A Comprehensive Overview Of Dog Reactivity And Dog Aggression
MANGO DOGS - HELPING DOG OWNERS WITH REACTIVE AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS SINCE 2009
What Is Dog Reactivity?
Dog Reactivity is the act of a dog barking, growling or lunging at a person, object, or animal. It's not uncommon for dogs to be reactive when on their leash and fine when they are off leash. To that point, we have many hundreds of clients who's dogs go to doggy daycare several times a week without issue, but they needed help for barking at lunging at other dogs when going for a walk.
Leash Reactivity is almost always an expression of frustration and there is rarely any intention to hurt the other dog. These dogs could however find themselves in a fight if they got off their leash and ran up to leashed dog if they did not present themselves appropriately. Many reactive dogs do not greet other dogs well because of their level of frustration, and that can easily cause a fight.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Reactive Or Aggressive?
It's very difficult to tell a reactive dog from an aggressive dog while that dog is on-leash because they look so similar. So Let's Go Deeper.
Dog / Dog Reactivity : As stated above, most dogs who are leash reactive towards other dogs, do not have intention to seriously hurt those dogs, and so, they are categorized as leash reactive in most cases. If your dog is barking, growling, lunging at other dogs, and also has a history of hurting other dogs, chances are that they are also dog aggressive.
Dog / Human Reactivity : If your dog barking, growls, or lunges at humans, in most cases it can be assumed that they are afraid of people, and sometimes it's only with specific people or people who are dressed in a certain way, or of a specific nationality. However, if your dog barks growls or lunges at people while on a walk, and has a history of biting people, they would be considered human aggressive.
Dog / Object Reactivity :
Dogs who bark, growl, lunge at object in their environment. Usually seen with weird objects the dog was not properly socialized with at a young age. This reactivity is usually fear based in that it's based in a lack of exposure.
Dog / Animal Reactivity:
Dogs who bark, growl or lunge at animals like birds, cats, raccoons, etc. This type of reactivity is usually seen in dogs who have a high prey drive which is known as the drive that drives dogs to hunt and hold other living beings. Some of these dogs do not desire to kill the animals, and some do. The only way to tell is to allow them access to the animals which is not recommended.
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Can Reactive Or Aggressive Dogs Be FIXED Forever Or Will I have To Manage They Forever?
The million dollars question. Yes, both reactive and aggressive dogs can be trained effectively, regardless of their type or intensity. Some trainers are better than others at working with these cases, but the quality trainers will understand how to rehabilitate your reactive or aggressive dog in most cases so that less management will be needed long term.
This is not to say that any trainer can work with your dog and then POOF, they are fixed and will not need any ongoing support. All reactive or aggressive dogs will need ongoing training to ensure that your desired results continue over time.
What Are The Different Types Of Dog Aggression?
There are four main types of dog/dog aggression.
1: Lack of socialization 2: Improper socialization (Modeling from other dogs) 3: Guarding resources 4: Predatory Aggression
Lack of socialization towards other dogs is The least likely reason that dogs become reactive or aggressive towards other dogs. Most dogs live with their mother and other puppies in the litter until they are roughly seven or eight weeks of age and in that time they learn plenty about socializing with their own kind. Sure a dog who is not properly socialized can develop and have less-than-stellar social skills with other dogs but being socially awkward does not constitute the ability for a dog to become reactive or aggressive towards their own kind.
Improper socialization is by far the most common reason dogs become reactive and aggressive. Reactivity is promoted when dogs walk down the street and other dogs bark at them. they learn to rehearse behaviours they see other dogs doing thinking that it's okay and normal. Even going to a dog park and watching other dogs Rush up to other dogs and not properly greeting them with humility is something that is very common. Dogs can pick up good things from other dogs but of course they can also pick up negative things as well. If your dog spends time around other dogs who do not have great social skills it is very likely that they will also develop these issues as well. This is why we tell our puppy training clients that not all socialization was created equally. Remember good socialization with the right dogs even if it's not done very often it's much better than socializing consistently with the wrong types of dogs that they will learn bad traits from.
