The Dog Aggression Virus

Tug Dogs owner Erin likes to say that dog on dog aggression (including leash reactivity) is like a virus. Once a dog is exposed to it, they are much more likely to develop symptoms themselves and pass the illness along. And it seems more and more dogs are becoming “infected.”

So just how does that happen?

Most dog owners (and even many dog trainers) don’t realize that an overwhelming amount of dog aggression stems from fear instead of confidence. But what makes dogs fearful in the first place?

Let’s look at it from your dog’s point of view. If your dog has never experienced another dog aggressively barking, lunging, or attacking them, the chances that they will feel the need to protect themselves with their own display of aggressive behavior is very low.

Dogs who have only had positive experiences aren’t even aware they are in potential danger and will treat every new dog approaching as a friend…if that’s all they know.
But that all changes as your dog has new experiences such as being aggressively barked at, lunged towards, and rushed by other dogs. In these moments, your dog learns that not all other dogs are safe and that they are unable to run away because they are tied to you!

Even worse, many dogs learn that the humans they are attached to, lack the understanding or skills to respond appropriately in these scary situations and thus they must protect themselves by any means necessary.

Your dog has now learned how dangerous the world is and what little ability they have to keep themselves safe. Violence is often the only resource available to a scared and vulnerable dog who is unable to flee.

Keep in mind that even if your dog does not sustain a bite from another dog, that doesn’t mean that mentally they haven’t experienced trauma. The first time your puppy or dog learns that at any moment an off leash dog could appear suddenly and present a threat to their safety, for example,can leave a deep and lasting impact on how they see the world.

The resulting trauma that is carried is the spread of the dog aggression infection. In a dire effort to keep themselves safe, many dogs will start to display unprovoked aggression towards other dogs they encounter as their stress and fear boils over into panic. Which each new dog your dog reacts to, you are likely spreading the infection further as other dogs learn they too are not safe.

So what can you do?

First off, investing in preventative training with a skilled dog trainer like the team at Tug Dogs, is the best vaccine you can give your dog for avoiding problem behaviors.

Our trainers can help guide you through the experience of how to handle dogs barking and lunging at your dog in a safe and effective manner. Rather than your dog learning you are useless in keeping them safe, your dog can instead take comfort in the fact that you have the skills needed to provide for their mental and physical well being. Rather than trying to desperately keep themselves safe with violent outbursts, they will look to you to handle the situation.

This is exactly the training we provide to our “role model” dogs like Ruby and Cassie who work with dog aggressive dogs daily. How can they do it without lashing out in a need to protect themselves? It’s simple…trainer Erin has rightfully earned their trust by showing them time and time again she can handle scary situations so they don’t have to worry. And with one on one sessions together, we can teach you and your dog to have this relationship too.

What if your dog is already infected?

Just like with a real infection, the sooner we see your dog after they have been exposed, the better. Addressing trauma and teaching you how to avoid it and handle it better will help your dog become a more confident, happy, and stress free companion.

Our goal at Tug Dogs is always to teach both you and your dog so that you can work together as a team and build a closer bond. When your dog trusts you, they don’t feel the need to be aggressive which makes life so uch more enjoyable for you both.

It’s simply not enough to love your dog, you also must be able to keep them safe if you want them to behave well and live comfortably with you.

Where can I get help?

If you can’t get to Tug Dogs to work with our highly experienced trainers, we still have some advice to help you find a local professional.

It’s important to note that dog training is a totally UNREGULATED industry. That means there are no educational or ethical standards in place. No one is making sure your trainer knows what they are doing except you. It’s up to you to ensure you are working with a skilled trainer who will not put your dog in jeopardy and will not waste your time and money.

We suggest searching for established trainers with positive reviews and references. In addition, spend time talking with your dog’s trainer prior to signing up and ask lots of questions.

A great dog trainer is always happy to provide you with lots of information about how they train and what their treatment plan is for your dog’s specific needs.

Stop spreading the virus!

Exposing your dog to the terrible illness of dog on dog aggression is a choice. Tug Dogs trainers can help coach you through how to “vaccinate” and “treat” the epidemic of dog aggression so that you and your dog can live your best lives together.

