Do Some Dogs Need a Heavier Hand?

Mango Likes Soccer!

It never fails—someone always says it. In a recent online discussion about a trainer known for using less-than-gentle methods, someone made a comment that sounded a lot like this: “Positive training is fine for smaller dogs and puppies, and maybe even some adults, but there are some dogs that need a heavier hand.” Really? Because that sounds an awful lot like justification for jerking, yanking, shocking, and other things done to dogs in the name of training.

I’ve heard the excuse for heavy-handedness put like this: “They’re red zone dogs” (somehow that term always makes me visualize dogs with red, flashing sirens over their heads) or something similar. The term is used to categorize dogs who are severely aggressive. Often the trainer has been brought in as last-ditch effort before the dog is euthanized. In my years of working in canine training and behavior, I’ve had many clients with what would be termed “red zone” dogs. Lest you think I don’t fully comprehend the extreme aggression the term is meant to denote, one example from my own clientele is the 140-pound Alsatian who had put a hole through his owner’s hand. The owner, a 6-foot-tall police officer, had adopted the dog as an adult. The first week, the man went to grab a toy on the carpet at the same time as the dog did. This resulted in a hole that pierced the palm, through which daylight was clearly visible. The dog was also very aggressive toward strangers, and had severe aggression toward anyone on the other side of a barrier such as a chain link fence. I’m happy to report that with a course of kind, gentle training and behavior modification, and some beautiful follow-through on the part of the clients, all lived carefully but happily ever after. I could go on about successful outcomes with dogs like the Catahoula/chow mix who multiply puncture-wounded multiple people, and how gentle methods saved the day…but you get the idea. Many other trainers could tell you the same thing...

To read the rest of this blog on the Huffington Post, click here.

Nicole Wilde is an author and behavior specialist. You can visit her website, and find her on Facebook and Twitter



tweet it post it Share It Plus It Print It

Positively Expert: Nicole Wilde

Nicole Wilde is the author of ten books and lectures worldwide on canine behavior. She is a columnist for Modern Dog magazine, and blogs for Positively, the Huffington Post, and her own blog, Wilde About Dogs. Nicole runs Gentle Guidance Dog Training in southern California.


4 thoughts on “Do Some Dogs Need a Heavier Hand?

  1. Stian Karlsen

    I have a _big_ and powerful Cane Corso. When I got him he was 8 months old (he is now 4), and he was suffering from insecurities that resulted in aggression towards other dogs. I know for an absolute _fact_ that through positive reinforcement he was able to become more secure, and he is now the most kind, patient and loving guy I know. I respect him so much, and I can tell you, nothing will melt your heart like staring into his big, shining eyes!

    _Never_ did I have to jerk his collar, yell or shock - it was _all_ about making him feel secure!

    No dog _wants_ to be aggressive. In almost every case it's because they are insecure. By helping them feel secure, you can give them a better life! Resorting to abusive methods as "he who shall not be named" does, is simply not necessary. My big, strong, powerful (and whom many label dangerous due to pure stature) and kind Cane Corso is a prime example of that. So are millions of other dogs like him. It doesn't matter what breed, size or whatever. Treat them with respect, give them a secure home, and they'll fit into society just fine.

    As a human, it is my strong belief that before you can expect anything from a dog, you must respect him/her first! No exceptions! Be kind, be loving, be supportive and deal with things at a pace that's comfortable for the dog - that's what it's about!

    PS! I love you Victoria, for tirelessly fighting the good fight. The world needs more people like you.

    One day I hope we'll all look back on this whole "be dominant (and abusive)" thing and consider it just as ridiculous as thinking the world is flat.

    Dogs need security through kindness, not abuse. Period.

  2. Cheryl

    That's why we love you! I have learned so much watching your shows and it all works! Thank you for helping my family have a better appreciation and understanding of our four legged furry family members.

  3. Pingback: Dogs May Be Used to Make Schools Safer | Victoria Stilwell Positively

  4. Beverly Purvis

    Depends on the dog & situation. Most of the time it's not the dog that requires training, it's the handler.
    Some will shy away... others will not recall, be belligerent. Last thing someone wants is that his dog to be afraid of him...
    Respect you, YES
    Afraid, NO

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Episode 838 - Nicky Campbell

What do the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Long Lost Family have to do with dogs? BAFTA winning radio and TV presenter, Nicky...

Episode 837 – Beyond the Operant

Obedience training has long been the accepted path to teaching dogs’ manners, but the concept of obedience might be doing dogs a...

Episode 836 – Free Work and Adolescent Dogs

What is Free Work and how do dogs benefit? Dog behaviour expert Sarah Fisher joins Holly and Victoria to discuss how Free Work is...

find a vspdt trainer
Schedule a consultation via skype or phone