Resource guarding is another common type of aggression we see in dogs everyday. There are two types of resource guarding. Learned resource guarding and genetically derived resource guarding. Learned resource guarding is usually seen at an older age typically 1 1/2 to 3 years old. These dogs learn that Garden gets them the things that they want. For example a dog is chewing on a bone and an owner approaches them. The dog growls and the person backs away from them. this is a type of learned resource guarding that teaches the dog that growling we'll get them the space that they desire when they want to be left alone.
Genetically derived resource guarding is typically seen at a rather young age sometimes as young as eight weeks old. However we usually see it developing around 3 to 4 months old. Usually these dogs come from breeds where resource guarding is more commonly seen. If the resource guarding is genetically based it will be a long process to keep the dog from resource guarding over the long-term. I always remind my clients with dogs who developed resource guarding at a very young age that resource guarding is like an appetite. Just because you say she ate it once it doesn't mean that it won't come back. So these dogs need a lot more ongoing support over the long term to ensure that they don't start guarding in the future.
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 ask 100 dog trainers how common neurological aggression is, most will tell you that it's very common. Like 1/10. Bull S**t. The vast majority of dogs who are reactive or aggressive do not have neurological aggression, they have completely addressable cases of aggression. Neurological aggression is essentially a catch all phrase that Dog Trainers use when they don;'t know how to fix something.
Technically speaking, all cases of reactivity and aggression are neurologically based, however, the term is used colloquially to identify a form of aggression that is not able to be addressed, and a form that has zero warning signs. Interestingly, I've evaluated over 4500 reactive and aggressive dogs since 2009 and I'll only ever seen one case where I was surprised by an aggressive outburst.
Neurological aggression is extremely rare, and if you are wondering if your dog has it, it's almost impossible. These dogs often die within months from a brain tumour. Most Dog Trainers refer to neurological cases of aggression and talk of specific conditions that are supposedly seen in specific breeds. For example: Springer Rage Syndrome. This term has been broadened over the years to include dogs of all breeds who are have sudden aggressive outbursts. In the vast majority of cases, these issues can be solved, if the owner has access to a quality trainer who knows how to deal with such cases.
We've had countless dog owners come in, with a date to euthanize their dog already set, only to cancel the appointment, sign up for training, and the dogs in most cases lived until they died of old age. Don't let a professional diagnose your dog with neurological aggression unless they can tell you WHY they are diagnosing them. In most cases they simply don't know how to progress, and feel the need to diagnose your dog with something.
Many dogs are misdiagnosed each year, and because there is no medication, or dog training for neurological cases that can help, most of these dogs are put to sleep and in many cases they don't need to be.
How Effective Is Medication in Treating Dog Reactivity And Dog Aggression?
On the whole, It's not common that medications will help to change your dogs behavioural issues or aggression issues. Technically speaking, all behaviour is processed neurologically, and thus, it's common for dog owners to want to consult with a Veterinarian to see if medications can be cure for anxiety, reactivity, fear, aggression.
I am neither for or against medications because they can at times work. Sometimes they don't work, and sometimes they can make a dog behavioural worse.
There are many types of medications that dogs can take to try and treats behavioural conditions, for the sake of simplicity, we'll put them all into one of two categories.
Think of Neutropics as a kind of catch all category for all things holistic that might effects your dos behavior. In recent years it's become very common to see many different products being sold at pets stores and amazon to help with your dogs behaviour. Everything some pheromone collars to CBD, to thunder shirts to essential oils. In this category, I'm overwhelmingly find with dog owners trying new things because the likelihood of complications are incredibly low. Sometimes these product can ease things like anxiety, however, most cases of reactivity and aggression are not based in anxiety, so your results will vary. Most of these products are naturally derived, and have few negative ramifications, so feel free to do your own research to see if one of them will help your dog be more comfortable.
