A Comprehensive Overview Of Dog Reactivity And Dog Aggression



What Is Dog Reactivity?

Dog reactivity refers to a dog exhibiting behaviors such as barking, growling, or lunging towards a person, object, or animal. It is not uncommon for dogs to display reactivity while on a leash, yet behave normally when off-leash. A significant number of our clients have dogs that attend doggy daycare without any issues; however, they seek assistance due to their dogs barking or lunging at other dogs during walks.

Leash reactivity is often an expression of frustration, and there is typically no malicious intent to harm the other dog. Nevertheless, if these reactive dogs were to be unleashed and approached a leashed dog without appropriate introduction, it could potentially lead to a confrontation. Many reactive dogs struggle with greeting other dogs amicably due to their heightened frustration levels, increasing the risk of conflicts.


How To Tell If Your Dog Is Reactive Or Aggressive?

Reactive dogs often display behaviors such as barking, growling, and lunging, similar to aggressive dogs. The key distinction lies in the potential for harm when given the opportunity. Differentiating between reactive and aggressive dogs on a leash can be challenging due to their similar outward behaviors. Let's delve deeper into specific categories of reactivity.

Dog/Dog Reactivity: Leash-reactive dogs typically lack the intention to cause serious harm to other dogs, falling under the leash-reactive category in most cases. However, if a dog exhibits barking, growling, and lunging along with a history of causing harm to other dogs, it may be classified as dog-aggressive.

Dog/Human Reactivity: When a dog barks, growls, or lunges at humans, it's often indicative of fear, potentially specific to certain individuals, clothing styles, or nationalities. However, if a dog exhibits these behaviors on walks and has a history of biting people, it would be considered human-aggressive.

Dog/Object Reactivity: Dogs displaying reactivity towards objects, often through barking, growling, and lunging, typically have not been adequately socialized with unfamiliar items during their early development. This fear-based reactivity stems from a lack of exposure.

Dog/Animal Reactivity: This category involves dogs exhibiting reactive behaviors towards animals such as birds, cats, raccoons, and others. This reactivity is commonly observed in dogs with a high prey drive, which compels them to pursue and engage with other living beings. While some of these dogs may not have the intention to harm the animals, others may display predatory tendencies. Determining their true intentions often requires caution, as allowing direct access to animals is not recommended.


Can Reactive Or Aggressive Dogs Be FIXED Forever Or Will I have To Manage They Forever?

The million-dollar question: Can both reactive and aggressive dogs undergo effective training, regardless of their type or intensity? The answer is yes. While the expertise of trainers may vary, quality trainers possess the know-how to rehabilitate your reactive or aggressive dog in most instances, reducing the long-term need for extensive management.

However, it's important to note that effective training doesn't equate to a magical fix where a dog is instantly cured and requires no further support. Regardless of the training provided, both reactive and aggressive dogs will necessitate ongoing training to ensure that desired results persist over time. Consistent and continued support is crucial for maintaining positive behavioral changes.


What Are The Different Types Of Dog Aggression?

There are four primary types of dog/dog aggression:

  1. Lack of Socialization
  2. Improper Socialization (Modeled Behavior from Other Dogs)
  3. Resource Guarding
  4. Predatory Aggression

Lack of socialization towards other dogs is the least likely reason for dogs to become reactive or aggressive. Most dogs spend time with their mother and littermates until around seven or eight weeks old, during which they learn valuable socialization skills. While a dog not properly socialized may exhibit less-than-stellar social skills, being socially awkward does not inherently lead to reactivity or aggression towards their own kind.

Improper socialization stands out as the most common reason dogs become reactive and aggressive. Dogs may develop reactivity by observing behaviors such as barking when walking down the street or witnessing poorly executed greetings at dog parks. Dogs can pick up both positive and negative behaviors from their canine companions, emphasizing the importance of proper socialization with well-behaved dogs.

Resource guarding is another prevalent form of aggression. It comes in two types: learned resource guarding and genetically derived resource guarding. Learned resource guarding typically emerges in older dogs, where they associate growling with gaining the space they desire, such as when protecting a chewed bone. Genetically derived resource guarding is often seen in certain breeds, manifesting as early as eight weeks old, with the behavior developing around 3 to 4 months old. Dogs with genetically based resource guarding require ongoing support to prevent future guarding tendencies.

