This course has been produced to help educate our Mango Dogs Trainers on the most up-to-date dog training methods anywhere in the world.
About this course
This course has been produced to help educate our Mango Dogs Trainers on the most up-to-date dog training methods anywhere in the world.
Mango Dogs Trainers empower struggling dog owners with much-needed accountability, techniques, and tools so that they can put an end to the frustration their dog has created in their life. We do so with the utmost integrity and a sincere desire to help people and their dogs over the long term.
You are now part of an organization that's helped 1000's dog owners across North America who were struggling with their dog/dogs. You are going to change many lives in your career, one dog and owner at a time.
Much has changed in the Veterinary world in regards to spaying and neutering in recent years. When I first got a dog about 15 years ago, every Vet that I talked to was 100% firm on spaying and neutering at 6 months of age. More research has been done in this area and the hearts and minds of some Vets have come to change.
I’m not a Veterinarian, so please don’t take anything in this blog as medical advice. This blog post is only to give my opinions, and you should know that I never give medical opinions because I’m not a trained Vet. I’m a dog trainer who specializes in reactive and aggressive dogs. Please seek professional guidance from a Vet before making any medical decisions for your dog/dogs. You should also know that I deeply respect Vets and have many as clients and friends.
Regarding when to spay and neuter your dog, the data and medical opinions are about as numerous as the number of Vets on this planet. It seems as though they don’t go by any standard. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) A decade ago there were two standards that I noticed. The less progressive types would suggest 6 months for both males and females. The more progressive granola-eating types opted for 12 months for males and after the first heat cycles of the females.
These days, it’s all over the map.
I’ll tell you that if it were my dogs, I would not spay or neuter before 3-4 years of age, allowing the dog to mature more fully.
Dr. Karen Becker is a world-renowned Vet from the USA and she’s been known for quotes like this. “While spaying or neutering these dogs decreases or prevents reproductive organ disease, it increases the risk for other diseases, including obesity, musculoskeletal disorders and several types of canine cancer”.
Much of the research mentioned below has been done on large/giant breeds and from what I could find, little has been done on smaller breeds.
Labrador and Golden Retrievers neutered before 6 months of age develop one or more joint disorders at two to five times the rate of intact dogs.
In a study of several hundred Golden Retrievers, none of the intact dogs had CCL disease; however, 5 percent of neutered males and 7.7 percent of spayed females who were desexed before they were a year old developed CCL injuries.
Male Golden Retrievers neutered at under 1 year developed hip dysplasia at double the rate of intact males, and the disease also appeared earlier in the desexed dogs.
In a study of Rottweilers, both males and females who were desexed before they were a year old had a 1-in-4 lifetime risk for bone cancer, and in general, spayed or neutered dogs were significantly more likely to develop the disease than intact Rotties.
If spaying or neutering can actually increase the likelihood of certain cancers and other disorders, should you do it, and if so when? Well, that’s up to you, there is no right or wrong answer. If you don’t decide to spay or neuter, you need to have a really good handle on your dog to ensure that they are going to create unwanted puppies.
Personally, I’m very impressed with Dr. Becker for writing this blog because I know that she got a lot of crap for it, including death threats from dog rescue people who were toxic.
More on this topic can be found here:
It’s commonly accepted that neutering male dogs will calm them down and reduce sexual behaviors like excess humping and I would agree with these changes in most cases. But is that enough reason to spay or neuter at a young age when training can fix both of those issues?
The link between spay/neuter and dog aggression is even more varied.
I’ve looked at several studies that seem to come to no direct answer on the topic because there are so many variables to try and map, and others that make bold claims.
Rather than try and play Mr Science, I’ll give you my thoughts on the link or lack of link because I keep detailed records on this topic.
The majority of dogs that I work with are reactive or aggressive. I use the term reactive to suggest the dog in question will bark, growl or lunge at humans or dogs or animals or a combination of those. Aggression often includes the above mentioned but the intention of the dog in question is to hurt the other being. These dogs send people to the emergency room for stitches, and dogs to the Vet to mend puncture wounds.
–83.6 percent of the dogs that I work with are referred to as reactive or aggressive by their owners
–55% are male and 45% female
–81% are spayed or neutered
–19% are intact
These numbers are not definitive proof that spaying or neutering promotes dog aggression.
One number that I don’t track, but will start to track as of this week is when did the dog start to show these reactive/aggressive behaviors specific to when they were spayed and neutered.
From talking to clients in the past, this seems to be a mixed bag. I would say that roughly 70% started to see these behaviors within 2 months of the spay or neuter. Another roughly 30% saw the behaviors before the procedure and hoped that it would help the aggression.
