Dog aggression is scary. So scary that owners of aggressive dogs often go into denial about the problem until it gets worse… sometimes a lot worse.
Better to catch it early, and The Canine Aggression Workbook by James O’Heare can help you do this. Or if it is too late to catch it early, there is still a lot you can do in most cases. (In rare situations, euthanasia is the best choice, and the book looks at this.)
O’Heare has an academic background, and the book is quite technically written in parts, where it describes different classes of dog aggression, learning theory, and treatment modalities.
Mercifully, each chapter has a short summary for dog owners who don’t want to wade through all the technical details. As I read it, I found the “Take Home Message” summaries left out a lot of interesting material, so if you are the owner of an aggressive dog, or one that shows some worrisome signs, I’d suggest skimming through the whole book as well as reading the summaries more closely. This book requires some effort, but is worth it for increasing your understanding of canine aggression and what it means. And of course, as O’Heare himself suggests, do consult a dog behavior counselor as needed.
I was pleased that this book uses positive training methods only! If you want to work with a trainer who uses primarily positive methods, there is an international list at the website of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.
How do you know if you own a dog with potential aggression problems? O’Heare says, “Have you heard your dog growl at someone? If yes, then you have a problem. Has your dog ever snapped at anyone? If yes, then you have a problem.”
The book offers a lot of information on treatment and managing dog aggression, for example, if you have a dog who is nervous around men with beards, then it’s up to you to do some training and also to manage situations when men with beards might be around your dog.
If you need a wake up call or even if you just want to be more informed about dog aggression, here is a good site to know about: Dogbitelaw.com documents the dog bite epidemic in the US, and provides a lot of information. The attorney who runs it has created a real labor of love, with many articles, tips, and facts.