How to Raise a Problem Dog

Learn how to increase the income of your local dog behavior consultant by raising a dog who’s fearful, aggressive, and un-housetrained. Or do the opposite, and up the odds of having a friendly, confident pet.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #212

Usually my goal in this series is to help you out with your dog. This week, though, my agenda is to help you help my fellow behavior professionals increase their incomes. I’ll give you some pointers on how to raise a problem dog. If you’ve adopted an adult dog, it’s not too late! You can still do plenty of behavioral damage if you put your mind to it. Here’s how..

Step #1: Teach Your Puppy to Fear the World (Don’t Socialize!)

Up to the age of about 12 weeks, puppies are developmentally primed to accept anything they have a pleasant or neutral experience with as a normal part of the world. The more varied and enjoyable their experiences are, the better their odds of growing up into relaxed, confident, friendly adult dogs who are at ease in all kinds of situations and with all kinds of people. The more you limit their experience, the more likely they are to grow up shy, defensive around strangers and guests, and scared of random items or of just about everything. Those fearful and aggressive dogs make up a large part of any behavior specialist’s business.

Got a newly adopted adult dog who acts like he hasn’t got a care in the world? Just keep him at home all the time and limit his excursions to the backyard and the vet’s office. With any luck, as the world outside becomes less and less familiar, Zippy will lose some of that confidence. You may even see him start growling at strangers!

Step #2: Teach Your Puppy That People Are Dangerous

Rough treatment is a great way to teach a dog that human approach is a threat and she needs to defend herself. So, if your puppy mouths during play, slap her across the muzzle or ram your hand down her throat. If she jumps up to greet you, knee her as hard as you can, and while you’re at it step on her back toes. Never put her in a position to do the right thing and then reward her for it; instead, let her make plenty of mistakes, and then yank on her collar, or smack her, for making them.

Dogs don’t force each other to the ground except in the context of a serious fight, so alpha rolling your pup or adult dog is a great way to teach her that human beings are dangerous indeed.

When your dog starts acting defensive every time your hands come anywhere near her, you know you’ve done your job. A dog who’s always been taught by gentle means and who associates human touch only with comfort and pleasure isn’t likely to contribute to your trainer’s retirement fund.

Step #3: Teach Your Puppy to Guard Food and Toys

Resource-guarding dogs are an important source of revenue for behavior consultants! You can easily teach many puppies and dogs to stiffen up, growl, snarl, and even bite if you approach while they’re eating, playing with a toy, or even just hanging out. Here’s how:


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).