In addressing resource guarding in young dogs, it's crucial to recognize that it can persist, similar to an appetite returning even after being satisfied once. Therefore, dogs with early-onset resource guarding require consistent, long-term support to prevent future guarding behavior.


Best Dog Training Tools To Use With Reactive Or Aggressive Dogs?

There is literally hundreds of training tools that can be used when training your dog, but we stick to just a few because they are very effective and will help you get results in days or weeks, not years. 

Food training by way of dehydrated liver treats will be a core element of incentivizing your dog to do good behaviours. We always say that Food, toys, treats, praise, make it more likely that your dog will do something that you want, and will increase the speed to which they do it. Food training DOES NOT ensure that your dog will respond to you, which is why we also use negative motivations (corrections) to keep your dog accountable even if they don't want the treat or praise we are offering them. 

Despite their reputation, Electric collars (Ecollars) can be used humanly to help with off leash control, leash reactivity issues and other behavioural issues. Ecollars are not shocks collars, they do not shock dog, they pulsate the dogs neck muscle and the intensity is adjustable from 0-100. Ecollars can be very helpful for working with reactive dogs, aggressive dogs, and behavioral issues. We use them every day with our clients because they are extremely effective, a non-emotional method of correction, and  the most versatile training tool on the market. 

Prong collars, also known as pinch collars can be great for leash pulling issues, and also for leash reactivity issues. We don't use them on most of our clients, as most of our clients learn Ecollar training, however, they can be very helpful for clients who own 2 or more dogs. Trying to walk 2 or more dogs at the same time can be a challenge when you have an Ecollar remote in your hand. Some have said that prong collars were designed to mimic the nip of a mother dog. I'm not a dog, so I can't say if that's true, but either way, they are very effective for leash issues. They do need to be properly fit, or else they can be much less effective. Back over 20 years ago, after struggling for a year with my first dog Phoenix, I started using a prong collar and it made a world of difference. 

Head collars. Gentle leaders, transitional leashes, haltis, are essentially collars that manipulate your dogs head. They can be very effective to stop leash pulling, but the problem is that many dogs absolutely hate wearing them. Head collars can not be used to give a correction, as this could physically hurt your dogs neck, but they can be used to steer a dogs head upwards, to look away from another dog or distraction.   

Muzzles. When you don't know how your dog is going to respond to another dog or person, a muzzle can be of great benefit. We also use fences for safe dog/dog and dog/human introductions as well. Like head collars, muzzle can be a challenge as many dog hate wearing them, so it will often change the dogs behaviour so much that it's a challenge to get them to interact normally. Baskerville makes the most popular muzzle on the market, and while we like them, they have rather large holes in the side of the muzzle for better air flow which is fine for dogs with dog/dog issues, but can lead to a humans nose or finger being bitten. For serious human aggression cases, we suggest Jafco muzzles. If you are going to buy one, get the clear plastic version with the third (top) strap. 

Clickers. At Mango Dogs, we don't use clickers for one simple reason. When you click a clicker, you are simply telling your dog that they did something that you desire. It's for that reason that we rather use a work like GOOD or YES, in place of the clicker. 

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What About Neurological Cases of Aggression?

If you were to survey 100 dog trainers about the prevalence of neurological aggression, most would likely assert that it's quite common, perhaps occurring in 1 out of 10 cases of aggression. However, this claim is far from accurate. The majority of dogs exhibiting reactivity or aggression do not have neurological aggression; rather, their cases are entirely addressable. "Neurological aggression" is essentially a catch-all term employed by dog trainers when they are uncertain about how to remedy a behavioral issue.

From a technical standpoint, all instances of reactivity and aggression have neurological underpinnings. Nevertheless, the term is colloquially used to describe a type of aggression perceived as unaddressable, characterized by a lack of warning signs. In my evaluation of over 5500 reactive and aggressive dogs since 2009, I have encountered only one case where an aggressive outburst caught me by surprise.

True instances of neurological aggression are exceptionally rare, and detecting it in your dog is nearly impossible. Dogs with this condition often succumb to brain tumors within months. Dog trainers often reference neurological cases of aggression and mention specific conditions supposedly associated with particular breeds, such as Springer Rage Syndrome. This term has expanded over time to encompass dogs of all breeds displaying sudden aggressive outbursts. In the vast majority of cases, these issues can be resolved with the assistance of a skilled trainer.

