Tag Archives: people aggressive

My Dog Is Aggressive Towards People: Trainers Dealing with Aggression in Northern Virginia

Dog Trainers for People Aggression

At our Northern Virginia dog behavior training facility, we deal with dogs who are aggressive towards people on a regular basis.

One thing that everyone asks is, “Can you fix my people aggressive dog?” That’s a very tricky question to answer until we really start working with your dog.

First, you must understand WHY your dog has aggression towards people: abused at a young age, lack of socialization at a young age, or bad breeding (genetic predisposition)?

I would say about 90% of the cases is lack of proper socialization at a young age; unfortunately, this is sad because this is the EASIEST and most preventable thing to do with your dog (that is 100% free and cost-free). We will discuss proper socialization and desensitizing your dog to “trigger points” in a different blog.

We (as in Off Leash K9 Training) do have a classification system that tells us the likelihood of being able to completely fix (or address) your dog’s people’s aggression.

We base this system NOT on the number of incidents your dog has had, but the “severity” of the incidents. This is the grading scale assuming that your dog has no medical issue.

Level 1 Aggression:
-Growls and barks at people, but has never actually put teeth on a person.

Level 2 Aggression:
-Growls, barks (not necessary), and has put teeth on someone but has never actually punctured a person’s skin

Level 3 Aggression:
-Growls, barks (not necessary), and has left 1-3 shallow puncture marks on someone. *Shallow punctures meaning not deeper than half the length of the dog’s K9 teeth*

Level 4 Aggression:
-Growls, barks (not necessary) and has left 1-4 deep puncture wounds in a single bite. *Deep punctures meaning deeper than half the length of the dog’s K9 teeth*

Level 5 Aggression:
-Growls, barks (not necessary) and has left multiple Level 4-type wounds on a person.

Level 6 Aggression:
-Has severely wounded a person (long hospital stay due to the dog bite) and/or even killing a person.

Dealing with Level 1 and 2 Aggression: This is the easiest type of aggression. At our K9 Training facility in Northern Virginia, we work with this on a daily basis. We are almost always able to completely fix this, give your dog amazing obedience, higher confidence, and stop their reactivity to people. What this tells us is that your dog may be reactive towards people; he/she has learned GREAT bite inhibition (which we will talk about in another blog).

Dealing with Level 3 Aggression: This is still very workable from a training and “fixability” perspective. We have a lot of steps that we will go over with you in order to get this issue fixed and bring the level down until it’s a level zero. This means that your dog has SOME bite inhibition.

Dealing with Level 4 Aggression: This is where it starts to get a little tricky. This is where we will ask about the specific situation and story behind the bites. Generally, with a level 4 aggression biter, it is workable with the family and people living with the dog (assuming the dog did this with someone in the family). Generally, would not recommend this dog interacting with anyone outside of the people working directly with the dog on a daily basis. This is a dog who has A LITTLE bite inhibition.

Dealing with Level 5 Aggression: Okay, at this point, you have a dog that we would classify as a dangerous dog. Your dog has NO bite inhibition whatsoever, and we would say that they are not be trusted around people.

Dealing with Level 6 Aggression: Your dog is a VERY dangerous dog and training would not help whatsoever. Your dog could never be trusted around anyone and would recommend this dog being put down for public safety.

So, if you have a dog in the level 1-3 zone, this is definitely workable, trainable, and more than likely completely fixable.

We would say that level 4 can generally be managed and controlled and a good possibility of fixing this behavior.

If you have a level 5 biter, we would never trust this dog around people; however, we can give you control over the dog. Depending on your specific situations with a level 5, depends on what course of action should be taken with this dog.

If you have a level 6 biter, training would not even be a viable option for your situation.

Hopefully this blog on dealing with your people aggressive dog will help you in having realistic expectations from training. Also, it will help you realize exactly how severe your issue really is from a professional training standpoint.

If you are at a level 1, 2, 3, or 4, I would HIGHLY recommend getting training as soon as possible, as it is very possible (with time) for your dog to move up the aggression scale.

