Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Can Solving Bad Dog Behavior Be Guaranteed?
Owners of aggressive or excessively fearful dogs often may wonder if their dogs' behaviors can be cured once and for all. They therefore look for a special dog trainer or dog behaviorist making promising statements. These owners' hopes are high that Rover can be totally changed like a magical Hollywood makeover. Often, they watch shows where dogs are magically transformed in just half an hour. As a dog trainer, I often feel bad for these owners who are given false hope.
Beware Overly Promising Statements
Statements such as ''we will cure your aggressive dog'' or ''we will deliver you a totally changed dog'' should be seen as a bright red flag. Yes, these dog trainers/dog behaviorists have plenty of reviews from happy clients and make promising statements, but they are ultimately not being truthful. Their statements make perfect marketing plans since they grab attention fast, but again, chances are high, they are simply trying to lure you into spending thousands of dollars.
Truth is, a good dog trainer/dog behaviorist will not make guarantees. Because behavior problems in dogs have so many variables, and ultimately, may stem from a dog's genetic predisposition, it would be downright wrong to make promises and guarantee results. Yes, some trainers may have a money-back guarantee or some sort of system where if you still have ongoing problems, they are willing to provide services for free, but it is ultimately ethically wrong to make promises of any kind when dealing with dog behavior.
The Truth About a Genetic Predisposition to Aggression
Dogs who have a genetic predisposition to act aggressively may never be magically transformed into the docile, calm, dog you imagine. Yes, there are instances of great stories of dogs that have made significant improvements and owners who have witnessed some drastic changes. But these, while inspiring, are not examples of possible outcomes your must exclusively rely on. Consider, that there are also, several dogs that were never ''fixed'' and have remained dogs with issues. This mindset protects you from keeping your hopes too high but also helps you have a grip on reality.
Ongoing Work Is Necessary
Truth is, you are never done working with a dog with reactivity issues stemming from temperamental flaws. Some outward manifestations may be ''solved'' but internally issues may remain, requiring ongoing work. ''Never let the guard down ''is my motto when dealing with dogs as these.
As a general rule of thumb, keep in mind that dogs that are instilled with a predisposition to reverting to aggression as a way of dealing with stressful situations and fall back on that strategy every time something makes them uneasy. Owners of dogs predisposed to manifesting aggression should therefore be prudent and never assume their dog is ''cured'' even though no signs of trouble are seen for some time.
I like to think of a dog with weak nerves as a dog equipped with an internal spark. Do nothing about the behavior and when enough triggers happen and enough circuits connect, the spark will ignite quickly into a fire and you will see a full blast of barking/lunging/growling. Work on the behavior, and you may reduce the number of fires and eventually extinguish some. Observant owners that scan the environment and read their dogs can become good smoke detecting experts that manage situations before they escalate.
There's No Magical Cure for Canine Aggression
No magical tool or no magical trainer will come along and cure problems once and for all, because the spark is ultimately still there. Therefore, be wary if a dog trainer or dog behaviorist makes promises and offers guarantees; truth is, they are likely looking for money and are not being professional. A trainer that is hesitant to answer your question ''Will my dog be cured once and for all'' is being cautious, responsible and ethical. Please don't exchange that with lack of experience or insecurity.
Truth is, the outcome of behavior modification problems is never known for sure, many dogs change drastically through management and behavior modification programs, but this means ongoing work and a dog owner constantly watching the dog's body language and scanning the environment for potential problems. Most of the success also depends on the owner that must be willing to work with the dog perhaps for the remaining of the dog's life. However, there are times where the risks may be too high and dogs are better off put down. In these sad cases, where dogs are genetically predisposed to fearfulness and aggression, the risks for liability are too high and unfortunately, the chances for a successful outcome are too low.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli
email@example.com on May 23, 2019:
It was good to read the article for we do have a dog-on-dog aggressive Portie who also barks just about at everything that moves.
The breeder was told that he had a strong prey drive when evaluated.
We got him at 5 years old because his former owner couldn't handle him any longer.
He is a Grand Champion and w just don't understand how he got to be the way he is now.
We did take him to a behaviorist and know what is ahead of us.....to put him down is not in the cards.
shea duane from new jersey on January 30, 2012:
good hub. and I agree with moonlake and jacqui. I have a lab/chow mix who was abused as a puppy. I got him at about 1 year old, and he has always been good with my son and my cats. But he hates strangers and once bit someone. He is now 10 and is only now calming down. We love him, but he has been a lot of work. Some dogs are crazy for ever.
jacqui2011 from Norfolk, UK on January 30, 2012:
Very interesting hub and very true. My brother had a beautiful German Shepherd which was very aggressive towards other people. He took it for many sessions to dog obedience and dog behavior specialists who failed. Whenever he has visitors, my brother has to put the dog outside in the kennel until they are gone, during which time he will bark like mad. He is now 8 years old and he has had him as a 1 year old. Useful hub. Voted up - interesting/useful.
moonlake from America on January 29, 2012:
I agree with you. There are times when no matter what you do a dog can't be changed. I hear my dog barking right now. He barks at anything and everything that goes by. If there were a person outside walking by our house he would go after them. He has always thought he should protect the whole yard. We have tried everything with this dog and nothing helps.