We have witnessed numerous dog owners entering our facility, already having set a euthanasia date for their dog, only to later cancel the appointment, enroll in training, and see their dogs live until old age. It's crucial not to allow a professional to diagnose your dog with neurological aggression unless they can provide a valid reason for the diagnosis. In many instances, trainers may lack the expertise to address the behavioral challenges, leading them to diagnose the dog with a neurological condition.

Misdiagnoses are rampant, and since there is no medication or specific dog training for neurological cases, many of these dogs are prematurely put to sleep, often unnecessarily.


How Effective Is Medication in Treating Dog Reactivity And Dog Aggression?

Overall, it's not common for medications to effectively address dogs' behavioral or aggression issues. Behavior is fundamentally processed neurologically, leading many dog owners to seek advice from veterinarians to explore the potential of medications as a solution for anxiety, reactivity, fear, and aggression.

I don't hold a definitive stance for or against medications because their efficacy can vary. While they may work in some cases, there are instances where they prove ineffective or even exacerbate a dog's behavioral problems.

Medications for dogs generally fall into two broad categories:

  1. Neutropics
  2. Pharmaceuticals

Neutropics encompass holistic approaches that could impact a dog's behavior. Products ranging from pheromone collars to CBD, thunder shirts, and essential oils fall under this category. Trying these products is generally low-risk, and they may alleviate issues like anxiety, although reactivity and aggression are often rooted in different causes. Most products in this category are naturally derived, with minimal negative effects, so exploring these options through research may benefit your dog's comfort.

When it comes to pharmaceuticals, I must exercise caution as I am not a veterinarian and lack extensive knowledge about these products. It's crucial to consult your veterinarian about pharmaceuticals if you are considering them for your dog. These medications are often more expensive and can pose serious medical complications with prolonged use. Many veterinarians are cautious about prescribing pharmaceuticals for extended periods, preferring short-term use for specific situations like post-surgery recovery or events such as thunderstorms.

While some argue that pharmaceuticals can worsen aggression, the pet-pharma industry disputes this claim but acknowledges potential damage to internal organs with long-term use.

In essence, pharmaceuticals for dogs are essentially the same drugs used to treat anxiety and depression in humans, formulated for canine use. While some dog owners report positive outcomes, others observe minimal change in their dogs' behavior. Personally, I have not encountered or heard of a case where aggression was exacerbated by pharmaceuticals.

At Mango Dogs, we respect our boundaries as non-veterinarians. We often collaborate with veterinarians if clients are unsatisfied with medication alone and wish to transition to training. In the majority of cases, our clients find success with our training program and do not need to revert to pharmaceuticals.

Although dog behavior originates in the brain, not every behavioral issue stems from a neurological imbalance. Many behaviors exhibited by dogs are entirely natural, and while medications may provide assistance, it is prudent to address the root causes before considering medication. Stress and lack of social skills are common issues, and it's often safer for the long-term well-being of the dog to explore non-pharmaceutical solutions.


How Long Does It Take To Train A Reactive Or Aggressive Dog?

The straightforward answer? Training is an ongoing process, potentially lasting indefinitely. However, for the majority of our clients, it's not a daily commitment; approximately 95% find that it becomes a part of their routine.

While our dog training programs are typically structured with one month of intensive private training and 12 months of continued support through group classes, it's essential to understand that training isn't a short-term endeavor. Consider training your reactive or aggressive dog akin to adopting a healthy lifestyle. Achieving and maintaining health involves specific changes in diet, sleep patterns, hydration, and other habits. Similarly, maintaining the positive changes in your dog's behavior requires ongoing effort.

Fortunately, some aspects of training are front-loaded, requiring more attention initially, while others need consistent upkeep over the long term. At Mango Dogs, we strive to seamlessly integrate our training so that, after the initial month, it doesn't feel like formal training. The initial month focuses on laying foundations, establishing effective communication, and structuring your dog's environment for success. Once this foundational period concludes, most clients transition into what we term "maintenance mode."

