Dominance Aggression Blueprint

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This plan does not explain the behavior of dominance aggression or how to teach the training exercises necessary to execute the plan. 

Please refer to the latest Foundation Style Dog Training Course before attempting a blueprint.

  1. Ethology – Review dominance aggression and especially what is NOT dominance aggression.  You may need to make plans that address other aggression types as well (reference aggression types here).
  2. Health
    1. Be sure the dog is on a quality diet.  It may make subtle differences.
    2. Consider any sight or hearing problems.  Being caught off guard can trigger an aggressive response.
    3. Consider any evidence that the aggression may be related to chronic pain or discomfort.
    4. Consider neutering male dogs in extreme cases.  Testosterone can exasperate the intensity of any type of aggression and is reported as a risk factor in most dog bite studies.
    5. Consider supplementing with Tryptophan and Tyrosine.
  3. Diagnosis – After considering ethology and health, if the dog is not your own, be sure to communicate to the owner a clear diagnosis of what the behavior is, what is triggering it, and what may be exasperating it.
  4. Attitude – Recognize if there are any poor attitudes that have been formed before understanding the behavior (the dog is a jerk, trying to be the boss, etc..) and attempt to change the attitude based off the true etiology of the behavior before working on a plan with the owner.  Any plans or behavior that are influenced by a poor or incorrect attitude will likely have side effects.
  5. Manage – Dominance aggression is potentially the most dangerous form of aggression to manage, since the aggression may be targeted toward members of the human and/or dog “pack” within the same living quarters.
    1. Dogs are kept separated during feeding times.
    2. All objects (human items and dog toys) are carefully managed so that the dog can only access them during planned times.
    3. Do not reach for anything in the dog’s ownership zone.
    4. The play is done with two equal value toys (two balls, two tugs, etc..) to avoid the need for contests over one toy.
    5. Use distraction or trade tactics if the dog accidentally has an object it is not supposed to have.
    6. Do not leave items that the dog associates with valuable resources accessible to people, especially children (empty bowls, open crates, dog beds).
    7. Use extreme supervision around children or anyone not familiar with the dog’s triggers.
    8. Train the dog to accept a muzzle as soon as possible.
    9. Do not initiate any physical contact with the dog that the dog may not desire (when resting, affection, pulling away from things by the collar, etc..)
  6. Leadership – Very strict leadership exercises reinforce the management and further prepare the dog for more formal training:  Refresher here
  7. Habitation – Strict housebreaking that involves environmental punishment for taking possession of any object that is not given to the dog by the handler can eliminate most situations where there would otherwise be a conflict between the dog and humans.  Also, a dog that is properly habituated to the home, in general, has its needs better attended to and managed by the owner which further eliminates the potential motivation for conflict. Habitation is best reviewed here.
  8. Training – Minimal training recommended for managing resource guarding (phase 3 level)
    1. Out – drop the object from the mouth
    2. Leave it – disengage focus from an object
    3. Place, climb, mat, post, or similar command to send to an area.
    4. Come
    5. Sit or down
    6. Off
  9. Advanced –

Dominance aggression may never appear when a new handler starts off with a blueprint with a dog in a new location.

However, you can expect a climax in the training plan during phase 3 when a handler trains their own dog that was already showing signs of dominance aggression, or a dog that was trained with a blueprint is returned to a different handler that was the target of dominance aggression.  In these cases, the muzzle must be part of the plan.


Things to consider:

  • Some dogs, through classical conditioning, will guard areas associated with resources.  For example, a dog may act as if guarding a bone while inside his/her crate even though there are no bones present.  Or may guard a bowl, even when it is empty. If this occurs you may do the same exercises with the area as you would a food bowl.   You may also eliminate access to the area or attempt to weaken the association (don’t feed bones in the crate) if it is convenient for the situation.
  • Safety precautioned should always be exercised with dogs that are capable of inflicting serious injury.  Be extra cautious with dogs that have a known history of skipping steps in the aggression cycle and/or are powerful enough to overpower a person.  Layered clothing with Cordura or leather on the outer layer, protective gloves, and/or other clothing specifically manufactured to protect against dog bites should be used when there is not a physical barrier, restraint, and/or help of a second person between you and a dog that is in early stages of training.  The use of back-ties can also be useful to give the dog freedom of movement while keeping a trainer out of range of a bite.

Below is an example of early training with a dog that was dominant aggressive:

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