Aggression Issues

These articles were written by Stan Rawlinson

Various Types Of Aggression With In Your Dog And Why It May Happen

Aggression is one of the main reason dogs are euthanised or rehomed. At least 30% of all dogs in rescue centre's are there because of the incidence of aggression in one form or another. It is actually unusual to have a dog that is aggressing to have just one type, Most dogs have more than one of the following types of behaviour. It would be prudent before embarking on any program of aggressive behaviour modification, to rule out any medical reasons for that behaviour, especially if there is a sudden change in the dog’s temperament.

Their are some fifty-odd different medical reasons why a dog may be showing aggressive tendencies, these range from Pain to Thyroid Dysfunction, Epilepsy Hypoglycemia and Diabetes. This is only a part of the different types of aggression, because of the constraints of space it can only be a fleeting reference.

1. Fear / Nervous Aggression (Interdog)
Quite often, this behaviour has its roots directly to the pup’s mother. Breeders that breed from fearful and timid bitches will often make excuses as to why you cannot see the dam. If you do view a litter of puppies and the mother is fearful then do not even consider buying a puppy. It is almost certain that the pups will inherit some of the mother’s traits, through both genetics and socialisation, genetically the pups may inherit her timidity and through the time they are with her will observe her fear and follow suit.

Scientific research has shown that even pups that are born to a solid and stable mother are then put with a bitch that is fearful, they will pick up some of the unstable habits from the fearful dog, especially in weeks three through to seven. Other reasons for this fear type of problem is when a puppy or adult dog is attacked by another dog, especially whilst on the lead, especially if the dog has no means of escape or is restricted from showing submissive body language to the attacker. If we then comfort the injured or frightened dog we only confirm that the fear is real and that will only make matters worse.

Lack of early socialisation can also have an affect on this type of behaviour, If the young pup, especially between the age of seven and sixteen weeks, is not carefully socialised with both adult and pups alike, then they do not learn to “meet and greet” . The complex body language dogs learn at this age is crucial to their later behaviour when approaching unknown dogs. If they are unable to either perform or understand the greeting rituals, then they are immediately viewed with suspicion by the approaching dog, and conflict may arise
How can you tell if it is fear?
With nervous and fear aggressive dogs, you will find that they will react similarly to any dog, regardless of whether it is male or female. The behaviour is often worse if the dog is on the lead or is cornered, especially if close to the owner, who backs up the behaviour, (though unwittingly) by becoming nervous and agitated as another dog approaches.

This manifests itself in a tightening up on the lead and shoulders because of the expectation of conflict. Nervous owners also kick out a cloud of adrenaline that the dog instantly detects a causes it to look for what is causing the concern. It sees the dog approaching and reacts accordingly. This type of dog is also normally a barker, it will lunge and bark at the approaching dog but generally will not snap, unless all its options have run out ie flight or freeze and after all its threat posturing the other dog has still got too close.

This problem can often be diagnosed if someone who is confident around dogs (that the dog does not know well) takes it out on the lead. It will not get the same fearful vibes from the owner, therefore the reaction to another dogs approaching will be less intense. It is a good way of finding out if your dog suffers fear aggression as the behaviour will either not be exhibited or will be less pronounced. The owner can then use a desensitisation program for both the dog and themselves.

2. Fear / Nervous Aggression (Inter-human)

Once again, this can be caused through lack of early socialisation, bad breeding and sometimes lack of handling at an early age, starting as young as two weeks old. Pups that are not handled gently and often by the breeder, do not get the strong olfactory and tactile bond with humans. This is often the case with puppy farmed dogs and dogs born to large breeders. This handling at such an early age causes a mild stress response in the tiny pup, which benefits its ability to cope with many situations including people and dogs in later life

Nervous and fear aggressing is always defensive in nature, sometimes it is related to the sex of the person. If the breeder was female, and very few males visited or handled the puppies then the timidity and fear may be worse with men. This particular problem like interdog hostility, will manifest itself mainly with individuals rather than crowds. You will find that the puppy/dog will bark a lot but will be under a table or behind a settee. The tail will be down and although it may seem overtly aggressive, the dogs balance and weight will be on the back foot not over the front feet. This demonstrates that the dog wants you to go away and is not always initially trying to bite or attack you. A gradual and careful introduction to the stimulus that is causing the fear with positive reinforcement for calm behaviour is the way to overcome this type of problem though the dog will rarely make a total and full recovery and will never be the life and soul of the park parties.