In maintenance mode, your interactions with your dog are built on practices already established during the initial training. For instance, if you've always walked your dog, maintenance mode involves making minor adjustments and perhaps using a different collar to ensure continued success.

During maintenance mode, you're no longer actively training your dog; instead, you're maintaining their skill level. This phase typically lasts for at least one year to foster the development of better behavioral patterns over the long term. Some dogs may require maintenance mode for an extended duration, perhaps even indefinitely, based on their individual needs.


How Much Does It Cost To Train A Reactive Or Aggressive Dogs Properly?

The cost of training for reactive or aggressive dogs can vary significantly based on the trainer you choose to work with. Generally, I advise dog owners to anticipate paying in the thousands, not hundreds.

If you come across a trainer promising to address your dog's aggression issues for a mere $250, it's advisable to proceed with caution. Such a low fee is a red flag, indicating that they may not provide effective assistance over the long term. It suggests a potential lack of understanding regarding the comprehensive and time-intensive nature of the training process when done thoroughly.


Should I Take Group Training Classes For My Reactive Or Aggressive Dog?

Some dog trainers attempt to include reactive or aggressive dogs in group training classes, but this often results in unfavorable outcomes. The stress levels for both owners and dogs become overwhelming, leading many owners to withdraw from the classes due to embarrassment caused by their dog's reactions.

At Mango Dogs, our approach differs. We initiate every reactive or aggressive dog with private lessons and only transition them to group training when substantial progress has been made, and both the dog and clients feel prepared for the next step. Dogs, especially those exhibiting reactivity or aggression, don't thrive in a group learning environment. In our group classes, the focus is not on introducing new behaviors but rather on:

  1. Reinforcing existing commands and behaviors.
  2. Providing ongoing support for clients throughout the extended training period.
  3. Offering supervised exposure to dog/dog and dog/human interactions.

Should You Train Your Reactive Dog Or Should They Go To Boarding School?

Many dog trainers who specialize in working with reactive and aggressive dogs opt for board and train programs. In a board and train arrangement, the trainer takes your dog for a predetermined period, conducts training, and then returns your dog once the training is complete.

While some of our trainers offer board and train programs, others do not. (Check your nearest location for details.)

However, I hold reservations about board and train programs for a few reasons:

  1. Limited Training Time:Most board and train programs typically involve only a one-hour session when your dog returns home, which is insufficient for effective training.

  2. Incomplete Owner Training:Many individuals are drawn to the idea of board and train programs as a seemingly convenient solution. However, what they may not realize is that I regularly engage with numerous dog trainers who face challenges with dissatisfied clients when dogs return home from such programs. In fact, I conduct a global masterclass for dog trainers on how to work specifically with reactive and aggressive dogs without resorting to board and train methods.

  3. Unnecessary Service:Board and trains may not be essential because, ultimately, the humans need to learn how to manage their dogs regardless. We refrain from offering this service because it may not be in the best interest of the dog owner. While I won't deny that board and train programs can be effective, my preference, ideally, is for dog owners to actively participate in the entire training process. This involvement can be achieved through a private one-on-one training session program with any dog.


What Role Does Dopamine play in Reactivity and Aggression?

Many reactive dogs grapple with a condition we refer to as "Dopamine Expectation."

These dogs easily become overstimulated, eagerly scanning their surroundings the moment they step out the front door. They pull relentlessly, losing control at the sight of dogs, animals, and sometimes even people. Despite their aggressive appearance, most of these dogs lack the intention to harm others. To address the issue, dog owners must comprehend their dog's behavior. In essence, these dogs are dopamine junkies.

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter or hormone, activates the pleasure-seeking cortex in a dog's mind and is highly addictive. Humans generate dopamine too; for example, scrolling on Instagram releases small amounts of dopamine, explaining the compulsion to do so repeatedly. Dogs, however, are significantly more addicted, with even minor sounds triggering heightened reactions. While auditory cues can induce arousal, visual triggers are most potent, often noticeable through excessively dilated pupils.

If it's not aggression, then what is it? These dogs are in a perpetual quest for elevated dopamine levels. Mundane activities like napping yield no dopamine release, but walks provide a substantial boost. Encountering other dogs results in a significant release, while engaging in a fight delivers the most substantial surge. Playing fetch with another dog may offer a 100/100 satisfaction level, but a confrontation can provide 120/100. Barking and lunging at another dog during a walk may score them 95/100. The pleasure derived from dopamine keeps them craving more, leading to potential conflicts.

