What is Hands Off No Conflict Aggression Rehabilitation?  It is a form of working with dogs that are extremely aggressive toward people, and I started it by complete accident.

One day I showed up for a first lesson with a male mixed breed that according to the owners was very aggressive toward people and dogs. It has been my experience that people usually think that the problem is much worse than it really is but in this case it was pretty bad. They lived in a busy apartment complex in Nashville, Tennessee which made the situation even worse because there was people and dogs everywhere.  When I arrived I saw a young couple exit the complex with a dog pulling them on a leash. As soon as the dog spotted me from across the parking lot he went crazy, barking and lunging and trying to get to me. This was my new client.

It was too difficult to talk to the owners so I had them put the dog away so we could go over things. The owners were determined to do e collar training even though I told them I do not rehabilitate aggression with the e collar. To be honest, at this point I was just really burnt out from dealing with {aggressive} so I decided to take a different route. Usually I address the aggression separate from the obedience and e collar work, but not this time.

First, as I do with all clients, I teach the use of the e collar by role playing with the owners. I have them hold the e collar in their hand and I teach as if they were the dog so they understand the timing and proper mechanics. Then once they understand it at that level I hold the e collar and I have them work me as if I am the dog. This works great because I can feel if they are doing what they should be doing and if the timing is correct. Also, it allows me to not always cooperate and teach them how to work through it. This allows them to make mistakes on me and not the dog. Once I was comfortable with their e collar use I had them place the collar on the dog but I held the remote.

First I had them do some luring with food and started the dog on a marker word that would be used during the training. Once the dog caught on to that it was time to start conditioning the dog to the e collar and combining the use of the e collar with the marking and rewarding. We did this with me controlling the remote from a safe distance that did not get the dog worked up by my presence.  The dog did fantastic and by the end of the session I was fairly close, about 10 yards away, without the dog wanting to hurt me and his focus on the owner was great.

The owners continued the training for that week until we met one week later. During the second session we worked on the recall a little more and added the send away or place command. Again this was done by me verbally instructing the owners on what to do and again it went very smoothly without the dog ever getting aggressive toward me. During that second week the owners continued to work on what we went over and started using the e collar for all the basic commands.

It was not until our third and final session that I introduced my dog and worked the client dog using a combination of BAT and CAT. By the end of the session I was getting within 5 feet of the dog with my dog next to me and the only reaction from the client’s aggressive dog was looking at my client waiting for a reward. The following week this dog came to his first group class and I squatted down after a few minutes of lecture with this dog coming to me for a lick and a hug. What a great feeling. I rehabilitated this dog without ever placing my hands on this dog and avoiding all conflict.  The best part about this was that the dog was not only accepting to me but from that day on was accepting to all strangers, even in his home.

I still work with mostly aggressive dogs. The only difference is now when I have a severely people aggressive dog, I use this hands off approach every time and so far it has not failed me. It is a lot less stress on both me and the subject dog and I love it. Give it a try.