I personally have not seen a massive reduction in dog aggression after a spay or neuter, but then again, the owners of those dogs would be highly unlikely to call me in the first place if spaying or neutering seemed to solve the issues.
If I had to make a suggestion, I would suggest that spay and neuter is actually more likely to make dogs aggressive than making them less aggressive, especially with fearful dogs. For a fearful dog, waking up in a Vet office in a little crate with humans all around you can do a lot to build distrust in people and I see this all of the time with clients’ dogs. Fearful dogs should have their confidence built by training before these procedures. Again, my opinions, not medical advice.
So what do the studies say about spaying or neutering actually reducing dog aggression? In one study, castration led to reduced aggression toward other dogs in the house in 1/3 of cases, towards people in the family in 30% of cases, towards unfamiliar dogs in 20% of cases and toward unfamiliar people in 10% of cases. In other studies, it’s hard to find changes.
As far as I can tell having talked to thousands of dog owners, spaying or neutering reactive or aggressive dogs does very little if anything to decrease these issues, but many Vets suggest spaying or neutering aggressive dogs because at the very least it will prevent the reproduction and passing on of any genetic traits for aggression.
I’m cool with that, but assuming an aggressive dog will stop being aggressive after these procedures are almost unheard of. I polled 127 dog trainers on this topic and of these 127 dog trainers three of them had seen cases in which aggressive dogs were significantly less aggressive after a spay or neuter.
My dog BB is 12.5 years old and was neutered last week. I’ve seen no change in his behavior. He’s helped me rehabilitate over a 1000 aggressive dogs in his career and he’s the best dog on the planet. I left him intact for all of those years for many reasons. Mainly because aggressive female dogs are much more likely to want to work on their social skills with an intact male who’s still got some pep in his step, they can smell it, the love juice. To that point, male dogs like to target him because of his sexual eligibility, and that’s great for training because some of those dogs will only target puppies and intact males.
He was recently neutered because his prostate had become enlarged and was causing some medical complications.
All this to say that spaying or neutering will not ensure that your aggressive dog will be rehabilitated. If you believe that, you are sadly mistaken. Intact male and female dogs can also be out of control or amazing.
Spayed/Neutered dogs can also be out of control or amazing.
Proper dog training seems to make the biggest difference. Regardless of spayed/neutered or not, proper dog training can completely change the way your dog sees the world.
Should you correct your dog for growling?
A question I get frequently and one that’s worth investigating. The answer….drum roll, please…. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
A common sentiment among dog owners, trainers, and most other pet professionals is that you should never correct your dog for growling because if you do, your dog will stop growling and go directly to a bite the next time. While this is true, it’s not the full story.
First of all, we need to define the fact that there are different types of growling.
Play growling is very common, and not an issue. Some breeds growl a lot when playing, especially when playing a game of tug of war. Should this be corrected? Nah. These dogs are just having fun.
Many trainers suggest that all growling is fear based, and for that reason, these dogs should not be corrected for growling because it’s valuable communication. Not all dogs growl out of fear, but the majority do. Fear-based growling is heard when a dog is fearful and trying to get space so that they can feel more secure. So correcting them is not the answer, giving them more options is a more fitting alternative. Counter conditioning (yeah, I just went all dog trainer on you) is the process of changing a dog’s emotional response. CC can be very helpful when helping a dog see a fearful situation as fun or confidence producing. Give these dogs options, give them space, and give them tasty treats in the process.
A less common form of growling, but one that I see weekly as a dog trainer who works almost exclusively with reactive and aggressive dogs. Some dogs learn that growling at people will get people to back away from them. Typically these dogs don’t bite people when given the chance, and none of these dogs growl at other dogs in the same way. Why? because other dogs see what they are doing, and don’t put up with it.
Some dogs growl as a form of intimidation. They know that growling makes people feel insecure and they growl as a way to make themselves feel better about their lack of confidence. Mostly seen in dog/human situations like the manipulation growling, but this form of growling often leads to biting.
Over the years I’ve seen a few dogs who would growl at their owners just to pass the time. Dogs who would get off their bed, walk over to their owners and growl at them while they were being petted. It’s weird, I know. It didn’t seem to be a form of manipulation or intimidation. I’ve only seen this in Goldens and Border Collies to date.
Predatory growling is extremely rare and thank-heavens. It’s heard right before a dog lunges at something it wants to kill. If you hear that growl, it’s probably too late. It’s a very quick, guttural growl. I correct dogs for this type of growling, you better believe it’s butter baby!
So when is it admissible to correct a dog for growling? First, you’ll need to define why your dog is growling. I don’t correct dogs who are growling out of fear, but I do correct dogs for plenty of other types of growling.