To get started, contact us today.



Active Ignoring…what is it and how to get started?

Active ignoring is exactly what it sounds like, it’s making a choice to actively ignore your dog when they are pushy, demanding, hyperactive, or over stimulated. By interacting with your dog on YOUR terms, you teach them that you are in charge of when affection and attention are given. This way you end up rewarding calm and polite behaviors instead of rude ones. Active ignoring doesn’t mean you don’t give your dog all the love, attention, and cuddles you both love. It just means you time them to ensure you are the one offering those wonderful exchanges.

Active ignoring is great for dogs who are high energy, demanding, pushy, or needy. Encouraging your dog to occupy themselves appropriately can be a wonderful thing and sets your relationship off on the right foot. As an added bonus, it often stops “velcro dogs” from continuing to develop separation anxiety as well as stops dogs who are pushy to play from invading your space. Dogs who are calm and mellow do not require active ignoring.

Step one is to be very aware of what behaviors you are rewarding (yes you speaking with your dog, petting, them or otherwise interacting with them is a reward!). If your dog is acting too hyper, jumping up, nudging you, barking at you, pawing at you, constantly bringing you toys etc….that’s a good time to simply show (with action instead of words) that you will not engage with them. Don’t speak to them, simply turn your body away and show you will not be forced to interact. At first they may get frustrated, but when they eventually give in, that’s a great time to call them over and give them affection. And don’t forget that you also get to decide not only when the interaction starts, but also when it stops!

For those dogs out there who love life and want to demand a lot of your focus and attention it’s not about denying them what they crave. Instead, it’s simply teaching them that good manners get them what they want. The more your dog’s demanding for attention works, the more they will continue to be pushy! So think carefully about instead rewarding calm and patient behavior in your pup!

The How and When of Giving Your Dog Affection

dog affection

Affection is an important part of the human dog bond and when thoughtfully utilized, can be beneficial for both dog and owner. However badly timed affection can worsen problems, build over stimulation, reward inappropriate behavior, and create instability in some dogs. Want to learn a few simple tips to help ensure you are giving your dog the affection they need? Read on…

Lets start with discussing when affection/attention should be given. If most or even some of the time that you are giving your dog affection is when they are in an excited state of mind (think you just got home from work or always in the middle of high energy play time) you are actually conditioning your dog to stay in that excited state. It would be like giving them a treat every time they started to get excited. For a medium or high energy dog, this can create issues ranging from hyperactivity to jumping on guests, separation anxiety and even an inability to control their own impulses.

In addition, if you have a dog who is pushy or demanding for affection/attention and you pet them when they show those behaviors, you are not only rewarding them for acting pushy, you are creating a dynamic where you give into them regularly (and then we have to ask, who is training who??). You might not even notice how demanding your dog is being for your attention but if you really step back and watch their behavior you might be surprised. If your dog constantly brings you toys expecting you to play whenever they feel like it, or if they bark at you, invade your space regularly, nudge you repeatedly and have mastered the begging look, chances are you have been rewarding these pushy behaviors. And even though they can be quite cute, your dog’s pushiness can send them the wrong message about who is in charge which can spiral into other problems.

So how do you solve these issues? It’s pretty simple! For over excited dogs, get in the habit of ignoring them when they are too excited (for each dog this can be a little different but typical signs of over excitement are fast movements, tail wagging uncontrollably, barking/whining, jumping up, zoomies, and inability to hold still). So yes when you first get home and your dog is SO excited to see you, it’s best to simply ignore them until they have a chance to calm down, as difficult as that may be. The more you do it, the more it will become second nature to you and your dog.

Also remember to not give in to pushy behavior! If you dog demands something from you, ignore them or tell them no and stand your ground. Then when they give up, you can call them over and give them what they wanted because now it’s on your terms not theirs!

The important point to realize is that, once you get started, you actually can give your dog the same amount of affection and attention so long as you do it when they are in a calmer state of mind and are not being pushy about it! Doing so ensures you have the same close relationship while also assisting your dog to be well mannered and stable.

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* Please Note: Tug Dogs is unable to provide re-homing services or requests for training outside of Northern California.