3. Frustration or Redirected Aggression
Research has shown that dogs who are not allowed to interact “normally” with people and dogs who were prone to displays of bad temper and behaviour that is overtly aggressive are dogs that are generally physically restrained or restricted from normal interactions (interactions with people, other dogs, and the outside world). The more the dog develops an intense desire to gain access to all of those things he desires.

This desire can escalate into escape and roaming behaviour, agitation, biting and unprovoked attacks. It is often observed in dogs that are left tied up in flats, left in gardens, or near a window where they can see the things they want to interact with, but cannot get to them display unprovoked aggression. To some extent the aggression shown to the postman is sometimes based on frustration. I have seen dogs attack their owner or a second dog in the home because it cannot get to the delivery man.

4. Sexual Aggression.
This type of aggression is usually limited to male dogs. They will mount both people and other dogs. Mounting activity directed towards humans may reflect a lack of opportunity for the dog to play with other dogs, or an over-attachment to people in early life, Mounting on other dogs especially if they initially try to put their heads over the other dogs necks can be related to rank and control complex behaviour. Castration and behaviour modification can help with this problem. Allowing the dog to mate may often be recommended by the amateur dog expert, this normally makes the problem far worse.

5. Territorial Aggression
This may be towards other dogs, people or both. By definition, territorial aggression should be directed toward members of the same species ie other dogs. Domestic dogs, however, seem to regard humans as conspecific and consequently may direct territorial aggression toward us When dogs display aggression to strangers only on the home property garden, house, or yard, yet do not respond aggressively to strangers on neutral territory, then territorial aggression is the likely diagnosis. There are two primary motivations for territorial behaviour, control complex behaviour ie dominance or fear/anxiety. It may be worse in a small space such as a car than in an open area . Some dogs like this can be fine in the home, but not so good in the garden or yard.

Some breeds appear to frustrate much quicker than others, these are generally the working dogs such as Collies, Springer’s Cockers and some Retrievers The only answer to this problem is to work on the dominant/territorial problem in a way in which a dog understands its position through a behaviour modification program using position reinforcement techniques. Remember not to praise for the cessation of bad behaviour rather praise for that bad behaviour not happening in the first place. In other words, say the dog jumps up on someone and you say “OFF” if the dogs get off then do not praise as you will be praising for the inappropriate behaviour, which was the jumping.

6. Misdirected Aggression
Separating two dogs that are fighting can be dangerous as not all known methods are effective with every pair of dogs. Dogs fight at different intensities and for different reasons. Learning how to avoid situations that can lead to a dog fight is better than having to break one up. Frequently one or both dogs can misdirect their aggression towards the person attempting to break up the fight. Whether this is considered to be a dog attack on a person will depend on the circumstances leading up to the incident, and the actions of the person breaking up the fight and the past history of the aggressing dog.

Human hands intervening may not be seen as a hand, but as another element of the original attack. People who try to break up fights between dogs are often the victims of what is called accidental or misdirected aggression. This is quite a common situation, resulting in accidental bites from dogs that are otherwise wonderful, loving pets. Often it is a human not a canine mistake that triggers the bite. And does not always signify or indicate that the dog is in any way dangerous or out of control.

Often dogs do not recognise their owners in these situations may bite them when they come too close. Owners in other instances can accentuate a fight by intervening, as the dog will then fight not only to protect itself but also its owner.