I have to be a lot more causes when speaking about pharmaceuticals because I am not a Veterinarian, and in full disclosure, I do not know an incredible amount about these products. Speak to your Veterinarian about pharmaceuticals if you think they might be right for your dog. Pharmaceuticals are typically much more costly, and can have serious medical complications if used on dogs over the long term. This is why some veterinarians (and in my experience... many Vets) do not prefer to prescribe pharmaceuticals to dogs unless they are to be used short term to help a dog recover from surgery or specific events like thunderstorms.
It's very common to hear a Veterinarians suggest that pharmaceuticals can actually make aggression worse. The pet-phara-industry does deny this claim, however it does deny it's potentials damage to internal organics if used over the long term.
The long and the short of it is that pharmaceuticals are essentially the same drugs used to treats anxiety and depression in humans, only formulated for dogs. We know that SSRI's can cause increased suicidal thoughts and ideation in some teenagers but there is no way of testing this in dogs.
I've talks to dog owners who were happy with how the medication helped their dog, and also talked to far more dog owners who saw little to no change in their dogs behaviour. I personally have not seen or heard of even one dogs who aggression was made worse by pharmaceuticals.
At Mango Dogs we don't over step our bounds because we are not Vets, however we commonly work along side Vets if the dog owners is not seeing desired changes with only the medication and would like to stop the medication and replace it with training instead. The vast majority of the time our clients never need to go back onto pharmaceuticals after our training program.
Dog behavior all starts in the brain, however, that does not mean that every dog has a neurological imbalance. Many alarming behaviours that dogs exhibit are completely natural for dogs to feel, and medications can help, but it's my view that it's wise to address the root of the issues before medicating. Most dogs that we see are terrible are dealing with stress. Does that mean that they all need medications? Many dogs that we see do not have good social skills, does that mean that they need medications? Look to the root before medicating, as it's going to be safer for your dog in the long term in most cases.
How Long Does It Take To Train A Reactive Or Aggressive Dog?
The simple answer? Forever. But don't worry, it's not an every day thing for most 95% of clients.
While our dog training programs typically consist of one month of extensive training and 12 months of ongoing support via our group classes, I would be remiss to suggest that training takes a month or two and then you have go back to living with your dog like your were before. Think of training our reactive or aggressive dog like you are planning to get healthy. Getting and staying healthy requires specific changes in your diet, sleeping patterns, drinking more water, less alcohol, etc. And if you want to stay healthy, you'll need to do it over the long term.
The nice thing is that some training only needs to be done in the beginning, and some training will need to be maintained over the long term. At Mango Dogs, we try our best to integrate our training so that it doesn't feel like training after the first month of training with us. The first month is about foundations, communication and structuring your dogs life so that they will succeed. After that first month is completed, most of our clients transition into what we call maintenance mode. In maintenance mode, everything that you will need to do with your dog are things that we have always done with your dog in the past. For example, you've always walked your dog in the past, so in maintenance mode, you'll just tweak a few things and maybe use a different collar to ensure that things go well.
In maintenance mode you'll no long be training your dog, only maintaining their skill level. Maintenance mode should continue for at least one year to ensure that your dog develops better behavioural patterns over the long term, and some dogs need maintenance mode for even longer, some forever.
How Much Does It Cost To Train A Reactive Or Aggressive Dogs Properly?
The price can train a reactive or aggressive dogs can be vastly different depending on the trainer who you will be working with. On the whole, I tell dog owners to expect to pay thousands, not hundreds.
If you talk to a trainer that tells you they are going to fix your dogs aggression issues for $250, run like hell, they are not going to help you over the long term and they clearly don't understand how long the process takes if it's going to be done well.
Should I Take Group Training Classes For My Reactive Or Aggressive Dog?
Some dog trainer try and integrate reactive or aggressive dogs into group training classes and this never goes well. The owners and dogs are far too stressed, and many owners drop out of the classes because they are so embarrassed of how their dog is reacting in class.
This is why Mango Dogs Trainers start every reactive or aggressive dog in private lessons and then progress into group training only when the dog and clients have made significant progression and feel ready to progress. Dogs don't learn well in a group environment, especially when they are reactive or aggressive. Our group classes are not designed to teach dogs new behaviours.
