“Studies have shown an association between the use of aversive training methods and long-term behavior problems including aggressive behavior towards people and other dogs, and anxiety-related behaviors such as avoidance and excitability.”

Stress, Over-arousal and Behavior Challenges

Dogs that exhibit anxiety, reactivity aggression and hyperactivity need help in learning how to regulate stress and arousal. This means that most dogs struggle to behave in a way that we feel is appropriate because they are lacking the skills and guidance, not because they are attempting to be dominant. The idea that our dogs are attempting to dominate us, or that we need to be “alpha,” leads many people to use force, fear and intimidation to address problematic behavior. These tactics can suppress behavior in the short term, but they can also create more intense and less predictable behavior over the long term. Aversive tools and techniques, like remote electronic shock collars, prong collars, choke chains, throw chains, bark collars and alpha rolls can also diminish trust and lead to an increase in nervous or aggressive behavior over time.

Here is the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position statement on dominance theory in training and behavior modification. It discusses how these techniques can be counterproductive. Below are video examples of what behavioral training looks like when we focus on developing better coping skills that teaches dogs how to think through stress and arousal.





Aggressive Territorial Behavior

Reactive Behavior

Positive Reinforcement Training

Behavioral training focuses on the use of primary reinforcement to build skills and conditions calm behavior with triggers that create nervous or excited behaviors. Food is one of the most valuable resources in shaping problem solving skills, improving a dog’s ability to adapt to challenges and strengthen bonds. Here is a video I made on this topic: How Food Shapes Behavior.

What about dogs that aren’t “food motivated?” If a dog is breathing, they are food motivated. There are a few reasons that dogs become “picky” about food. First, some people are in the habit of leaving food out throughout the day. This devalues food. Imagine living in a buffet. This might seem great the first day, but it wouldn’t take long to become nauseated by the sight and smell of food. Second, some dogs experience chronic stress that can suppress a dog’s appetite. Learning about management and stress reduction tactics is an important first step in any good behavior modification program. Third, some dogs can lose their appetite because they are physically sick. Schedule a vet visit to make sure that this is not the case for your dog.

If you want to learn more about how to develop a healthy appetite for your picky eater, check out this video: How to Create A Healthy Feeding Schedule.