How to Stop Dog Aggression in a Fearful Golden

By: David Codr

Published Date: November 1, 2023

stop acting aggressive

For this Santa Monica dog training session we worked with 2 year-old Golden Retriever Momo; sharing tips to stop dog aggression.

Prior to this session, Momo’s guardians had reached out to an aversive trainer for help with her leash pulling problem, this led to a weeks long board and train (we arent fans of board and trains for reasons like what happene dot Momo). The trainer recommended she start using a prong collar.

A prong collar is an aversive training tool that has been abandoned by ethical dog trainers due to frequently causing fear, stress and aggression in dogs. Dogs learn by association, if something bad or negative happens in conjunction with a negative experience, that can absolutely have an impact on the dog’s confidence and behavior.

But in Momo’s case, I believe the aversive trainer used some punishment based methods for other issues. Momo was pulling the corners of her lips back really far which can be an indication of submission. She also gave some other indicators she was punished for mistakes which can do a number on a dog’s confidence which can impact many other aspects of thier behavior. These are some of the other reasons you should not use a punishment based approach to dog training.

It’s quite possible that the aversive training methods used at the board and train were the cause of Momo’s aggressive behavior. Based on what I observed, I believe that Momo is acting this way as a fear response. She doesnt want the other dogs to get close enough to sniff and discover she is fearful.

It’s always sad to see dogs act out this way after being punished by people who should know better, but fortunately her guardian recognized she needed more help and found me. I absolutely love helping dogs get over there fears and anxieties.

I use a Dog Behaviorist trick outside to make sure that Momo and I became buddies. Once that was the case we took aa short walk together then headed inside to get to work.

We went over the problems of the aversive training methods that the previous trainer had used and I showed how they connected to some of Momo’s behavior problems. Momo’s guardian paid close attention, asked a bunch of great questions and enjoyed having me connect the behaviors with where they likely came from.

Next we went over a number of positive dog training fundamental. We introduced a marker word, went over hand targeting so the guardian could practice using the marker, went over how to build dog confidence by celebrating desired behaviors (petting when dogs come, sit, lay down or do other desired behaviors without us asking) as well as how to teach dogs manners when they act in ways we don’t like.

How to Stop Dog Aggression

Next I wanted to show the guardian how to use the Engage Disengage game to stop her dog from acting aggresisve to other dogs on walks. I like to use this method or versions of it to help dogs with aggressive behavior problems.

Momo’s guardian had started walking her at times of the day when she was less likely to meet people walking thier dogs. This is a wonderful management technique that helps a dog avoid getting better at their dog aggression. It wont fix Momo’s dog aggression problem, but will prevent her from practicing it – which is really important too.

But I wanted to show Momo’s guardian how to stop the dog aggression, not just avoid situations where it occurred. If you want to stop dog aggression, building up a good feeling towards the scary thing is an important part of the process. I grabbed my clicker, a bunch of tasty treats and we put Momo on a harness then went out looking for other dogs.

Unfortunately due to the time of the day, we did not run into any other dogs. However, as Santa Monica’s dog behavior expert I always tell my clients that I don’t need to see it in order to show them how to treat it. In fact, once a dog is reactive, the best thing to do is move away. They arent going to be able to hear you or learn until they are calm again.

When we returned from the walk, I handed my camera to Momo’s guardian and took the leash so that I could demonstrate an easy way to stop dog aggression. Momo’s home is actually well set up for this exercise due to the fence set a few feet back away from the street. While this is a great and convenient place to practice, I would like to see her practicing it in other locations as well. Dogs need a lot of variety when learning and practicing new things to get them down. Especially when you are helping a fearfully aggressive dog.

If you have a dog who acts aggressive to other dogs or people it doesn’t know, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below. I have successfully used this trick to stop dog aggression hundreds of times.

By rewarding Momo any time that she looked at another dog through the fence without barking, we were able to start changing her emotional response. It’s going to take time, practice and Momo’s guardian making sure that she is keeping the appropriate distance. Being far enough away that the dog does not perceive the other dog to be threatening is crucially important. You know you got too close if oyur dog reacts.

There is a possibility that Momo will act more territorial around her home. If that happens in this gated area, the guardian should stop working there and practice this method of stopping dog aggression at other locations, preferably in a large park with a lot of open green space.

I’d like to see Momo’s guardian practicing this exercise once or twice daily in short sessions. The idea is to stack a short positive experience on top of another one. It’s important to keep them short because this is a very intense emotional experience for the dog. If you’re doing it right, it doesn’t look like the dog is doing anything at all. But under the surface many dogs hearts are racing due to the intensity of being around the fear or trigger.

Since we covered so many things in this in home Santa Monica dog training session, I recorded a roadmap to success summary video to help Momo’s guardian remember them all.

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This post was written by: David Codr