Training a Fear Aggressive Dog

Nugget is a Caribbean pot cake dog who came to us to overcome aggressiveness towards both people and dogs. From the moment she arrived at our facility, we noted her fear of new people, especially men. Due to her bite history, one of the first things I wanted to do was to put on some protective gloves and find out just how aggressive she would become. Just as I suspected, Nugget did not really want to bite anyone.
If you watch closely you can see that although she snapped at me when I reached my hand toward her, she did so with retreating body language. This allowed me the confidence that bites can be easily avoided by paying attention to her warning signs.
During the remainder of this video you will see how the session unfolded. This was the very first time I met Nugget and I hope you will see how important it can be to take your time, trust your instincts and most importantly listen to what the dog is trying to tell you.
So when I was moving her around she was kind of doing those..she was out on a tangent, you know what I mean? So I kind of cut in and brought the leash here to stop her. Then the moment that she made eye contact I released right there. That’s what I wanted was just that connection in the beginning.
So I don’t want this, where she’s just trying to get away, get away, get away. So I just bring the leash down, good, and encourage her to come with. I don’t even care about that stuff right now, that doesn’t bother me at all at the moment. That’s just still after-effects from the test, you know what I mean.
She’s going, hey you just pushed me buddy, I gotta say I know I know, I was just seeing what you’re made of. See by just giving that release for the attention, that I can prompt a little bit to get what I actually want from her. So it’s a conflict for her because obviously she wants to relieve the pressure and get close, but that kicks in her defense drive so she’s got those two different motivations working against each other.
And then the other thing I’ll start to do is I’ll start to move into her a little bit, not a lot, to show her that we can have a conversation. So she’s already making eye contact, I’m not going to move anymore. So the moment she just acknowledges that I’m coming into her space, I’m stopping right there.
I don’t actually need her to yield to me right now, I’m just again building that connection and showing her that there’s a dialogue, that I am listening to her, I’m watching her so she doesn’t need to make all the noise. Some dogs will make a lot of noise because they want to draw attention to what their body is telling you, you know what I mean.
And then when you start to pay more attention to what their body is telling you, the noise slows down. So when she was looking at my face like that, it was a little bit like, you can almost, for me at least, I can’t look directly at her, but seemed like she was really considering (biting).
So my response to get her more comfortable when she did that was to expose more of my neck, so I turned away. It really opened up that vital area. All I want now is just for her to see that I’m a comfortable place. So I’m putting little bits of pressure when she’s away, when she moves in I’m just letting that pressure relax a little bit.
Just want to move her a little bit more towards the front of me so we can actually interact. She’s sweet. Doesn’t take long to start to build trust when you’re actually just attempting to communicate. Not that she fully trusts me by any stretch, but it’s much nicer than where we were.
That was too much. This arm position afterwards was just to block my face. There’s nothing wrong with that, I mean she’s just saying I’m not ready for that yet. So we don’t have to stop or do anything differently or change or anything else, it’s just a matter of it’s fine, she’s allowed to tell me no.
At one point during the session, Nugget laid down right in front of me. My gut told me that this was an opportunity to connect with her, so I decided to join her. If she wanted to lay down then I would too. By following her lead and engaging in an activity together, I was able to facilitate the beginnings of real trust.
So sometimes when a dog is sensitive to your touch, you can start getting them used to the physical interaction with you by touching them with something else. In this case just the handle of the leash. You can see she’s much more okay with that. But this allows her to get a sense of what my intention is when I make physical contact.
Even though it’s with a tool, the tool becomes an extension of me. I’m actually just letting my fingers graze her back a little bit as I do this.
So she’s not as threatened by this and then of course generally if she was gonna snap she’d probably snap at this not my hand right off the bat, so again it’s just furthering her understanding of who I am and what my intentions are, what it means when I touch, what it means when I make physical contact. I started with the leash but now I’m giving her a good butt scratch. She actually initiated that hand on her head.
There’s a lot of trust here, she’s completely taking her eyes off me, and I’m over the top of her like this. Are we best friends now? Good girl! Yeah there we go. See, that stuff makes her a little comfortable. We just do it on her terms. What a good girl! Yeah what a good girl! So now I’m just starting with what she doesn’t like, and ending with what she does.