Wait a sec, isn’t it true that correcting a dog for growling will make the dog less reliable because they will no longer growl before they bite? Yes and no. When done properly, correction can not only stop the growling, but also the funky state of mind behind the growling. Correcting growling/dirty thoughts is a big component to making dogs safe over the long term. A good trainer can use correction and not only stop the growling but the vibes that lead to the bite too.
I am working with a 100lb+ dog who walks around the living room, pacing, behind a baby gate, growling his face off when the owners eat. He likes bacon, he wants bacon, and he’s a jerk. He’s bitten his owners several times and he’s a serious dog. We are nearing the portion of training where we will start correcting him for this manipulative behavior. He’s a massive manipulator and intimidator who will back things up with a bite. It’s not fear, he’s an ass.
I prefer to correct the act of lunging/snapping first, then correct the dog later (if needed) for dirty thoughts. This can be done with a prong collar, but I prefer to use an ecollar because I can give the correction at a distance.
As a dog trainer who trains and specializes in rehabilitating aggressive dogs, I feel the need to sound the alarm on livestock guardian breed dogs. The most common (LGD) we tend to see here in Nova Scotia would be Great Pyrenees, but we also see Anatolian Shepherds and Maremmas.
They are beautiful dogs but their size and behavioral traits are often overlooked by well-meaning dog owners. I hate to be the jerk who overgeneralizes and says none of these dogs can fit into a normal city home because that’s just not true. However, I have two reasons for writing this blog.
1. Most people who get these dogs literally think that if they get a puppy and give him loads of love, he will not develop these guarding instincts.
2. Few seem to be talking about these issues and I think they need to be talked about.
Let’s look at a few reasons why I’m not a fan of these dogs living in cities with uninformed and inexperienced owners.
–Most of the (LGD)s that I have rehabilitated do not communicate in the traditional way that people expect. Only a small percentage of them growl before biting. They are hard to read even for dog trainers so you can imagine how hard it might be for less educated dog owners.
–Most of the (LGD)s that I have rehabilitated were more human aggressive than dog aggressive and the majority of them were aggressive with their owners. Try living with a 100lb+ dog in your home who doesn’t growl before he attacks, not fun or safe.
–Most of the (LGD)s that I have rehabilitated were stalkers. I know dog trainers who have been attacked and almost killed by (LGD) dogs who they miss-evaluated. These dogs were walking around them, looking kind of calm and bored and then WAM! The trainers didn’t notice that they were being stalked. Very few dogs will stock humans like a Cheetah, but these dogs are capable of it.
People literally believe that if they love these dogs, they will never start to guard things or people. It doesn’t work that way. Well-meaning dog owners read about the warnings on the internet and tell themselves that love will fix it. I wish that were the case but it’s not.
These dogs were bred to have a job, a guarding job. If you don’t give them a guarding job, they will often resort to guarding their food, people, spaces, etc. Guarding genetics without an outlet can prove to be very dangerous.
I’m 100% honest with my clients when they come in with these dogs. I tell it to them straight. In our modern society, there is no practical use for guarding genetics, and thus we have to shut it down with correction. We literally have to override the genetic propensity to guard, and yes that is possible, I’ve been doing it for about a decade. If you have one of these dogs and you struggle with these issues, it’s possible to have a dog that you can trust, but it’s a lot of work and you need to find a trainer who knows what they are doing.
Plenty of these dogs attack their owners who raised them as puppies. Just FYI. If you want to take that risk, at least start training with a good balanced trainer the moment you get your (LGD).
In closing, I know full well that not all of these dogs turn out like described above. I meet some frumpalump’s at the park who are calm and chill and don’t have a nasty bone in their bodies, but this is not the entire story.
When asking thousands of past clients why they think their dog became aggressive, two answers stand out. Often I hear their dog’s behavior changed immediately after being spayed or neutered. More common still, dog owners tell me of their dog became fearful of other dogs after being attacked or getting into a fight. It’s this final scene that I will unpack in today’s blog, as I think it’s an area in dog behavior that is rather misunderstood.
When dogs are attacked, they really only have three options.
2: Try and run away
3: Freeze and do nothing
I’ve always found it fascinating that some dogs do not develop any leash reactivity or dog aggression and others change faster than a traffic light.
The dogs that roll over during an attack are often dogs that do not become aggressive after an attack, while the dogs who hold their ground during an attack almost always develop aggression towards other dogs.
Often times, dog trainers and dog owners over-generalize the concept of fear after a dog attack because it’s low hanging fruit. 83% of the dogs that I’ve worked within 2019 are leash aggressive towards other dogs. And of those, I would suggest that about 5% of those cases stem from a fearful response.
