Ok, so I know this lovely Golden Retriever. He's almost a senior, has been owned by the same people from the day he left his mama's side. Lovely story, eh? Well, here's something to think about ... This dog has some agression issues. Mainly it was in and around the food bowl. It started innocently enough, as a puppy, he would growl at his food while eating it as fast as he could. The owners thought it was cute.
**I can NOT stress enough to people ... If it's not going to be cute as an adult, then why is it cute as a puppy?**
Ok, so that sounds not so bad, right? Well as the dog got older, the growling increased. It was so subtle that the owners didn't notice. As the growling increased, so did the obsession. He began turning his head towards people and growling while eating as fast as he could. This increased until it turned into charging.
Well, you know the people didn't notice or worry about it until their own dog started charging at them! Why oh why didn't they care when he was growling??!!? Ok, so now they have realized they have a problem. At this same time, the agression flooded into anything the dog had or wanted ... toys, bones, food, couches, floor space.
So they call a big name dog training team who come in to assess the dog. The company says "no problem, with a little training, we can stop this behaviour!" The company gives them some very detailed instructions, invites them to weekly training sessions and gives the owners a handful of bean bags and chains.
"What is this all about?" ... is what you might be asking if you had experience with dogs. Unfortunately, these people did not and they took the word of these "professionals" as gospel. So they did as they were told. Every time the dog was eating and growling, they threw bean bags and chains at him. The training company said it would "desensitize" the dog.
What do you think this did?? Well, you'd better believe that this increased the behaviour!! I would like to pause in my relaying of the story to say ... asshats! *headdesk, headdesk, headdesk*
At that point, instead of fixing the problem, it got worse (no kidding!). When it was meal time, the people took the food to the kitchen, dropped the bowl on the floor for the dog and were forced to turn and run out of the room for fear that their own dog would attack them.
They have since found a NEW trainer who is helping them to work through these agression issues, but it has become a long and hard struggle when it should have been something so simple to fix! Luckily for the dog, their owners (who may be dumb people!) really love that galoot.
Now I need to say something that may end up controversial and remember, this is my opinion. A lot of people "test" dogs by playing with their food. In the home ... Why would you do that?! What better way to create a food obsession by saying, "here Fido, here's your food ... nah I changed my mind, It's mine ... ok, here's your food ... nah changed my mind". Good grief, just by typing that it makes me frustrated!! I hate to say it, but if I were a dog, I certainly would NOT respond well to that. (Yes, I am aware that many professionals do this, but I don't agree that it is a necessary test)
If you do see signs of agression, please talk to MULTIPLE behaviour specialists, read some books on your own (I recommend any books by Dr. Ian Dunbar, Patricia McConnell, or Karen Pryor), and make your own conclusions about whether or not that professional is offering you sound advice. If you choose to trust that professional, then hire him/her on and have them help teach you how to train your dog.
I would like to suggest that the person should have their CPDT papers (Certification for Pet Dog Trainers), but unfortunately, this does not guarantee that the trainer will be any good with behavioural problems. Most CPDT's are great with obedience, but many aren't versed overly well when it comes to complex behavioural problems (note that I did say "many" ... some are good with behaviours, I'm sure - just not any I've met). For those trainers that I know, the ones that are awesome at training obedience don't know how to deal with serious behaviours, and vice versa.
And please remember people ... there is NO circumstance that would require you to throw chains and bean bags at your dog ... it will only make the behaviours worse and prove to the rest of us that you are an asshat that shouldn't own a dog. Go get a pet rock. I have a few for sale if you'd like?