Strategies for working with aggression in dogs

By Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved.

“The biggest issue we have with employees is that they cannot tell the difference between playing and fighting,” the owner of a well-known NYC doggy day care chain told me on a visit to evaluate my interns. Much of the pet services industry operates with the help of unpaid volunteers and interns. Interns from dedicated programs are particularly welcome, often bringing more comprehensive knowledge to their work. Part of my job as a pet care technician teacher was not just developing internship sites for my students but teaching them about the behaviors pets would exhibit in them. The program needed to partner with pet services where learners could apply what they were taught on their classroom days with companion animals along with understanding how these businesses operate in real life.

How do you handle an aggressive dog at a doggy day care, in your home or in the dog park? For starters, is your approach increasing the behavior or lessening it? If what you are doing is not stopping the behavior you want to try something else. If you are seeing the behavior getting worse you definitely want to try something else. If you are seeing displacement behaviors-other behaviors that are occurring that had not been happening before (usually a result of the corrective action being taken) then here is another approach. Review the case history below to see if you can integrate the methods into your day care or home environment.

What was happening: A three year old female boxer, “Gladys” (not her real name) was reacting to new entrants to the play area. Whether dog or human, Gladys would menace the newcomer by nipping and biting. Some staff would scold Gladys to end the behavior and if that was not effective, tie her to the wall. Other staff members would grab a slip lead and tie Gladys to the wall as soon as a new presence entered the play area. Not surprisingly, Gladys was getting worse and was being blamed for her “aggression” as if she alone was responsible for it. (Continue Reading Below)