7. Control Complex / Dominant Aggression
The initial approach to other dogs is often cautionary and contains many status signals, like tail carriage held high and quickly moving from side to side, standing on tip toe etc. If the other dog submits, then all is usually fine, if not the fighting can be extremely noisy and in some cases quite severe. In both the last two examples, dominant and territorial aggression, I usually find the dog will pull quite badly on the lead.

These dogs can also display aggressive tendency towards members of the family this could lead to an attack if not controlled in their early stages. By working on a programmer that will give the dog a purpose and a position in life almost a job and teaching the dog to walk on a loose leash can sometimes overcome the problem.

8. Chase or Predatory aggression
This can be directed at many things including dogs, cats, or anything that stimulates a chase response. Squirrels are a favourite, as their quick jerky movements seem to stimulate even the most placid of dogs. I see a lot of predatory chase aggression in for instance Border Collies, in particular stimulants like bikes, skateboards joggers and cars.

One of the key factors that distinguish predatory aggression from other forms of aggression is that movement often is the triggers . In the wild, this movement is in the form of running and escape attempts of a small animals. Predatory behaviour can be seen in dogs of any sex and age. Dogs that show intense interest and become aroused or anxious by the movement or noise of children or other pets should be closely monitored at all times. Prognosis is not good for this type of aggression. Reward based obedience training can help however this is only any use if the owner/trainer is able to constantly monitor the dog at all times.

It is easier to control the chase stimulus when it is directed at cars, joggers, or bikes. Two types of common treatment’s include counter-conditioning used to change the dogs’ perception of the falsely identified prey. Many also believe punishment works ie noise aversion when the behaviour is first stimulated. Throwing water from a car window or sounding a rape alarm or air horn at the exact time the dog takes off, throwing down a plastic bottle of stones from a passing bike or car can sometimes alter this behaviour.

However. To be effective, punishment must be seen as aversive and the timing of the punishment must be exact so that the dog associates the punishment with the behaviour. Electric shock collars have also been suggested but are not part of treatment programs I would ever recommend.

As mentioned aggression often has its origins in bad breeding, lack of socialisation, high prey drive, and poor basic training. However, as stated before it can be related to medical conditions and before embarking on a course of behavioural therapy have your dog checked over to see if there are any underlying medical conditions.

Learned aggression can normally be cured however, hereditary aggression cannot, it can only be controlled and hopefully contained. Castration sometimes helps, Please remember castration is male dogs and should be considered in an overall aggression reduction program.

Please feel free to look through my notes where you will find a more indepth look at some of the headings above..

Hope this helps....

Dominance and Alpha Behaviour

"DOMINANCE" In the 1990s it was believed that dominance problems in dogs usually meant that the dog had got ideas above its station and is challenging the pack (the family) for top dog status. And that he majority of difficulties with dominance were man made, and resulted from a dog with too many privileges. We were told It was important to remember that there would be only one true pack leader per pack it being an Alpha Male or even female, with another one or two dogs waiting in the wings to take over one day. This meant that when we choose a dog the odds are that we will get a dog whose natural position is from the middle to the bottom of the pack.

This means that most dogs are gladly going to accept us as leader without any problems and why so many people tell you that they have had dogs all their lives without any of this 'behavioural' nonsense being necessary!

It was assumed that difficulties were created through giving status and privileges well above what would be normal for that animal. And that it was the pack leaders responsibility to make the decisions not the subordinates. He or she says when to eat, sleep, play and hunt. Dogs are not supposed to approach him even to play, although puppies are usually excused from pack manners and generally get away with murder!

Dominant behaviour can take many forms. and varies according to breed and the natural character of the dog. It is not just a dog who growls and barks at you or refuses to do anything for you, it could also be the dog who makes all the decisions. Obvious bad behaviour could be construed as the dog who growls at you when feeding or chewing a bone, ie "food or object guarding" or takes no notice of your commands. and suddenly acts the fool and starts reverting to puppy behaviour when you ask it to do something.

