and his body close to the ground.

A dominant dog will have his ears up, hold his head tall and look directly at the opponent.

In a fearful dog the treatment would emphasize stress relief, in a dominant dog you will need to concentrate on assertiveness and control.

Step 1: Reward The Good

To do this you will need to expose your dog to a problem situation ‘in small doses’: pick a time and place when you are in control and expose your dog to people/other dogs/cars etc. in a way which does not create aggressive behavior.

When your dog is comfortable – bring the object of aggression a little closer. Do this often (every day!) and up the ante in small increments.

Step 2: Redirect

For most dogs food distraction works best. Dogs find it hard to be aggressive and think about food at the same time.

I often find that just the presence of food in the Consult room decreases the aggression level of a dog.

You can also talk to your dog, pat your dog (with caution!), bring his favorite toys, etc.

Step 3: Be In Charge

This is essential. For a dominant-aggressive dog this is the key to the problem.

What I find works best is basic obedience: dog sit/stay/heel/roll over with your dog for 15 minutes twice a day. This is a great way to teach your dog who is in charge.

Obedience also gives your dog something to do while you are exposing him to the object of his aggression. Put him into a ‘sit-stay’ and hold the position until the situation has passes. Works wonders in my experience.

Some cases of aggression will need Veterinary intervention and sometimes medication. Nevertheless following these simple rules will improve even the most serious situation.

You might say that prevention is better then cure. Read about how to prevent problems from developing in my article How To Urban-Proof Your Dog’.

About Dr Vadim Chelom

Dr Vadim is a house call Veterinarian in Melbourne
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