Blasphemy I tell you, blasphemy! Yes, I said it. Most aggression (I believe) is not based on fear, it’s a willing response.
Wait, how can this be? I mean… essentially every dog trainer in the world believes that all or most aggression (leash or otherwise) is based on fear. A good defense is a good offense, right?
So what is a good defense for a fearful dog?
A good defense is to ignore other dogs, and growl if they come to close, snapping at them if they don’t give them space. A good defense is not when he/she screams their head off the moment they see another dog from 5 blocks away.
It literally does not make logical sense to bring attention to yourself when you are scared for your life. If my car was broken down in a rough neighborhood, would my fear cause me a sit in my car, with the doors locked while I wait for the towing company? Or would it cause me to run around the neighborhood, cursing at people?
Why are so many dogs who go to daycare 5 days a week, complete idiots on the leash? Is it fear? No, they are frustrated that their social mojo is being stifled.
Why do so many millions of dogs get diagnosed as fear aggressive when they run across a field and start a fight with another dog? Just because he was attacked when he was 6 months old?
What about dogs who were attacked? Surely 100% of these dogs have a case of fear aggression right? Meh. Could we conceive for a moment that some of these dogs actually enjoyed the fight? Humans have MMA fighting, right? Maybe dogs have something similar? Clearly, this is not always the case, but I have seen it over 1000 times. Some dogs like to fight… Maybe them being attacked at a young age wasn’t the horrible tragic thing that we humans made it out to be. Maybe it sparked something in your MMA fighter that they enjoy. Is this possible?
Humans assuming that dogs are being thrust into these aggressive roles is not helpful because it’s often not accurate, and it leaves dogs owners with the wrong path to move forward. If you are incorrectly convinced that your dog is fearful, you will take training measures that coddle your dog and ultimately will not help your dog.
So what is a normal fearful response? Avoidance.
The fearful dog avoids conflict at all costs. They don’t run up to other dogs. They keep to themselves. If another dog approaches them, they communicate with the dog that they need space. If space is not given, the fearful dog will growl. If the growl is not effective, they will nip.
Fear is using force only when communication has been ignored.
Some dogs are fearful. Some dogs like MMA. Some dogs are assholes, and some dogs are in the middle.
Dogs who provoke fights are not fearful.
Dogs that are leash reactive are frustrated and trying to get out energy.
Dogs who are fearful, avoid conflict.
I’m not a scientist claiming to have the definitive answers to the dominance theory, but I might have some thoughts on dominance that I hope will make you think. The dominance question is an extremely polarizing one. Typically you’ll hear dog trainers emphatically proclaim that the dominance theory has been 100% debunked. The other tribe seems to think that if a dog steps on his owner’s foot he’s clearly a dominant dog.
I personally have met some seriously dominant dogs in my career as a dog trainer who specializes in rehabilitation aggressive dogs, but they are very few and far between.
Maybe I’m skewed on the topic because I don’t like extremes. Or maybe it’s just what I am seeing every day. Last night I sat down with a client who had a common question. “I’m wondering if I should stop playing tug with my dog because I heard that it can produce more dominance in my dog unless I win the tug game every single time.” I love questions like this, they are authentic.
Playing tug with a dog is like a father wrestling with his kids. Even if he loses the match, both parties know who’s the strongest opponent.
Allow me to define the term as I see fit. Dominance is the desire for order and justice.
Given my definition, I can imagine a lot of people are reading this thinking… But, I thought dominance was more like, the desire to rule, a dog that is aggressive, a dog that always has to have his way.
To that I say, No, those are what we in the industry call Assholes. Otherwise known as Bullies. Dogs that are ultimately insecure, who make themselves feel better about their lack of confidence by pushing other dogs or people around.
I believe that dominance exists in dogs, but it’s extremely rare to see it at an abnormally high level that could present a problem for normal pet dog homes.
To take it one step further, I don’t think that dominance is a bad thing to have in a dog. I know a dog with an abnormally high level of dominance, but it’s not an issue because he knows that order and structure are my problems, not his. Dominant dogs don’t want to keep order, they do it because no one else is.
In a pet dog setting, maybe one or two of every 100 dogs is a truly dominant dog. Let’s muddy the water. Can dogs have low, moderate, high and extreme levels of dominance? They sure can.
With a potentially new view on what dominance is, let’s outline some of the traits I’ve seen in this handful of dominant dogs.
They never start fights with other dogs, but they will engage in a fight if needed to keep order.
They don’t micromanage other dogs or people. They are naturally self-confident. They only step in if they absolutely have to.