This popular perception on the social behaviour of dogs sees the dogs' behaviour as mimicking the social and biological pattern of the structured hierarchy that has been studied and observed within wolf packs. This view suggests that behavioural problems amongst dogs are natural expressions of conflict that occur when dominance, status, position, and hierarchy are contested.

This lead to the assumption that because dog’s distant cousins the wolf behaved like this then it was fair to assume that the dog would also have these instincts drives and responses. It is now confirmed by Mitochondrial DNA tests that our pet’s common ancestor is without doubt the wolf. These studies and findings gave birth to a completely new way of looking at dogs and in the 70s the pack rule theory was born.

May I suggest that this belief and technique is somewhat flawed in two main areas.

Firstly: this behaviour does not actually appear in the wild, the powerful dominance hierarchy described and observed in wolves is probably a by-product of captivity. That is like observing Prisoners in a high risk risk gaol and relating that to all human reactions and conflict. That suggests that social behaviour in wild canids may be a product of environmental circumstances rather than any form of instinct.

Secondly: feral dogs do not exhibit the classic wolf-pack structure, the validity of the canid, social dominance hierarchy again comes into question. Ray Coppinger who has written a book called "Dogs" (A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behaviour and Evolution) probably one of the most important books on dogs published in the last 50 years, The Coppingers studied feral dogs all over the world, and found that all the feral and village dogs he studied did not form packs as we know them, they were more semi solitary animals, who predate on our waste middens and latrines. There are still parts of the world where when a new baby is born, they will get a puppy which is then used as a botty wipe for the child. and in palces in India where the Pariah dogs follow children waiting for them to defecate.

To this end I have attempted to explain where we may have got lost in understading how dogs and its closest ancestor the Wolf learn and think. I hope this article will explain that some of the things we are told to do not make sense and do not happen in the wild and could even cause far more problems than we could imagine. The Alpha Myth.


Aggression towards dogs and Aggression
towards humans


As a behavioural concept interdog aggression is separate and very different from aggression to humans. When looking at aggression it is prudent to consult your Vet, simply to rule out medical causes, since there are over 50 medical reasons for aggression. This is especially true if the aggression comes on suddenly.

It is sometimes difficult for us mere humans to read the signals of dogs that are likely to or intend to attack us, we are not equipped to read the body language or subtle signs of our canine friends. Dogs for instance with drooping ears like the Weimaraner, or dogs with tails that curl over the back such as Akita’s and Chows do not give the same signals of say a Collie or an Alsatian the classic erect tail and ears pulled back cannot be seen in some breeds which is also the case with hairy breeds, we cannot see the raised hackles and other obvious signs .

The majority of attacks are to family members, neighbours or people the owner of the dog knows. Because of the problems of overcrowding more attacks are town or city based rather than rural or agricultural areas. A sad fact of life is that often children are the victims. The incidence of facial reconstructive surgery in young children is not as many would imagine caused by car or other accidents it is predominantly dog bites.

The choice of dog also has a marked effect on whether dog aggression or bites may occur; the guarding breeds tend to guard, the herders tend to herd and the retrieving dogs predominantly retrieve. Therefore if a dog had been bred to guard we cannot therefore be overly surprised it does just that.

It is very unusual for a dog to suddenly attack for no apparent reason ie out of the blue attacks are almost unknown except where medical causes are the trigger. We have all met the person who’s dog attacks your dog or nips your ankles and the plaintive cry is; “Oh he has never done that before”

I even had a lady owner locally who’s dog a West Highland Terrorist attacked my dogs on sight, who said exactly that. Then the very next day it did it again and she uttered exactly the same words.

Owners often go into denial over their dog’s behaviour. They excuse the aggressive Terrier or the nipping Collie or the growling miniature breeds because that they perceive this is acceptable behaviour for the breed. This mindset normally means the dogs is not checked when it was first observed, allowing the trait to become stronger and eventually very difficult to eradicate. The longer you leave aggression the stronger the trait will become until finally it is extremely difficult to change this behaviour.

