(Aggression #1) Modifying Aggressive Dog Behavior

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Many dogs who behave aggressively toward other dogs do so as a result of learning that their barking, growling fit results in the other dog going away. Because that behavior has been successful in the past, it’s been reinforced, and the behavior has continued or increased.

In contrast, in a CAT (Constructional Aggression Treatment) procedure, the subject dog is presented with a different reinforcement scenario. The behavior that worked so well before – barking and lunging – no longer works. Instead of making the other dog go away, it actually makes her stay close or come back! A new behavior – acting calm – now makes the “bad approaching dog” go away. So, in theory, the subject dog learns to offer calm, relaxed behaviors to make the other dog go away.

Eventually the subject dog becomes calm and relaxed because he no longer needs to act aggressively to make the other dog go away. Lo and behold, once the subject dog becomes calm and relaxed about the other dog approaching, he actually gets happy about having the other dog approach; the change in his emotional response follows the change in his behavioral response.

For more details and advice on aggressive dog behavior, purchase Whole Dog Journal’s ebook, Modifying Aggressive Behavior.

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WDJ's Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn "Pat Miller Certified Trainer" certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.

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