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If Not Dominance, Then What Is The Problem

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Dr. James C. Ha, Ph.D., CAAB is a professor of applied animal behavior at the University of WA and a certified applied animal behavior with over 30 years of experience in animal behavior teaching, research, consulting, and expert witness services.

If not “dominance”, then what is the problem?

Probably 80% of the cases of aggression that I see has to do with anxiety. Anxiety is the major aggression problem in dogs and the one that we have to work on the most to fix. We need to research it. We need to find solutions for it. People need to recognize it better. Anxiety is the driver the cause almost all aggression in dogs.


What is “dominant” behavior?

According to APDT: Dogs that use aggression to “get what they want” are not displaying dominance, but rather anxiety-based behaviors, which will only increase if they are faced with verbal and/or physical threats from their human owners. Basing one’s interaction with their dog on dominance is harmful to the dog-human relationship and leads to further stress, anxiety, and aggression from the dog, as well as fear and antipathy of the owner.

Instead, proper training and extinction techniques need to be used so your dog feels safe and can display safe behaviors. Here are some great resources for trainers and behaviorists that can help you with any problem behaviors: