Aggressive behaviour in dogs, the role of learning

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Publication details

McBride, EA, Redhead, E & Bizo, LA 2006, 'Aggressive behaviour in dogs, the role of learning', paper presented to the 32nd Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis, Atlanta, Georgia, May 27-29.


Aggressive behaviour in dogs has become a major topic of scientific research in Northern Europe and USA. It ranks among the top problems presented to animal behaviour therapists. Research into the influence of owner/dog interactions on the development of aggression has yielded contradictory results. However in Animal Behaviour Therapy the influence of the owner’s behaviour has proved to be a major factor in changing the animal’s aggressive behaviour. In principal, aggressive behaviour in dogs can be considered normal, species-specific behaviour, essential for survival. Learning and genotype both play a role in its development. The principles of learning are relatively unknown to the general public and so are rarely applied systematically in everyday dog training. Typical training procedures and have been found to reinforce aggressive behaviour in dogs. The aim of the paper will be to illustrate this using various case studies from animal behaviour therapy sessions and how problematic aggressive behaviour within dogs can be modified.