By: Vladislav Roytapel
Some people unknowingly train their dogs to be aggressive by allowing or encouraging their dog to bark at strangers. People believe this is acceptable behavior because the dog is supposed to guard and protect the family. All too often, acceptance of this behavior by the owner leads to an attack against the neighbor or the postal carrier. Allowing a dog to bark at even one person is perceived by the dog as approval to protect its territory against all people. Dogs are not supposed to bark at strangers walking by and they are not supposed to protect against neighbors and postal carriers. It is my observation that puppies that have not learned self control through proper obedience training and are allowed to bark at strangers, will often growl and bite as mature adults.
Barking escalates to biting because eventually the dog feels that growling and barking are no longer effective in keeping certain people away from its territory. Frustration builds over the course of months or even years until finally the dog believes it is necessary to take extreme measures by biting or attacking anyone it perceives as a threat to its family or property.
Many dog owners participate in rough games, like tug of war, with their dog. Not understanding that the game must be started, won and stopped by the human and not the dog, they allow their dog to play on its terms. This means that the owners have put themselves in a submissive position while putting their dog in a dominant position. If a dog feels dominance and power over their owner, imagine what they feel against other adults and children! From my experience, working in security and police and special Russian forces, I will go on record and say that playing this game improperly is like playing with fire. Every dog, from a four pound Pomeranian to 100 pound Presa Canario, is looking for weakness in order to show its strength. Once they experience strength, they are not likely to show weakness.
You have to discipline a dog, but any human type of discipline will have the opposite effect on a dog. A dog that is hit, kicked, slapped or hanged for misbehavior is experiencing trauma inflicted by man. The dog will become fearful of its owner or other people on the street. A fearful dog is at high risk for biting or attacking any person who it perceives as someone who may inflict pain and trauma.
Fearfulness and Aggression
A fearful dog can bite because it is scared of a situation that it does not understand. In most cases, the cause is genetically driven. Insecurity will feed fearfulness. People commonly reinforce this behavior, for instance, when their dog starts growling and they try to soothe the dog by sharing affection instead of communicating to the dog that this behavior is unacceptable.
Isolation as the Vicious Cycle
Some pet owners worry about their dogs' antisocial behavior and lock them in another room or in the backyard. This will only serve to make the mater worse. The solution for antisocial behavior is not isolation, it is socialization. A qualified professional dog trainer can assist with this process and can safely socialize and rehabilitate the dog. Avoidance as a solution to any behavioral problem is just prolonging the inevitable. Unless the undesirable behavior is corrected, it is only a matter of time before the avoidance approach fails, resulting in devastating consequences for both the owner and the dog.
The biggest mistake people make is allowing their dog to bark when the door bell rings. The door bell creates excitement, excitement creates drive, drive creates frustration and frustration creates aggression. The Russian academic, Pavlov, made dogs salivate when someone rang the bell. So many people are conditioning their dog to become excited and frustrated when the door bell rings Instead, teach your dog to react to the door bell as children react to the sound of the ice-cream truck. Now, instead of an intruder alert, the dog is conditioned to associate the door bell with a positive event.
Vladae Roytapel a.k.a "Russian Dog Wizard" is a Newport Beach-based dog behaviorist and trainer who specializes in resolving canine agression. Contact him for more information at http://www.socaldogtraining.com/.