(Aggression #2) Modifying Aggressive Behavior

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We do know that aggression is caused by stress. With the very rare exception of idiopathic aggression – at one time called “rage syndrome,” “Cocker rage,” or “Springer rage” and grossly overdiagnosed in the 1960s and ’70s – aggression is the result of a stress load that pushes a dog over his bite threshold.

It’s often relatively easy to identify the immediate trigger for your dogs’ mutual aggression. It’s usually whatever happened just before the appearance of the hard stare, posturing, growls, and sometimes the actual fight.

When you have identified your dogs’ triggers, you can manage their environment to reduce trigger incidents and minimize outright conflict. This is critically important to a successful modification program. The more often the dogs fight, the more tension there is between them; the more practiced they become at the undesirable behaviors, the better they get at fighting and the harder it will be to make it go away. And this is to say nothing of the increased likelihood that sooner or later someone – dog or human – will be badly injured.

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

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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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