I have found that the majority of aggressions to be fear based though we often categorise them as Predatory, Sexual, Territorial, Protective, and Nervous/Fear Aggression. Having said all that it is rare indeed for the dog to have just one of the problems mentioned above, and the worse combination is Dominant and Nervous/Fear aggression linked together. Dog aggression problems often have their roots in early games and contact with other dogs, especially dogs from the same household that regularly played games. Taking responsibility and controlling games should give the owner control over each dog and help both in the short and long term this type of unacceptable behaviour

Intact non-neutered males are more likely to exhibit dominance aggression than neutered males or spayed females. It is more likely that this is controlled by androgen since females who show aggression before puberty and who are spayed become more aggressive. Dominance aggression and Protective aggression are the number 1 and number 2 causes of treatment by behaviourists.

Interdog aggression. Is generally social in context and can occur between dogs within the same house, and is never hormone driven, although it generally starts at social maturity (18 to 24 months). The dog is challenged by a stare or a bump or body block, and then each dog behaves in reaction to what the other dog did.

Strange dogs meeting -- even with two dogs fighting -- generally they are responding to protective aggression (and the classic lead aggression in some cases). A characteristic of interdog aggression is that the aggressive intentions are not displayed to other animals. The dog may live amicably with cats, horses, and other animals or pets.

Protective aggression is stimulated by sudden movements. Frequently the dog inhibits the Behaviour in the absence of its owners (no owner to protect) or in strange places (dog shows are fine). Dominance aggression occurs overwhelmingly in males (90% of cases), first obvious at social maturity (18 to 24 months), worsens with punishment, and may run in family lines. This type of aggression is the type which is looked for at the 8 week puppy test. If identified at that age, early intervention is required to save the dog; but not all dogs with dominant aggression can be identified at 8 weeks.

Most of us have dogs who display signs of territorial aggression: our dogs bark at someone at the door, protect the car, bark as people pass on the pavement. All social animals exhibit some protective aggression . This behaviour is increased by fences; the dog is able to continuously "patrol" and protect, and the behaviour is made extremely bad if the dog is in an electric fence or chained. It can also be made worse if "door greeting" abnormalities are tolerated: the owner greets someone at the door with the dog held back whilst straining on the collar.

For Dominance aggression, in contrast to Protective aggression, there is more growling, snarling, biting, and staring. Barking is considered a sign of protective aggression -- think about barking dogs as you pass a garden. Dominance aggression is considered a concept of control, unlike possession of an object (food aggression) or challenge (will the dog get off the sofa or growl?). Dominance aggression is more common with men owners who like the concept of "big, tough dogs" and so some breeds might be more likely to be diagnosed.

But the worst dominant aggressive dogs I have dealt with, have normally been Toy Poodles and Shih Tzus - their Behaviour is more likely to be seen as innocent and owner tolerant. There are some 15 things people do to exacerbate dominance aggression -- as simple as staring at the dog or pushing on their rump, leaning over them, making a leash correction. There are some 20 or so signs that the dog intends to become dominant aggressive -- as innocent as standing on your feet, leaning against you, "talking back," standing in front of you in the doorway, jumping in your lap, these signs are often tolerated in smaller dogs.

Dogs with dominance aggression are categorised in behaviour as those who think they are Alpha's-- able to control people and get things their own way -- a bad, bad prognosis usually. And then there are those dogs where all the signs were there. First, although other aggressive Behaviour is not a predictor for dominance aggression, dominance aggression is about control and the dog generally has other forms of aggression also.

Second, When the dog has escalated through several signs of dominance aggression, standing on people, sitting in laps, and it's allowed by the owner. Then the dog thinks it's in charge -- like when the teenager starts to talk back to test boundaries. This class of dogs will alter its Behaviour to the individual. The dog may not behave aggressively with an experienced trainer (the trainer is in charge), or when it's eating it may not bark at people passing by. The dog can interrupt and inhibit the aggressive Behaviour, but chooses its time when not to react.