They don’t micromanage other dogs or people. They are naturally self-confident. They only step in if they absolutely have to.
The thing they desire most in life is for their utopian dream to come to fruition. The desire lack of conflict.The thing they desire most in life is for their utopian dream to come to fruition. The desire lack of conflict.They tend to be very patient dogs.[/cs_icon_list_item][cs_icon_list_item title=”They have a natural confidence about them. It’s like watching President Obama in a CNN interview. He’s so calm, so confident, doesn’t blame others, it’s magical to watch. They have a natural confidence about them. It’s like watching President Obama in a CNN interview. He’s so calm, so confident, doesn’t blame others, it’s magical to watch
Dominant dogs don’t walk around trying to convince other dogs how tough they are, because they know how tough they are.
Insecure dogs are easy to spot, they start fights, they do bratty things to get attention, and they spend their entire lives trying to convince everyone around them that they are more confident then they actually are.
In closing, maybe I’m trying to convince you that the word dominance has been overused over the years. It’s also been misused to outline the behavior of insecure dogs. If you hate my position, awesome, prove you hate it by sharing it on facebook. I’d appreciate that.
Dominant dogs are just trying to get through the day with the least amount of drama as possible. Don’t poke the bear, and you don’t have an issue. Dominant dogs don’t start fights, they resolve conflict.
What you are about to read is absolutely not going to be received well in the dog community. It goes against everything most dog trainers and dog professionals have thought and taught for years. Allow me an ear while I unpack a concept that may change the way you think about the vast majority of aggression seen in dogs.
Many dog professionals believe that the vast majority of aggression seen in dogs is fear aggression. Five years ago I also believed that. Some have even gone to such an extreme to say that all aggression is fear-based. I have absolutely no idea how anyone could come to that conclusion, given predatory aggression and dogs that kill other dogs, but that is beside the point.
Outward aggression must have confidence.
I work with dogs who have been deemed fear aggression cases by other trainers every day. Please explain to me how such a dog can go out of its comfort zone, run across a soccer field, attack and pin down a dog, leave holes in its neck, and still be deemed fear aggressive?
Maybe I’m missing something?
I get it, a lot of dogs go to dog parks, the owners may or may not be paying attention and then a dog decides to defend himself. Very little time in dog parks is spent advocating to the sensitive dog. That my friends is a shame because true fear aggression can always be avoided.
How are personal protection dogs trained? First, frustration is built to a premium. Prey drive is activated in the dog by the use of a rag, tug, toy, and such to get the dog excited. They progress in time to a bite sleeve. Then comes the hard part. Channeling drive from prey to defensive drive. Once prey drive is at a high, the (decoy or bad guy if you will) then starts adding some pressure toward the dog. A hard stare, more confrontational body language, etc. Just enough to produce some stress, as the dog growls, the decoy runs away. The act of running at the earliest amount of defensiveness is then reinforced by the decoy running away which lowers the stress in the dog. Over time the little growl turns into serious deep barking. The point of protection training is the always produce more confidence in the dog and to convince the dog that he/she will always win. Fear can absolutely produce a massive amount of confidence. It’s done every day.
Take for example the dog who barks at the mailman/woman.
The first time he is startled by him/her when he hears the mailbox slam shut. He gives out a little woof. The person walks away and he thinks his woof just got the person to retreat because he can see them walking away from the window. Day after day the owners are at work, and the dog is training himself to become more confident with the aid of the mail career.
It’s rational for a fearful dog to pin another dog who is being pushy and not reading or acting on submissive and or cut-off-cues. That dog likely will growl, snap and avoid for a while before having to use such physical force. This is essentially the avoidance of aggression.
It is however irrational for a dog to seriously injure another dog who is not even looking at it, or paying attention to it. That would be like me saying a woman gets robbed at an ATM machine, so she decides to point a gun at every person she sees at an ATM machine the next 500 times she goes to get some cash.
This is what I have deemed over compensation aggression. Or shifting aggression.
I believe that it is not the avoidance of aggression most dogs seek, it’s the ability to produce control when a lack of control presents its self.
In closing, all forms of aggression are able to be rehabilitated apart from neurological cases. (.0634% of cases I have evaluated or rehabbed.)
If a dog were truly fearful, true fear is the avoidance of aggression.
I would like the terminology to change. That’s all.
Why is the terminology so important? Because without a proper understanding of reading aggression, the process of rehabilitation will greatly be changed. Outward Aggression must have confidence.
Fear can be in the driver seat, but there is almost always a passenger.
Sorry but the live stream cut out and didn't catch the last 10 minutes of the evaluation. You didn't miss much I just went through the programs, and they wanted to sign up on the spot.