Dopamine overload causes tunnel vision, impairing their ability to think clearly and potentially landing them in trouble. Their sole focus becomes securing more dopamine. So, how do you address this behavioral challenge? Firstly, refrain from constantly giving in to their desires. If you have a fenced yard, avoid overly strenuous activities that merely turn them into triathletes. Chasing a ball elicits the same dopamine response. Engage them in mentally stimulating activities instead of solely focusing on physical exertion.

During walks, use tools like a properly fitted prong collar to discourage pulling and maintain a shorter leash to prevent them from fixating on other dogs or people. Channel their attention toward you, making the walk a calm experience. Avoid off-leash activities unless your dog can remain composed and has no history of instigating fights.

Rein in their exuberance when guests arrive; leash them and ensure they calm down before greeting visitors. Resist the urge to grant them unrestricted freedom until they've earned it through consistent training, especially if they have a history of confrontations with other dogs.

Owning such dogs is a responsibility, and some may prove challenging for the average dog owner. While they can be incredible companions, proper handling is crucial to mitigate potential liabilities. If you're grappling with a challenging dog, reach out for assistance—I help dog owners facing similar challenges every day.

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As far as I can tell, the term "Red Zone" was coined by Cesar Millan many years ago. While used in various ways, it is primarily employed to describe a dog's intense focus, especially when displaying aggressive behavior. Although not a technical term commonly used by dog trainers, it serves as a useful concept for the average dog owner witnessing their dog aggressively attacking or lunging at another dog, often accompanied by vocalizations. The "Red Zone" essentially signifies a heightened state of frustration and focus directed in a manner undesirable to the dog's owner. Controlling a dog in the Red Zone becomes challenging, as their pain threshold elevates to a point where immediate interventions often prove ineffective. It is crucial to break their focus before reaching this level of fixation and frustration.

While prevention isn't always feasible, effective methods can be employed even when a dog has entered the Red Zone, particularly when working with a knowledgeable trainer experienced with these types of dogs. Red Zone behavior is predominantly observed in bully breeds, with this degree of frustration and focus seldom seen in more common breeds like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Labradoodles, etc. However, it may manifest in dogs exhibiting predatory tendencies or with a history of harming other animals.


When Should You Use A Muzzle For Your Aggressive Dog?

Muzzles can serve as a valuable tool if you're concerned about your dog potentially biting another person, animal, or dog. Dog trainers commonly recommend muzzles, especially when dogs have a history of causing serious harm to other living creatures. Another significant benefit of using a muzzle is that it often instills a sense of calmness in the dog owner during outings—a feature appreciated by many dog trainers.

However, it's crucial to note that muzzles should not be viewed as a replacement for training, particularly in situations where multiple dogs cohabitate and engage in fights. While some owners may resort to using muzzles to prevent physical harm during conflicts among their dogs, this approach is not ideal. Even with muzzles, engaging in fights can have negative consequences and potentially worsen the situation. Each altercation, with or without muzzles, decreases the likelihood of fostering a harmonious living environment for the dogs in the future.

In my personal approach to training reactive or aggressive dogs, I seldom rely on muzzles unless it is a specific preference of the dog owner. While muzzles have a definite place in dog training, I sometimes avoid their use because, even when properly trained, many dogs dislike wearing them, leading to a significant shift in their behavior. Some dogs may even resist going for a walk when wearing a muzzle, diminishing the joy of their daily activities.

If keeping other dogs or people away from your dog is challenging, a muzzle may be a viable option. However, in most cases, potential conflicts can be avoided through proper training before initiating interactions. Muscle training becomes essential, especially if your dog displays a tendency to bite.


When Should You Break Up A Dog Fight

Understanding dog behavior is crucial when dealing with conflicts, as most incidents labeled as dogfights are, in fact, dog arguments. A dog argument typically involves two or more dogs posturing on their hind legs, mouths open, displaying teeth, and making noise. These encounters usually last around 15 to 20 seconds, after which the dogs separate. Importantly, dog arguments rarely escalate to the point where medical attention is required, and bites are uncommon. While encouraging dogs to engage in arguments is not recommended, distinguishing between an argument and an actual dogfight is essential.