This actually is the easiest dog to work with since the dog is capable of taking cues from context and behaving appropriately. However it would be extremely difficult to determine the exact genetics for this Behaviour, since development of the behaviour depends not only on the genes but also the owner situation. If the dog was genetically predisposed but owned by a good trainer and discouraged at an early age from barking at say the door, it may not exhibit the trait. On the other hand, a dog who may genetically be less predisposed but encouraged to exhibit the Behaviour becomes a major problem.



Sibling or Interdog Rivalry


In the canine world of dominance and submission, aggression is a natural, reaction that many dogs will experience at one time or another.

The problem is generally instinctive one dog challenging the other as they mature. Although a myriad of issues may complicate the situation, when it comes down to it they all require some type of leadership and control.

Dogs are social animals, they have rules that dictate how they behave around each other. Left to themselves, most canines easily slip into their roles. The pyrotechnics erupt when they disagree about their place in the pack or family unit. Although there are no absolutes, bringing together dogs with too many similar characteristics - same sex same age same breed (brothers from the same litter for example) -may spark conflict. So many commonalties make it difficult to settle who is top dog, hormonal surges also have an effect. Other times the cause is redirected or frustration aggression - attacking one's companion or owner when agitated about the postman's arrival, is more common than you would imagine.

Can You Fuel the Fire?
Often, you can inadvertently stoke the fire. People can disturb the hierarchical balance by rushing to protect the would-be subordinate from being "bullied" or granting him liberties, such as being petted first, which your dog may consider his due. The low dog on the totem pole now feels bold enough to challenge the other. "People need to understand that dogs have their own set of social rules, whereas most dog owners want democracy, dogs don't understand a truly democratic concept"


How to Douse the Fire
Prevention, of course, is the preferred route. It's important that puppies socialise with other dogs - for example in puppy socialisation classes or in the park. This way, they learn the unspoken but strict rules of canine society. Spaying and neutering not only prevent unwanted litters but these procedures also reduce aggression. See my article under Dominance re the pro's and con's of neutering and spaying.

Exercise also works wonders and obedience training is also vitally important. After the dogs have been together a while and are getting along, an insignificant scuffle or two might erupt. In theory, all dogs should be able to work it out together as long as the owners don't interfere.

Owners must heed mounting tensions. Watch for eye-to-eye contact between your dogs, as well as stiffening and shouldering. As soon as you see signs of trouble that you're uncomfortable with, take steps, don't wait for fights to happen because that changes the dynamics considerably.

Often the problem can be relieved if, instead of protecting the perceived underdog the owner supports the hierarchy. Determine which is the more dominant dog and reinforce that position by feeding, greeting or letting the top dog out first. Usually this will help, but not always. "The problem with that approach is that it's often difficult to tell who should be the lead dog "Secondly, it's really difficult for owners to play favourites with their dogs.
Put Your Paw Down
Experts agree it's crucial that you take a strong role. When owners face a tough sibling rivalry case, I tell them to establish his or her own place as leader as a first priority. First, I suggest that the owners make both dogs "work for everything." Before they're fed, given a treat or taken out for a walk, you should order the dogs to sit or lie down. The same applies to demands for attention. And finally I recommend that you regularly practice the sit stay/down stay and release commands.

If your dogs indicate they're about to fight, calmly, but forcefully, intervene. The approach is, "I don't care who started it, both of you, down and put them in the down position". You basically tell them: "you don't have to worry about her, and you don't have to worry about him. You have to worry about me."
Calling in the Pros:
If your dogs are still regularly fighting. I suggest bringing in an animal behaviourist. Animal behaviourists generally are not Vets. The difference is often akin to seeking the help of a psychiatrist versus that of a psychologist. Occasionally, a veterinarian will recommend drugs for one or both dogs. Usually, though, medication should be a last resort, as it fails to fix the underlying cause - household dynamics.

Until the problem is solved, keep bickering dogs separated an on a lead with my Jingler's, so you can easily pull them apart if a fight starts, the bells also activate and this can sometimes break the aggression cycle. It's best not to grab either dog - by the tail/scruff/collar or anywhere else - during a fight. Stepping between two battling canines can be extremely dangerous and is often the main reason why owners are bitten.