Our group classes help with;
1: Reinforcing things the dogs already know
2: Providing ongoing support for clients over the long term
3: Provide supervised dog/dog and dog/human exposure
Should You Train Your Reactive Dog Or Should They Go To Boarding School?
Many dog trainers who work with reactive and aggressive dogs do so in a board and train capacity. A board and train program is when a trainer takes your dog for a predetermined amount of time for training, then returns your dog to you when they are done with the training.
Some of our trainers do board and train programs and some do not. (See you closest location for details)
BUT... I am not a fan of board and trains for a few reasons;
You will need to be trained anyways. Most board and train programs only do a one hour session when your dog comes home to you, which is not nearly enough time.
Many people like the idea of a board and train program because essentially it's the easy way out, what they don't realize is that I talk to hundreds of dog trainers every month and many of them struggle with unhappy clients routinely when the dog goes home from a board and train program. I actually teach a masterclass to dog trainers around the world on how to work specifically with reactive and aggressive dogs without boarding and training.
There is no need for board and trains. The humans need to learn how to do things either way. We will not provide this service because it's not in the best interest of the dog owner. I don't want to say that they can not be effective, that would be a lie, but in an ideal world, I'd always prefer for the dog owner to be apart of the process from start to finish and that can be done with any dog in a private one-on-one private training session program.
What Role Does Dopamine play in Reactivity and Aggression?
Most reactive dogs struggle heavily with what we call (Dopamine Expectation)
These dogs are very easily overstimulated. The moment they walk out the front door, they are scanning for something to fixate on. They are pulling like a freight train, and losing their minds when they see dogs, animals, and sometimes people too. While most of these dogs look aggressive, most of them are not aggressive in the sense that they don’t usually have the intention to hurt dogs, animals or people. These dog owners need to understand what their dog is before they can fix the problem. Their dog is a dopamine junkie.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (think of it as a hormone) and dopamine activates the pleasure-seeking cortex in the dog’s mind. Coupled with that, dopamine is extremely addictive. Humans create dopamine too. When you scroll up or down on Instagram, you are releasing a small amount of dopamine, that’s why you keep doing it 100 times a day. Your dog is like that, times 10,000. They are so addicted to dopamine, that little sounds will spark them off. While sounds will cause them to flare up, it’s visual triggers that set these dogs off the most. Excessively Dilated pupils are an easy way to spot these dogs. I was going to post some videos of dogs that I worked in the past, but having done that before, I get a lot of hate mail and nasty comments, so you’ll have to use your imagination today. So if it’s not aggression what is it?
Your dog is constantly looking for a higher level of dopamine. Less interesting things like napping don’t provide any dopamine release for them while going for walks produces a lot. Seeing other dogs gives a huge release, and fighting gives the biggest release possible. Playing with another dog only gives 100/100, but fighting gives 120/100. Barking and lunging at another dog while on a walk gets them 95/100. The pleasure they feel from the dopamine release keeps them wanting more and more and more. And often these dogs get into fights not because they are aggressive, it’s because they don’t present themselves well to other dogs, or they will seek to fight in a way to get that higher high. Dopamine causes your dog to have tunnel vision.
They can’t think clearly when overwhelmed by dopamine and they can get themselves into trouble very easily. They don’t care about anything apart from more dopamine. So, what’s to be done about your little problem child? Well, first of all, stop giving them what they want all of the time. If you have a fenced-in yard, don’t run them for 15 minutes to make them tired, all that you are doing is creating a triathlete. Chasing a ball produces that same dopamine response. Your dog should be doing low arousal things, not high arousal things.
Work them mentally, not physically. Start forcing them to walk down the sidewalk without acting like a serial murderer. Use something like a properly fitted prong collar, and don’t give them 6 feet on the leash to pull you around. Make yourself the jealous boyfriend/girlfriend. Don’t let them focus on dogs, people, etc. Make them look at you, and get the walk calm. No off-leash unless your dogs can stay calm and not chase things, and no off-leash if they have a history of getting into dog fights.
