Very few dogs are actually aggressive. Why? It goes back to the foundation of all dog training, which you will hear me say often:
Dogs will always continue to do what gives them the greatest benefit.
It is not to a dog’s benefit to attack. If a dog were to bite a person or another dog, the chances of it getting hurt in return is high.
It’s always to its benefit to simply ward off what it senses as danger.
Even if I arrive at a home and the dog is growling/barking/bearing its teeth, but it is keeping its distance, I tell people “That is not aggression. It’s defensiveness.” In actuality, the dog is going to extraordinary lengths to NOT bite me out of fear.
Basically what it’s telling me is, “I am so afraid right now that I am doing everything in my power to get you to stay away from me. Please respect and appreciate that I am giving you every indication to give me space and time to get more comfortable with you.”
A dog that is aggressive would come towards me and attack. The defensive dog would only bite if it felt it had no other choice.
Many trainers/people are impatient and will try to force things too quickly (approaching, putting on a Gentle Lead, etc.), but it’s counter-productive and will actually take longer.
There is a phrase, taken from a horse whisperer, that you will hear me say often: “You have to go slow to go fast.”
We never know the trauma a dog has endured. Just like with people, “Be kinder than necessary. Everyone is fighting their own battle that you may know nothing about.”
Chances are a defensive or aggressive dog has endured some trauma or has health issues/is in pain, etc.
That’s why I use “No force, No fear” techniques.
I always try to be an advocate for the dog, because it has no voice. Even with a dog that is confrontational, while I would agree that is not a good, safe family dog, it is not a bad dog when it comes to being a dog. What I mean by that is this: If you were a dog in the wilderness in that dog’s pack, it would protect you. It would fight to the death for you. I would want to be in that dog’s pack, wouldn’t you?
Many people ask me, “Aren’t you scared to go into strangers’ homes with their dogs?” Sometimes. It’s hard to know who to trust these days. However, I have learned in life that the people to be most wary of are the covert ones. What I love about dogs is they are overt. They do not hide their feelings or true intentions. They are genuine. Pure and true. No mind games. No facades. No pretenses. What you see is what you get. Long story short, at least they don’t pretend to be nice if they aren’t.