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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Dog Biting People

Aggression-Toward Family Members Q&A

Aggression-Diagnosing and Treating Q&A

Establish that you are a "friendly, powerful cookie giver". Ask the dog to sit for a treat.  Show the dog the back of your hand in a low position.  If the dog is gentle, turn your wrist and release the treat.  If the dog's body language goes stiff with the tail high or very low, back away.

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Teach your dog to come, sit, lie down, etc., to earn every meal, walk, toy, and praise.

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As a dog grows up, we need to teach him or her not to be aggressive toward family members or any other individual that is introduced as a friend. From puppyhood through adulthood, make a point to cue your dog when someone is friendly by coaxing to your dog in a cheerful voice,
"Say Hi!"

For challenging dogs, it is wise to requires the dog "learn to earn" everything that he or she wants or needs just to keep the picture straight in the dog's mind.

One way to prevent dog aggression is make sure the dog trusts all members of the family. Human members of the family should not cater to the dog's every wish, give everything the dog wants, and pet the dog every time it wants. The dog learns to keep asking and bugging you until it gets what it wants. Allowing the dog to assume responsibility to lead and control all interactions leads to trouble!  There is a simply way to prevent this misunderstanding and turn of events. On a daily basis, you can remind the dog of his or her job to earn any privilege or valued resource by implementing "learn to earn".

Some dogs, especially those bred to be challenging guard dogs, are inclined to take charge and will quickly take over the house. When this happens, a family member may be surprised by the dog showing aggression not knowing the dog is enforcing a "dog established" rule. For example, you may allow the dog on the couch. But one day, you decide enough is enough and push the dog off the couch. If he loves this "favored resting place" a natural response from the dog may be to growl and push his way back onto the couch. If the human does not understand the dynamic at hand, and in disgust, pushes the dog off once again, the dog may bite. In the dog's mind, the human is acting out and the dog is simply controlling the situation within the established roles and rules of the household.

Raising an ideal family dog

1.  Choose or select a dog breed with a very low tendency to become aggressive.  Avoid adopting dogs bred to be guard dogs. Adopt a dog who has been temperament tested.

2.  Start as a puppy and throughout the dog's life, perform frequent body massages, range of motion, and positive restraint exercises to teach the dog that hands are good things and maintain a leadership position. These exercises are most effective when every member of the family members practices them with the dog. 

3.  All family members need to expect the dog to "learn to earn" attention and other valued resources. Family members need to ask the dog to follow rules such as responding to a request to "sit-stay " before getting something he or she wants.

4.  No aggressive play is allowed with the dog.  Aggressive play is any game that involves slapping or canine nipping or hard pressure from hands or the dog's mouth. Do not allow tug-of-war games unless the dog will "sit" quickly at any time during the game upon your request, and will release the toy quickly.

5.  Teach bite inhibition through establishing a pressure sensitive threshold on human skin. Any time the dog puts more pressure than that threshold, play is stopped and the dog has a time out with no social interaction for at least 30 seconds.

6.  Enroll the dog in an obedience class and take the entire family.

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