Don’t let your dog be a freak of nature when people come to the door. Put a leash on them and make them calm down before they can say hello to guests. No running to the door barking their heads off. That’s dopamine. Don’t give your dog freedom they have not earned, which means, if your dog gets into fights with other dogs because he runs at them as fast as he possibly can and body checks them, don’t let your dog off-leash, even in secluded areas. That will have to be earned back after significant training.
Owning one of these dogs is a responsibility. Some of them are not easy to handle for an average dog owner. They can be incredible dogs, I get that, I know hundreds who are perfect dogs, but they can also be a huge liability if not handled properly. If you need help with your problem dog, give me a shout, I help dog owners like you every day.
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As far as I can tell Red zone is a term that Cesar Millan created many years ago. People have used the term in many different ways over the years but it's mostly used to communicate when a dog is extremely focused specifically when acting aggressively. This term is not a technical term that dog trainers typically use but it does do a good job for the average dog owner when they see their dog attacking another dog or lunging consistently at another dog screaming at the top of their lungs. Red zone is really just a level of frustration and focus that is directed in a way that a dog's owner would not desire. It's hard to control your dog when they're in a Red zone state because they're pain threshold goes up so incredibly high that nothing you do in that moment can break their focus. It's essential to break their focus before a dog gets to this level of fixation and frustration.
I know that's not always possible but there are also methods once your dog has reached Red zone if you work with a proper trainer who knows what they're doing with these types of dogs. Red zone dogs are overwhelmingly bully breeds and this level of frustration and focus is rarely seen in more common breeds like Labrador retrievers German shepherds poodles labradoodles etc. However it can be seen when dogs are in a predatory mode and have a history of killing other animals.
When Should You Use A Muzzle For Your Aggressive Dog?
Muzzles should not be used in replacement of training when there are multiple dogs who live together who are fighting. I commonly get phone calls from dog owners who have dogs who are fighting and they allow their dogs access to each other with muzzles on because technically speaking they can't hurt each other if a fight breaks out. Well this is safer than not having a muzzle on the dogs it is not ideal because the act of fighting even with muzzles on can do all kinds of bad things and make things worse for your situation. Every fight dogs get into with or without muzzles will greatly diminish the likelihood that you will be able to get those dogs to enjoy living together in the future.
Personally I rarely use muzzles in training reactive or aggressive dogs unless it's something that the dog owner really desires to use. I think they definitely have a place in dog training but I sometimes avoid using them because even if properly trained many dogs do not like wearing them and this will change their behavior exponentially. Many dogs do not even want to go for a walk when they have a muzzle on which takes so much joy out of life.
If you can't keep other dogs or people away from your animal then maybe a muzzle is a good option but in most cases before you start training you can avoid conflict unless your dog is trying to bite you and in that case you will definitely need to do muscle training with your dog to progress safely.
We have a muzzle training video on shown below.
We also have a video on how to get a muzzle on a dog that might try and bite you. Be safe and hire a professional.
When Should You Break Up A Dog Fight
A dog fight can progress in one of two ways. There can be one dog who is aggressing on an innocent dog. Or both dogs equally dislike each other and desire fighting with each other roughly the same amount. It's good to denote that if one dog is attacking another dog we typically call that a dog attack and not a dog fight.
If your dog is in an actual dogfight the last thing that you should do is jump in with your hands to try to get the dogs apart as soon as things happen. If you have a very small dog and you're concerned about your dog being killed I can understand jumping the gun to try to save your dog. However if you have a dog who's 40 or 50 lb or larger it is highly unlikely that your dog will be seriously injured if you take a few moments to assess the situation before getting involved.
Just recently a friend of mine was attacked when his foster dog and his dog got into a fight. He tried to break it up immediately rushing in without assessing the situation and got very badly bitten on the leg. This is a man whose own dogs for over 40 years and those dogs very well.