A dogfight can unfold in one of two ways: one dog aggressing on an innocent dog, or both dogs harboring mutual dislike and a similar desire to engage in a fight. It's worth noting that when one dog is attacking another, it is typically termed a dog attack rather than a dogfight.

In the event of an actual dogfight, the immediate response should not involve hastily intervening with bare hands to separate the dogs. While understandable for small dogs where the risk of severe injury is higher, for larger dogs weighing around 40 to 50 pounds or more, taking a moment to assess the situation before intervening is advised. Recently, a friend experienced a dogfight between his foster dog and his own dog, resulting in an attempt to break it up hastily, leading to a severe bite on the leg. This incident highlights the importance of refraining from immediate intervention unless one is experienced and has taken the time to evaluate the situation thoroughly.

Robert Cabral has a great video on this topic. It is age restricted. Warning, it's very graphic.


Should Reactive Dogs Still Go To Daycare?

We encounter this question almost daily from concerned dog owners whose dogs have developed leash reactivity towards other dogs but continue attending daycare regularly. Personally, I acknowledge the potential benefits of doggy daycare, including enhanced social skills and the convenience it offers for owners who work. While I don't rely on doggy daycare as I am fortunate to spend the entire day with my dogs, I recognize its value.

However, my enthusiasm for the socialization aspect of doggy daycare is tempered by the reality that many daycares lack proper control and adequate staffing. In such environments, dogs may learn undesirable social behaviors instead of positive ones. If you have access to a well-managed daycare where your dog receives sufficient attention, it can indeed be a positive experience.

Reactivity in your dog doesn't necessarily mean they should never return to daycare. The common misconception that daycare attendance will undo home training efforts is unfounded. Dogs are highly adaptable and understand the context of different environments. They can distinguish between appropriate behavior in a daycare setting and the need for different conduct during leash walks in their neighborhood with their owners.


If My Dog Acts Aggressively At Doggy Daycare, Can I Help Them?

In the majority of cases, I'm unable to assist dog owners when their dogs exhibit aggression at doggie daycare. The primary reason is the high level of contextual specificity in dog behavior. Training implemented in one environment may not seamlessly transfer to the unique context of a doggie daycare setting. Additionally, most doggie daycares lack the capacity to provide focused attention to challenging dogs, hindering the possibility of effective training.

Addressing aggression often involves correction, a responsibility that falls outside the typical scope of doggy daycare staff. When faced with such situations, I convey to owners that while I may not be able to directly address the issues within the daycare setting, I can offer assistance in refining their dog's social skills outside of that context. Occasionally, skills cultivated in external training may influence the dog's behavior within the daycare, although this is more of an exception than a rule.


Are Some Dogs Antisocial? 

Certainly, there are dogs that exhibit antisocial behavior, akin to the spectrum of sociability found in humans. Both humans and dogs possess a wide-ranging spectrum of social tendencies, influenced by a mix of genetics and individual variation. Some breeds may be more predisposed to antisocial traits, while chance plays a role as well. If you happened to choose a puppy that was the most timid in the litter, chances are you selected not only a fearful puppy but also one with antisocial tendencies. Fear and antisocial behavior often coexist.

While there are steps you can take to mitigate antisocial behavior in your dog, transforming them into a social butterfly may be an unrealistic expectation. I frequently advise clients using a personal analogy – when discussing marriage with my wife, I made it clear that attending dinner parties might not be my forte. I acknowledged my moderate social inclination, and that's likely a part of who I am. Similarly, dogs can have their own social preferences, and trying to force extreme sociability might not yield the desired results.

Rather than attempting to compel excessive sociability, it's more constructive to gently guide them towards being a bit more outgoing over time. Focus on teaching them appropriate social behavior, ensuring they don't react excessively in social situations. Many antisocial dogs struggle with impulse control and heightened emotional responses, leading to lunging and growling at every person or dog, behaviors that I consider excessive.


Are un-neutered male dogs more aggressive than altered male dogs?

