Let’s consider this idea that extreme dog behaviour needs more extreme methods for a little while.
It seems to be based on dogs who show aggressive responses needing a stronger hand. A firmer approach. Even counter threats.
First let’s look at what an aggressive response is shall we?
Aggressive responses happen as a result the stimulation of the nervous system.
The nervous system is a beautiful part of the physiology of all sentient beings. It works so hard to keep us safe. It’s like a very special friend to us and has kept us safe for so long. It regulates its own responses. It’s the reason we go into fight or flight response. Not on our own, out of nowhere, but in response to a threat.
Dog and human nervous systems are very similar.
They both respond to threats and they both become dysregulated if they experience trauma or regular threats.
Dogs who have experienced trauma might have very dysregulated nervous system responses. These responses might be aggressive. They might not be.
Trauma doesn’t have to be big by the way. It can be just a dog losing control of their environment and getting scared.
To achieve safety in a dysregulated nervous system a dog needs to heal from the trauma that caused the dysregulation. We can think of internal trauma like a tightly wound nervous system that is at constant threat of snapping.
This is why some traumatised people may be defensive or even combative.
The dog who snaps more may actually be the most traumatised dog.
And the dog who needs safety the most.
This dog is the one who needs less training not more, for the moment anyway.
Because they don’t have the baseline of safety.
They don’t have a healthy and well-regulated nervous system.
They need to feel safe.
They need gentle handling.
And educated understanding.
Can you imagine treating a traumatised child the way that some people treat traumatised dogs?
The world would be in uproar if someone did that on social media.
But people are doing it to dogs all the time.
In the name of training.
And building a vast crowd who are doing it too.
Because it’s the ‘only thing that works with aggressive strong dogs’
But it doesn’t work.
It’s victimising the biggest victims.
And that’s why it hurts so much to see it.
And that’s why educated people never meet force with force or threats with threats.
And that’s exactly why the dog trainer who can ‘make’ a dog do something by using intimidation, force, fear, prong, shock or just their presence…
Rather than working with a dog and meeting them where they are.
Is the worst dog trainer of all.
Thanks for reading my blog, if you're a dog professional. You can get one of my books for free over at The National Institute for Canine Ethics.
If you're a dog guardian you can get one of my free courses over at Canine Principles.
Or feel free to grab all of them from both spaces (that's what I would do - no messing) See you next time xx