Please please please do not jump in to a dog fight unless you know what you are doing and you take some time to assess the situation.
Robert Cabral has a great video on this topic. It is age restricted.
Should Reactive Dogs Still Go To Daycare?
If your dog is reactive that doesn't mean that they should never go back to daycare. it's such a common question because people think that if their dog goes back to daycare it's somehow going to undo any training that they are doing at home and this is just not the case. Dogs are highly contextual animals and they understand that they can behave a certain way in daycare and they have to act differently when they're going for a leash walk with their owners and their neighborhood.
If My Dog Acts Aggressively At Doggy Daycare, Can I Help Them?
In most cases I cannot help a dog owner if their dog has started acting aggressively towards other dogs at doggie daycare. The reason for this is very simple because dogs are so contextual it is unlikely that training we do with their dog will transfer over to the doggie daycare setting because it is a completely different context and situation and mainly because most doggie daycares will not be able to pay enough attention to a difficult dog to make sure that they are doing well and thriving.
Sometimes aggressive dogs need to be corrected and that's not the job of most doggy daycare attendance. I typically tell people in this situation that there's nothing I can help them with inside the daycare setting but if they want help with social skills outside of the daycare setting that something that we can help with. And sometimes the training we do outside of daycare will transfer into the daycare but that is the exception not the rule.
Are Some Dogs Antisocial?
Yes there are dogs who are antisocial just like with human beings. Humans and dogs both have a spectrum on how social they are and the spectrum varies wildly. This can be genetically derived and more common with specific breeds and sometimes it's just luck of the draw. If you picked out a puppy who was the most timid in the litter you probably not only picked a very fearful puppy but probably picked an antisocial puppy as well. Fear and antisocial behavior usually will be seen together.
There's much to be done if you want your dog to be less antisocial but as a general rule it's unlikely that you will be able to make them a social butterfly. I often tell clients that when I met my wife and we were getting serious talking about marriage I told her up front that she should not expect that I would be attending dinner parties with her when we got married. I am a moderately social human and that's who I am now and probably the person I will always be. I get my socialization working with clients spending time with my family and chatting with friends from time to time. But you will never see me at a bar having beers with the guys.
Dogs can be that way as well and so there's not much you can do to force them. It's much better to try to massage things in your direction. Teach them to be a little bit more outgoing as time progresses and just make sure that they're not overreacting in social situations. Many antisocial dogs have very little impulse control and are extremely overly emotional. This can cause them to be lunging and growling at every person or dog they see which in my estimation is excessive.
Are un-neutered male dogs more aggressive than altered male dogs?
There's absolutely no reason to believe that un-neutered male dogs are more aggressive than neutered male dogs. I personally do not neuter my male dogs until they are 9 years old to prevent any likelihood of testicular cancer and I have never owned an un-neutered male dog who was dog aggressive in any way. We would never think of children as if to say that unless we castrate a young boy they will become aggressive. The natural state of being for humans and dogs is to be unaltered. Altered or unaltered life can throw curve balls and things can develop for many different reasons. This is why I often talked at length about aggression being a component of Nature and also nurture.
It seems like every few days I get a call from a dog owner who wants to neuter their male dog early because it's humping them or other dogs or maybe it has a lot of energy and they're hoping that neutering will fix the problem. At times neutering can be advantageous for stunting some behavioural issues like excessive humping but it rarely is effective for treating dog aggression of any kind.
Unfortunately, I tend to see the opposite to be true. It's very common for dog owners to come in with young recently neutered male dogs who have developed aggression issues. Remember neutering your dog will have massive effects on many different areas of your dog's physical mental and emotional development especially if it's at a young age. If your dog is no longer a puppy and has been allowed to sexually mature the potential deficits are mitigated considerably. All too often I see young male puppies between the ages of 6 and 10 months come in who was recently neutered and are consistently getting worse and worse and worse by the day. The neutering can be one of the causes for these issues developing.