Reaching a Resolution:
When all is said and done, sibling rivalries usually can be resolved, but not always. Sometimes you're unwilling or unable to implement the necessary changes; or genetics or socialisation shortcomings are intractable. If that's the case, the best solution may be to find another home for one of the dogs.

I have a very high success rate in dealing with these cases. I have found a number of techniques that break the circle of aggression and put you the owner back in charge. However I cannot just send you the treatment as to how it is done as it requires specialist knowledge and exact timing. I also have observe and work with dogs so as to put a specific program together to match the exact reason for the aggression starting in the first instance.



How To Introduce A Muzzle To A Dog


Though this is given as advice please find professional help to stop using the muzzle safely..

It is vital that your dog perceives the muzzle as a positive experience. Quite often the dog’s first encounter with a muzzle is in a stressful and fearful situation, such as the vet clinic, when the dog may become aggressive or difficult to handle because of fear, panic, or injury.

It is therefore prudent to introduce a dog to a muzzle over a period of time, irrespective of whether you ever intend to muzzle. Remember it may be a necessity at sometime during the dog’s life, so you should introduce this aid in a non-confrontational positive manner. Depending on what muzzle you are using, there are numerous on the market, ranging from the Baskerville type which is normally a plastic type muzzle, or a canvas type muzzle with or without pinprick holes.

Which one to choose?

The one I normally prefer is a 'mesh muzzle', which has tiny pinpricks that stop overheating of the skin, and allows treats to be fed directly into the dog’s mouth. This type seems to be acceptable to most dogs. click on the image for more information on sizes or to purchase this muzzle.

Depending on which one you choose, you must make the experience rewarding and positive. Most dogs will not be over happy at this type of restriction, so initially either drop a piece of food (cheese is ideal) into the basket muzzle or hold a titbit up to end of the mesh type muzzle and bring it up to the dogs nose. The dog will smell the food and press forward to get at the titbit pushing its face into the muzzle as he does so, carefully slide the muzzle a little way over the nose so he can get the treat then immediately remove it praising at the same time.

Do this a number of times, never attaching the muzzle or forcing the issue. You can use a word like 'good', or even 'muzzle' whilst you are sliding it over the nose. Continue these exercises over a number of days in different places in the house and garden, say 4/5 times a day, if possible.

After 3 or 4 days actually clip the muzzle on for a few seconds, then take it off immediately. Do this on a number of occasions gradually increasing the time the muzzle is left on from seconds to minutes then longer. Make sure it is not too restrictive and tight around the mouth and nose as this can restrict drinking and breathing and could distress the dog.

I do not recommend muzzles for anxiety related problems such as separation anxiety, whereby the dog is destructive, or for barking or howling problems, there are much safer and more appropriate techniques for these types of behaviour. Never leave the muzzle on for long periods and always supervise the dog when he is wearing one.

The use of a muzzle can be advantageous in a number of circumstances:

1. In certain veterinary procedures a muzzle may be required.
2. When introducing another dog or puppy into the household.
3. In cases of pain related temporary aggression.
4. When introducing cats and other animals.
5. Certain breeds are required by law, other breeds may be added to the list in the future.
6. Some behavioural modifications or training procedures may require a muzzle

Whatever the reason the earlier you introduce a Muzzle to your dog the easier it will be to accept, after all they may at some time need a muzzle.

For instance when taking blood tests or they are injured and need handling or manipulation or when they are in pain. None of my dogs have ever shown aggression or bitten either a dog or a human. That is not the point, I still feel more comfortable knowing if they need one it will not need to be forced on them when they are injured, hurt or fearful.

Muzzels can come in very handy when using working dogs, show dogs, gun dogs..... as they are more likely to be 'kept on the the edge' as some handlers like to refer to it as... But as a pet, you shold make sure your dog never needs a muzzle.

© Stan Rawlinson
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