Eliminating Barrier Aggression

Many dogs act aggressively when they are behind a barrier, such as a gate, fence, crate or car
window. The following technique can be used
to eliminate this undesirable behavior. It is not
intended for use with a dog who acts aggressively on lead. For your own safety, do the exercise through a barrier with an opening just large
enough for a treat to pass through.
To begin changing the undesirable behavior, you
will need to change the dog’s negative association with being behind the barrier to a positive
association. Use these steps:

  1. Equip yourself with food rewards. For safety,
    long moist stick treats are recommended. Put
    the rewards in a pouch around your waist so
    that your hands are free.
  2. Take the dog to an area where you can use
    food rewards without interference from other
    dogs. If you have to work in a run, remove
    the other dogs until you’ve finished.
  3. Begin by giving a treat through the barrier,
    even if the dog looks aggressive. Give another as soon as the first has been eaten; repeat
    until you’ve given five stick treats.
  4. Then, stop and wait for 3–5 seconds; if the
    dog remains calm, give him five more treats.
    If he becomes aggressive, say nothing to him;
    just turn and walk away.
  5. If the dog became aggressive, move him to
    another area (behind another barrier) where
    he hasn’t been practicing bad behavior. Give
    him five stick treats; if he remains calm, give
    him five more.
    As you work with a dog, here are some things to
    keep in mind:
    • Always use a calm, gentle tone while working
    with a dog.
    • Keep sessions short – five minutes or less at
    • Remember to take breaks; stop and take the
    dog out for a walk.
    • Be patient, but optimistic! Progress may be
    slow, but it will happen.
    Once progress has been made with one handler,
    start introducing different handlers in different
    locations to help the dogs generalize about the
    positive associations.


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