(CBS SF) – When a dog exhibits aggressive behavior, should the owner punish the dog?

“The short answer is no,” said Dr. Jack Aldridge, Director of Veterinary Services at the San Francisco SPCA. “When a dog is acting in a confrontational manner he’s trying to communicate to the oncoming threat to back off. Punishing the dog for this behavior adds stress and usually escalates the dog’s response. For example, if your dog growls at the site of other dogs and we punish this warning cue, your dog may suppress growling for the time being however he still feels uncomfortable by the sight of other dogs and the next time he encounters another dog he might not growl but instead may try alternate behaviors, snarling, snapping or even biting to get his point across.”

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What should the owner do in that situation?

“What’s important is for the dog owner to identify what trigger in the environment caused the dog to react in such a way. Examples can be people in uniform, approaching dogs or skateboarders. Now, once the owner has identified these triggers they should avoid overexposing the dog to them and when possible, the dog should remove the dog or shield his vision from the oncoming threat,” Aldridge suggested.

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Can an owner modify the dog’s behavior?

“If a dog is exhibiting aggressive behavior the dog should contact a positive reinforcement trainer or behaviorist experienced with behavior modification right away. The quicker the owner addresses the issue, the better the prognosis,” said Aldridge.

KCBS’ Jeff Bell Reports:

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