Aggression is the number one reason people bring their dogs to animal behaviorists, and these owners are often in an agitated emotional state because they are afraid they can’t control their pet in dangerous situations. Now a new study out of the University of Bristol in the UK demonstrates that owners’ emotional needs need be addressed as well as those of their reactive dogs so that they can effectively apply positive reinforcement rather than punishment when training their dogs not to act aggressively.
Key to that, the researchers found, is that the behaviorist helping them through the problem instills them with confidence that they can keep their dogs behaving properly via positive training.
The takeaway: If you bring your dog to a behaviorist because he is exhibiting aggressive tendencies and the behaviorist somehow makes you feel you’re not up to the task of controlling him effectively, move on. Positive reinforcement won’t work to curb an aggressive dog’s behavior unless you are encouraged to believe in your own ability to follow through.