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CBC Radio Talk - Solutions to Dog Aggression

This article will be broken into 3 parts:

  1. A suitable solution
  2. Protecting yourselves from the wrong people
  3. Muzzle Party Hat

Solution to Dog Aggression:

1. Educating children at school on appropriate dog behaviour, handling, greeting and pack structure.

2. Regulating breeders to keep backyard hobby breeders out of the picture. Serious and dedicated breeders would be left who would be regulated to follow guidelines and follow ethical practices in breeding for temperament, character and good health as well as choosing the right people for their dogs. They would be given incentives for requiring owner education and dog training.

3. Restructuring of dog parks to include many large pens in which individuals can go in and properly socialize their dogs in a controlled setting. Other people can come in with the owners permission to properly socialize their dogs to each other. Wide open dog parks with no control is a very large cause of aggression.

4. Educating Veterinarians on how to recommend proper socialization to puppies prior to having all of their immunizations. Many veterinarians recommend not bringing a puppy to too many other places in fear of catching or spreading disease. Puppies have a window of 8-12 weeks in which they must have positive socialization experiences to their environment. Without these experiences they can learn to become fearful or overly protective. It is absolutely essential that puppies have positive socialization in this key time frame. There are ways to do this in safe controlled manners to reduce risk of disease.

5. Incentives for dog owners through reduction of licensing fees to take proper dog training and owner education courses. In my experience 80% of the training is training the owner.  The most common cause of dog bites and attacks is from people who treat their dogs like human children.  Dogs who get everything they want for free often see themselves as the Pack Leader.  This is why people question a dog’s aggression when they have taken them to dog parks since they were a puppy and have been around so many people.  99% of the aggression cases and dogs biting family members I deal with are with the nicest people you will ever meet.  They often have no rules for their dogs and spoil them.  Sole use of treat training is also creating a large aggression problem.  Many people have to bribe their dogs to listen with food and often say they cannot get their dogs to listen around distractions even with food. Training with treats is an excellent first step but should not be the last.  There are many other steps in which cannot be fully explained here.

6. An educational shift in focus to teach people how to have their dogs focus on them as the sole fun in their lives and to stay away from letting them run freely with other uncontrolled dogs. At any given moment you are training your dog whether you think you are or not. By letting your dog go and run with other dogs while ignoring you, you are perpetuating that problem. My dogs will run and “play” with each other but when I am outside with them they follow me everywhere. They seem to say "The fun guy is here!"  By teaching your dog that you are a fun and exciting leader you will have much better control over your dog for their safety and yours.

7. Establishing Standards in Dog Training - Dog Trainers primarily stick to 2 different styles of training: Treat / Reward based or Force based.  Each have their own pros and cons.  To be successful you need a blend.  Using treats for everything can make aggression problems worse.  Using force for everything can make aggression problems worse.  I have seen cases from either side.  Many dog trainers are not as educated as they should be.  With a bit of work and study we can all achieve better levels.  I continually upgrade my education.  I can think of 1 other dog trainer in the world who I would entirely trust my dogs with.  There may be others that I do not know about yet and I am positive there are but that indicates to you how far dog training techniques still need to come.  I use a blend of the two styles in which we do not rely on treats at the end and we do not use force that will hurt the dog.  Everything in moderation.

8. If there should be a dangerous dog category I would like to see people who are requesting to have these dogs be screened and required to take a test. This may help deter people with the wrong intentions or change their intentions to more positive ones.

All of this will be dependent on cost to implement. In general the more a society is educated the better choices they can make. Dogs have been with us since we were living in caves. They are here to stay and they aren't going anywhere. Taking steps forward is the only route. Taking steps backwards doesn't and cannot happen. We must learn to evolve with what we have created.

Dog bans have been tried in the past and they do not work.  We need to find a suitable solution to move forward.  These are some of the ideas I propose:

The Wrong People

Can we stop the wrong people from getting dangerous breeds?  Not likely.  We can try many things but the ultimate protection is educating yourself on:

Proper dog behaviour.

Recognizing dogs that may pose a threat.

Have better control of exercise areas such as dog parks by having many large pens in which you can decide who gets to come in.  This will eliminate huge amounts of problems.

Offer free courses on proper positive socialization of puppies at an early age.

Teach people how to have their dogs see them as the centre of their world.  Promote sports and games that build the dog / human bond.

Teach people how to defend themselves and their dogs from a potential dog attack.  Use of dog mace, umbrellas, sticks or air horns could be some of the options.

For myself, I can recognize which dogs are under control and which are not.  I walk away from dogs that do not have control.  I never let my dogs greet other dogs that I do not know, trust and can control myself.  Letting dogs greet on leash on walks is a very bad idea and the result of many dog bites.

If you see a house that has a dog that you know is aggressive, stay away from it.  Many fatal dog attacks happen on the aggressive dogs property.  Dogs can be very protective of their property.  Farmers around here have dogs to protect their livestock.  It is expected that if a coyote or stray dog comes onto the property that their dogs should kill it and given the chance they almost always do.  None of these farm dogs are Pit bulls or types thereof.

It is common to think you should let your dogs “sniff” other dogs when going for a walk.  If you want to avoid aggression problems never do this.  You are also teaching your dog that they are the leader by allowing them to determine if the other dog is to be accepted into the Pack.  Dogs that I work with understand that I am the Pack Leader and I greet first and if they do not, they are in controlled training until they do understand.

Proper Muzzle Introduction - The Party Hat

If you are concerned about your dog biting another person or animal a muzzle often becomes a necessary step.  You want to ensure that your dog loves their new “party hat” and wants to put it on themselves.  This helps ensure the other exercises will go more smoothly especially if presenting stimuli that may provoke the dog.

Muzzle Introduction

1. Present while training.

2. Take treats on outside of muzzle.

3. Take treats inside shallow.

4. Take treats inside deep.

5. Take treats inside through front opening.

6. Take treats through opening after slip through loose neck strap.

7. Take treats through opening after slip through snug neck strap.

8. Do quick obedience drills with muzzle on.

9. Do longer obedience drills with muzzle on.

The time required to do all of this is often 7-9 days.  At the end your dog should be so excited about their muzzle that they want to shove their face into it.  This helps associate positive things to your dog’s muzzle which in turn links positive things to outdoor surroundings.

You do not want to add stress to a dog that is aggressive towards other dogs by putting on a muzzle and not taking the time to introduce it properly.

Associate your dog’s muzzle to as many positive things as you can.

Wearing a muzzle allows you to practice in situations your dog could otherwise bite another dog or person.  This helps keep your dog safe and ensures training will go more smoothly.

When working outside ensure your dog has a basket style muzzle as this still allows them to pant properly and drink water.  They can essentially do everything they normally could they just cannot bite.  A closed mouth muzzle is to only be used for grooming or veterinary purposes where the dog is stationary.  If you use one of these closed mouth muzzles while exercising or training your dog they can overheat which can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke resulting in death.


I thank CBC radio for the chance to share what I feel is important to help people and dogs move forward.  I welcome any feedback from listeners.

I am always open to new views and consider everything.  I know there is always two sides to everything when it comes to dogs and nothing is cut and clear.

If you agree or disagree I would like to hear your point of view and reasons for that point of view.  I continually enhance my point of view in light of new information from clients, other dog trainers and the general population as well as continually working with dogs.

This will be a collective effort by society to find the right path to the ultimate dog - human bond.

I can be reached by e-mail:

CBC Radio Tyson Hainsworth complete audio.mp3

Click the CBC Radio link above to listen in to the talk between Donna McElligott and dog training expert Tyson Hainsworth.