Blazing Trails K9 Academy
Welcome to our Blog! While we are currently uploading many of our posts, please feel free to visit our old blog at
Can an aggressive dog be "fixed" ?

The answer to this question varies by the individual case at hand. There are a number of variables involved when working with a dog who is showing aggressive tendencies. Almost any trainer worth their weight in gold would not guarantee that a dog is fixed of aggressive tendencies, you are after all dealing with a living being. But aggressive tendencies can be lessened to tolerable levels, or even rehabilitated in many instances. I have been a trainer for over 23 years, specializing in aggressive behavior for much of that. My first dog in fact, had aggressive behaviors. I understand the frustrations and the fears, the heartaches etc involved in dealing with aggressive dogs. I take my work with these cases very seriously. In my other entry on “help my dog is aggressive what do I do now” I mention some very important questions any trainer/behaviorist is going to want to know the answer to in order to best help you and your dog. A lot is determined by the answers to these questions, as well as a full evaluation from someone with a “trained eye”. Those of us professionals who know how to read a dog, and get a feel for what is really going on, can feel better about telling an owner whether there is hope, only after seeing the situation in real life. This is partly why it really is better to hire a professional to come out and work with the individual case.

I DO have some criteria for when I think the risk factors for not being able to fix it are higher. 3 components that help me determine when to tell an owner that I don’t think it’s workable are these: warning, triggers, and 3. no bite inhibition.

 No warning means that the dog went from being “normal” to reacting aggressive very quickly, without a whole lot of warning.  Sometimes it’s best to have a pro come out because they would have a better understanding on what constitutes a “warning”. There have been times when I’ve had an owner tell me their dog bit “out of the blue”. Yet I walk in and after investigating the case, find the dog had been warning that he was going to bite for years! Some warnings are just more subtle then others. 

No trigger means the dog is biting at random for apparently no reason. A trained professional can not find a reason. Again, it’s good to have a trainer or behaviorist look at the case because they know dog behavior, and may see an actual reason. For instance, the dog was laying on the bed, someone walked in and tried to make the dog get off, the dog bites. Some owners might say the dog just bit for no apparent reason. But I would look at it and know exactly why the dog was biting in that situation. 

No bite inhibition means the dog did not inhibit the level of his bite, or the level of his bite escalated very quickly. For instance, a dog with good bite initial bite inhibition may just air snap, or bite but not break the skin. A dog with very poor bite inhibition would bite multiple times, puncturing and/or tearing the skin each time. I use Dr. Ian Dunbars “bite levels” to help me determine the “level” of bite. With me, Level 6 (mauling) is not something I would work with, and if I did, I would recommend euthanasia. Level 5 (multiple puncture wound bite in the same attack) I would look very closely at the circumstances but may recommend euthanasia. Levels 3 and 4, I generally will work with depending on owner compliance (if the owner is unable or unwilling to do the work needed to help keep this dog “bite free”, I may not consider it). Levels 1 and 2- I consider very hopeful if the owner is willing to work with the dog and comply with my protocol very closely. 

I also take other factors into consideration. For instance, a large breed of dog that is showing food guarding issues (even with very good bite inhibition), that lives in the same household as a toddler. If the owner just wanted me to turn the dog into a teddy bear, without taking extreme precaution to protect the child, I would not do it. I could not in good conscience put a child in danger. A lot is determined by owner compliance really. A dedicated owner with the time and patience to put into working with the dog, who follows directions well, and is willing to protect those around the dog etc, will fare much better then an owner who just wants me to “wave my magic wand and fix the dog”. 

But, in MANY situations with an aggressive dog, there can be hope. You just need to work with the right trainer/behaviorist for your situation and dog, and be willing to prevent problems as well as spend the time and energy to work on it.

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)