Considerations when Dealing with Human Aggressive Dogs

I’ve had several private inquiries about my strategy for dealing with human aggressive dogs. These are my personal recommendations. The opinions are based on my experience over the last 18 years:

  1. Is it worth it?  Consider the fact that one bad bite in the wrong palace could not only derail your career, it could end it.  It could also cause permanent damage to your person.  Weigh the risk and make your decision based on what could happen if things don’t go well. Don’t anticipate failure, but know what you’re exposing yourself to.
  1. Has the dog bitten family  or strangers? Family biters are very dangerous. Remember the old adage about not biting the hand that feeds you? Dogs that bite family have conviction and are powerful.
  1. Inthe past, has the dog bitten and retreated or tried to take the person down?  Yes, there is a difference. 
  1. Are you in over your head?  There’s nothing wrong with not taking on a case you’re not ready for.  All of us have strengths and weaknesses.  A decision not to take on an aggressive case may be a smart choice and have nothing to do with weakness or fear.  Some of the best trainers I know have no interest in red-zone cases.  As one of my best friends has said to me multiple times… “You can have a successful career training Golden Retriever puppies and never touch an aggressive Pit bull.”  We all have options.
  1. Can you influence the dog’s owner?  Regardless of your ability to change the dog’s behavior, are you able to convey the same information to them in such a way that they can replicate your results?
  1. If you decide to go for it, stay smart.  Build a foundation with the dog before you begin “training.”  Dogs that bite are used to getting their way.  They’ve learned that biting is an effective strategy to get humans to back off and retreat.  Develop a relationship first.  Be no nonsense.  I don’t train with food or praise.  I want 100% compliance based on the dog’s respect for me.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Don’t be in a hurry.
  1. Keep yourself physically above the dog.  Don’t squat down or lean over him.  Keep your face safe above all.  In a dog’s natural world, physical position has meaning.
  1. Visualize your success before every encounter with the dog.  Breathe.  Relax.  Stay confident.  Stay assertive.  Stay smart.  You may be this dog’s last opportunity to turn his behavior around.  But your own safety must come first.