I would also recommend reading our other blog on dealing with people aggression.

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-Nick White
Owner/Founder
Off Leash K9 Training

How To Fix My People Aggressive Dog – Northern Virginia

On a daily basis at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, people contact us and ask if it’s possible to fix their people aggressive dog.

When working with dogs that are people aggressive, I believe the first step is understanding what the aggression is based off of before you can properly create a training program to begin to rehabilitate the dog. People aggressive is a general and “overused” phrase in my opinion. Most of the people we work with who describe their dogs as people aggressive, show up for our dog training lessons in Northern Virginia and we quickly discover that the dogs aren’t people aggressive at all. Most of the time the dogs are “fear aggressive.”

The way I look at it, if your dog will go out of his way to bite someone, he’s people aggressive. If he/she will generally ignore people and stay away from them, and only react when that person overwhelms them, they are probably fear aggressive (again, this is a generalization).

Last month, we just finished working with a Leonberger who his owner described as a “people aggressive dog,” after working with him and evaluating, we learned that he wasn’t people aggressive, at all. He just liked, “his space.” Once he was comfortable with you, he would come up to you on his own, and loved being pet! However, if someone “forced themselves” on him, then he would respond with the only way that he knew to tell you to leave him alone, using his teeth. So, after using our 5-part approach and telling the owner to not let people force themselves on him, and instead, let him go to them (when he was ready); they have been problem-free since their last lesson over a month ago.

The root of people/fear aggression can stem from many things such as: lack of confidence, lack of socialization, mistreatment, bad breeding (which can be read about on my blog on How To Pick A Dog), and poor pack leadership. Additionally, you can have a combination of these many factors, as well.

When working with people aggressive/fear aggressive dogs at our training facility in Northern Virginia, I always preach that we do a 5-part approach to this: Obedience, Confidence Building , Positive Association with People, Pack Leadership, and Proper Correction for the Negative Behavior. I have found that this is a fundamental approach that is imperative to start working a dog towards rehabilitation, and all 5 components are necessary to be successful.

With people aggressive or fearful dogs, we do a drill I call “positive association with people.” What we do is find something that your dog is highly motivated or driven for (often we use hot dogs) and have every person your dog meets give him/her this highly valued reward. After this goes on for a week or so, what is your dog learning? “Every time I meet a new person, they give me something awesome!” Imagine if you weren’t a people person, but every person you met gave your $50.00, they would rapidly grow on you, correct? Same with the dogs, they slowly learn to associate people with something positive. If need be, you can do this drill with your dog still muzzled (dependent on the severity of his/her issue).

The WORST thing you can do (and the thing that many people do) is keep them separated from people, this will only progress the problem. You are not fixing anything, you are just avoiding the problem. It’s like a person who is afraid of high places, their solution cannot be, “Stay away from high places.” You have to constantly put them in those environments and make their experience with it positive, fun, and motivating!

On a weekly basis someone will call and say, “I watched all of your amazing dog training videos on YouTube; however, all I really care about is fixing the aggression in my dog.” I always tell people, it doesn’t work like that. My famous quote is, “You cannot fix any issue in a dog that doesn’t listen to you and that you have no control over.” Once we gain obedience/control over the dog, which is a NATURAL confidence builder/pack leadership booster, we can start addressing the specific issues with the aggression. I find myself saying on a daily basis, “I have never seen a highly aggressive dog that was amazingly obedient, and I have never seen an amazingly obedient dog that was highly aggressive.” So, that has to mean what? They kind of go hand-in-hand, right?

Just like I speak about in my blog post about dog-on-dog aggression, you cannot “guarantee” that you can fix do aggression or fear aggression; however, sometimes you can completely rehabilitate the dog and you can almost always make the dog more manageable. Recently, we did a 2-week board and train for a Doberman named “Doris” who was very fearful of people, when she was dropped off, we couldn’t even touch her. Using this 5-part approach, look at Doris’ progress before/after just in 14 days.

So, if your dog is displaying some of these issues, start with some professional Obedience Training, Confidence Building Drills, Pack Leadership, and Positive Association with People.

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