It's been fascinating to talk with thousands of dog owners in the situation over the years because well we see many of these issues with male dogs pretend not to see female dogs becoming reactive or aggressive after being spayed even if they were spayed at a young age. It's more common to see female dogs develop behavioural issues and especially health issues.
Are You Making Your Dogs Issues Worse?
Likely the most common question we get as dog trainers is am I making my dog's reactivity or aggression worse? There are some situations where owners can be exacerbating reactivity issues but in my estimation, it is not very common. As dog trainers, we often refer to a basic principle which is what you Pat is what you get. What this means is when you give your dog praise or I contact or any type of affirmation you are essentially affirming their behaviour as well as their state of mind. So it's essential to be giving your dog attention and talking to them when they're doing the right things. The opposite is true when your dog is being reactive or aggressive. You don't want to be trying to sue them to make them feel better as this can be a miscommunication beckon ultimately make things worse. Especially if your dog is very fearful you don't want to be patting them telling them it's okay. Because in reality they don't understand what that means and they will likely think that you want them to be scared.
It's far better to give your dog something to focus on instead of trying to talk them through it like they are a young child. Tell them to do something and if needed correct them for not following your command. The same can be said if your dog is scared of fireworks. Don't bring them up into the bed. Have them go lay down on their dog bed and have them stay on their bed so that they don't emotionally spiral too much. If you give your dog something to focus on it's a lot harder for them to focus on the thing that is scary to them.
How Your Dogs Food Affects Your Reactive Dogs Behavior
I'll never forget the moment everything clicked for me. I was 18 years old had just graduated from high school and I was sitting in my family doctors office. I had incredibly bad acne all over my face and body and was so inflamed I was literally hard to look at. I was constantly tired and all of my joints in my body specifically my knees and elbows we're so inflamed that jogging was no longer an option for me. My life was literally falling apart in front of me at such a young age.
I asked my doctor if there was something that might be causing these issues in the food that I was eating. He snickered to himself and told me that there was no possible way that anything I was eating could be creating my acne problems or any of my health issues. Fast forward one year and all of my acne was gone and I was a completely different person after deciding to give up all lactose products and gluten from my diet.
Not only was I struggling physically but I was also struggling mentally because there were many things that I could not do. I had a large amount of pain in my body. And I was ashamed of the way that I looked.
If lactose and gluten were able to bring me to my knees at the age of 18 could it not be true that what you're feeding your dog could have effects on their behaviour as well? It's clear that there can be effects on their health.
On the whole I do not tell dog owners what they should feed their dogs. I've gone through many iterations of figuring out best options for feeding my dogs over the years. I fed everything from dehydrated food to kibble to raw food and continually I'm experimenting to find what works best for all of my dogs individually.
Because each dog is an individual you should try and play around with their diet to make them most comfortable whenever possible. feeding a regular kibble diet is not something that I would suggest foremost for dogs as it's not a very complete Regardless of what it states on the back of the bag. If you decide to continue feeding a dry kibble food try and stay away from the cheapest brands as you definitely get what you pay for with dog food. The most important thing is that you cut back on the cable that you feed and you give them more Whole Foods. Buy Whole Foods I suggest most healthy foods that humans can eat.
Fruits and vegetables are great especially steamed vegetables. raw eggs. Sardines from a can. Unsweetened Greek yogurt or kefir. It's my opinion that your dog should be eating as much regular Foods as they are eating kibble. If you're going to start introducing human foods just make sure to do it slowly one ingredient at a time so that you can isolate if there is an issue with your dog's digestion.
Feeding your dog a 100% kibble diet can have negative effects on their behaviour specifically if it is lower quality food. The vast majority of Kibbles are consisting of almost exclusively carbohydrates. Carbohydrates will be converted into sugars and sugary diets are not advantageous for reactive dogs especially. Reactivity requires fuel remember that. It's okay for your dog to have some carbohydrates that will convert into sugars but it should not be the bulk of their diet as it can lead to extra fuel which makes your training process more difficult. They will also be healthier if you diversify their diet and that's always a good thing.