Dobermans are loyal, smart and strong. They make excellent pets and formidable guard dogs. However, a poorly trained, previously abused or anxious doberman may become aggressive. Due to his size, an aggressive doberman is potentially dangerous. Fortunately, you can correct this behavior in a kind, humane way.
Monitor your doberman’s behavior to identify the source of aggression. The breed was originally created for personal security and Dobermans are instinctively protective, so it’s probable that his aggression stems from an instinctive desire to warn off perceived threats. Other causes may include fear and resource guarding. If your doberman is aggressive only toward visitors, he is being territorial. If he’s aggressive when startled, it’s most likely fear-based aggression. If he’s aggressive around his food, he’s protecting his resources.
Note down the gestures and actions that signify aggression. These may include growling, barking, staring and flashing the teeth.
Leash the dog. In a controlled environment free from distraction, simulate the circumstances that provoke aggression. For example, have a friend walk up to the house or put the vacuum cleaner on. Ensure that you have total control over the dog at all times. Don’t provoke him or whip him up into a frenzy.
Praise the dog and give him lots of fuss. This is a positive reinforcer. Your dog will enjoy being fussed over. You can then easily make his environment worse by simply stopping the fuss. This is called negative punishment. It is a kind and effective alternative to positive punishment, which relies on introducing an aversive stimulus, such as yelling or smacking, to correct an unwanted behavior.
Neutralize the motivation for aggression. As soon as he shows signs of aggression, stop praising him and ignore him. This teaches him that when he becomes aggressive, the positive reinforcement he was receiving will cease. To his mind, aggressive behavior reduces the quality of his environment.
Reward the dog for calmness. As soon as he relaxes, give him a treat. This teaches the dog that being calm when faced with an aggression stimulus produces a good outcome. Over time, he’ll learn that aggression produces a negative outcome and calmness a positive one. Repeat this exercise regularly until your dog is capable of completely ignoring or remaining passive to the stimulus that originally caused aggression.
Items you will need
- Keep training sessions brief to avoid boredom.
- Always leash your dog when exposing him to things that stimulate aggression.
- Doberman image by Stana from Fotolia.com