German Shepherd looking up at handler (not seen)Monumental Training Concepts

“Competitive, defensive, greedy, territorial, controlling, independent, hungry, excitable, engaging, curious, protective, familial, combative, grouchy, affectionate, devoted, courageous, determined, adaptive, resilient, alert, playful, sulking, discerning, bias, yielding and complacent: this long list of adjectives can equally describe either Homo sapiens, or Canis lupus familiaris. Maybe that’s why we get along so well. There is not much imagination required on either part to understand the other. The ability to anthropomorphize is an invaluable tool in dog training. However, getting carried away with empathy or humanizing can be crippling. As your dog’s trainer, utilize the anthropomorphizing tool but use it carefully.

My training advice to family and friends as well as clients is always framed within four simple, but monumental concepts.

  1. Appreciate as well as never deny the “animal” in your dog.
  2. The best handlers are consistent, focused, pleasant and firm (C.F.P.F)
  3. A trainer’s task and limitations lie within shaping the dog’s behavior not in changing his personality.
  4. You can be a very effective handler even though you may be far from adept.

For those of us who live with an assertive or aggressive canine, it’s good to keep in mind there’s probably nothing wrong with our companion. He simply came into this world with more available drive and energy than the average dog. It’s our job as primary handlers to help him channel and control this extra potential so he can integrate smoothly into human society. The responsibility of keeping innocent parties free from harm due to a dog’s hostile behavior falls solely on the shoulders of the primary handlers. Remember that even good excuses don’t alleviate the pain of a dog bite.

Baron, Mister and Hector are a few dogs I’ve lived with. They were all my personal dogs at one time or another. Some did police work, some were competition companions, and others were demonstration dogs. All of them were probably more aggressive than the dog you own, and compared to the thousands of dogs I’ve handled, I consider them some of the best among canines. By harnessing their energy and helping them direct their drives, all of my aggressive companions were able to safely experience life to its fullest. They were all house dogs and naturally interacted with my wife and children; they lived with me much like your dogs live with you. Taken as a whole they had the potential to display all eight faces of hostility that this book addresses. Yet not a single innocent person was injured by any of them. The reasons for this safety record lie in these pages and I can sum up those reasons in one word, rules! Rules for handling, confinement, environmental controls, and rules for interacting with non-handling are all created and enforced in the name of safety. The rules for managing an aggressive dog are not really difficult to understand or setup; the real challenge lies in their maintenance.

Balance the training with your dog by using earnest deterrents and sincere praise. All dogs can determine within a single moment whether or not a handler is genuine. If you’re authentic, a dog will be inclined to follow. If you’re not, he’ll be inclined to lead. I wish you the best. Now, go do some good!”

— Dog Training And Eight Faces Of Aggressive Behavior

Written by Matthew Duffy


I don’t think it would come as a shock to anyone who has ever owned a dog if I were to say that dogs have their own personalities. And those personalities are as varied as grains of sands on a beach, inherited from their genetic predecessors. So I find it surprising when people ask if that driven, intense, wonderfully unique but assertively aggressive dog was ever abused. The answer is usually a resounding no, the dogs we work with come from all walks of life, each with their own personalities and genetically inherited drives.

A few decades ago there was some discussion between psychologists about if personalities were developed by experiences or by genetics. We now know that it is a mixture of both. Genetics determines how a person or animal will respond to an experience and that reaction during that experience is what is carried over into memory to be learnt from. The root of a personality is genetics, with history only playing a part in the scheme of things. There maybe some of us who even remember authors like Barbara Woodhouse who wrote “There’s No Bad Dog” concerning that dogs only develop personalities through their experiences, which if true would mean that children would not share personality traits with their parents, any parent or dog breeder if asked could tell you that is untrue.

The good thing is that we can influence behavior even though we can’t change personalities. Keep in mind that aggression is nothing to be ashamed of but was at one time vital for ours and theirs very survival. We can direct those drives to something more positive be it actual aggression or just a problem behavior. With our method we have the way to communicate with our dog so that we can teach rules, be it rules for our canines or rules for ourselves. But I will say that Barbara Woodhouse was right about one thing, there is no bad dogs; only challenging dogs that benefit from direction like a teacher directing a student.

— Josh Decker, Dog Trainer