There's no basis to assume that unneutered male dogs are inherently more aggressive than their neutered counterparts. Personally, I choose not to neuter my male dogs until they reach 9 years old, primarily to minimize the risk of testicular cancer. Throughout my experience, I've never encountered aggression issues with unneutered male dogs. Drawing a parallel, we wouldn't contemplate altering a young boy to prevent aggression. The natural state for both humans and dogs is to be unaltered. However, life can bring unexpected challenges, and various factors contribute to the development of behaviors, including aggression, which is influenced by both nature and nurture.

Frequently, I receive calls from dog owners seeking early neutering to address behaviors like humping or excessive energy. While neutering might have benefits for certain behavioral issues, such as curbing excessive humping, it's seldom a reliable solution for treating dog aggression.

In my experience, I often observe the opposite outcome. Many dog owners come in with young, recently neutered male dogs exhibiting aggression issues. Neutering can significantly impact various aspects of a dog's physical, mental, and emotional development, especially when done at a young age. If a dog has reached sexual maturity, the potential drawbacks are notably reduced. I commonly encounter cases where male puppies, neutered between 6 and 10 months, progressively worsen in behavior. Neutering can be a contributing factor to the development of these issues.

Intriguingly, through conversations with numerous dog owners, I've noted similar issues in both male and female dogs. While male dogs may develop reactivity or aggression after neutering, female dogs may also exhibit behavioral and health issues after being spayed, even at a young age.


Are You Making Your Dogs Issues Worse?

One of the most common questions we receive as dog trainers is whether owners might be worsening their dog's reactivity or aggression. While there are situations where owners might inadvertently exacerbate reactivity issues, I find such cases to be relatively uncommon. As dog trainers, we often emphasize a fundamental principle: "What you pat is what you get." Essentially, when you provide your dog with praise, physical contact, or any form of affirmation, you are reinforcing not only their behavior but also their state of mind. Therefore, it's crucial to offer attention and positive interaction when your dog exhibits desirable behavior.

Conversely, when dealing with a reactive or aggressive dog, attempting to soothe them can lead to miscommunication and potentially worsen the situation. This is especially true for fearful dogs; comforting them might convey the wrong message, making them believe that fear is the expected response.

A more effective approach is to redirect your dog's focus rather than trying to talk them through it as if they were a young child. Provide them with a command and, if necessary, correct them for not following your instruction. The same applies when addressing fears such as fireworks. Instead of allowing your dog onto the bed, instruct them to lay down on their dog bed and remain there. Offering a specific task or focus makes it more challenging for them to dwell on the frightening stimulus.


How Your Dogs Food Affects Your Reactive Dogs Behavior

I'll forever remember the turning point in my life. At 18, fresh out of high school, I found myself in my family doctor's office. My face and body were covered in severe acne, and inflammation made me hard to look at. Constant fatigue and inflamed joints, especially in my knees and elbows, took away the joy of activities like jogging. My life seemed to unravel at such a young age.

Curious if my diet played a role, I asked my doctor if the food I consumed could be causing these issues. He dismissed the idea, insisting that my diet had no connection to my acne or health problems. A year later, I transformed into a different person by eliminating lactose and gluten from my diet, resolving all my acne issues.

This experience made me contemplate whether the same principle could apply to dogs. If what we feed ourselves affects our health, could it not influence a dog's behavior as well?

While I don't dictate what dog owners should feed their pets, I've explored various diets for my dogs. From dehydrated food to kibble to raw food, I continually experiment to find what suits each dog individually.

Understanding that each dog is unique, experimenting with their diet is crucial to ensure their comfort. Feeding solely on kibble is not my top recommendation, regardless of what's claimed on the bag. If opting for dry kibble, steer clear of the cheapest brands, as quality matters in dog food. Prioritize reducing kibble and incorporating more whole foods, emphasizing nutritious options like fruits, vegetables (especially steamed), raw eggs, canned sardines, and unsweetened Greek yogurt or kefir.

I believe dogs should consume as many regular foods as kibble. Introduce human foods gradually, one ingredient at a time, to monitor any potential digestive issues.

A diet predominantly consisting of low-quality kibble can negatively impact a dog's behavior, particularly in cases of reactivity. Most kibbles are predominantly carbohydrates, converting into sugars, which is less beneficial for reactive dogs. Reactivity requires fuel, and an excessive sugary diet can complicate the training process. Diversifying their diet contributes to overall health and well-being.

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