Aggressive / Reactive Dog Program

Management of dog-dog and dog-human aggression.


Reactivity Starter Pack

Book - Confidence Unleashed written by our director, Scott Corcoran. Blackmores Complete Calm supplement, Prime 100 Kangaroo and Pumpkin Treats, EzyDog Luca Rope Leash and a Company of Animals Coachi Clicker. Valued at $160. Yours for FREE when you enrol in the Adelaide K9 Services Aggressive / Reactive Dog Program.

*for a limited time, only while stocks last  

What is Aggression?

The RSPCA defines aggression as “A threat, challenge or attack that is directed towards one or more individuals (dog or animal)”.

In reality Aggression is a non-scientific word used to describe a wide range of social behaviours directed at people, dogs or inanimate objects (think vacuum cleaner). These include hard staring, lip curling, barking, growling, lunging, snapping, nipping and biting. Aggression is further confused by associating it with stimuli which are believed to trigger it, including being on leash (leash aggression), fear or anxiety (fear aggression) or social status (dominance aggression). The truth is none of these definitions are very helpful. There are a few basic types of aggression.

Aggression is behaviour, and like all other behaviour it accesses reinforcers which maintain it.

The vast majority of aggression cases are maintained by subtracted reinforcement - this means that an undesirable stimulus is removed, and the behaviour is strengthened. The typical reactive dog experiences fear or anxiety in the presence of a strange dog or person, sometimes both. In response they behave aggressively. The threat display may look very convincing, but the objective is to make the dog or person move away. The increased distance alleviates their anxiety and aggression is reinforced. True dominance is very rare.

Causes of Aggression

The vast majority of aggression is a fear / anxiety-based response, but there are other types of aggression. 

  • Fear / Anxiety. A stimulus (often the presence of an unknown person or unknown dog) causes an anxious dog to anticipate a negative experience. When the stimulus is presented over the threshold aggression occurs.  

  • Frustration. A fearful dog wants to avoid the other dog - increase distance, a social dog wants to play - decrease distance. In both cases being attached to a human by a leash and unable to control their movement and interaction leads to frustration. 

  • Possessive. Also called resource guarding. The dog displays aggression in order to keep possession of objects they value, this could be food, a toy, a spot on the lounge or even a person. 

  • Territorial. The dog displays aggression ONLY at a certain location, often at a fence or threshold (door/gate).

  • Conflict / Redirected. When the dog is disciplined or corrected in the presence of another stimulus the dog redirects aggression to the handler. 

  • Predatory. Very rare in dog-human aggression, more common in dog-dog aggression, or dog-animal aggression (cats). Is triggered by prey like movements of the target. The predatory sequence is visible, the dog will silently stare and stalk before attacking.

  • Idiopathic. Also referred to as impulse control aggression or rage. As the name suggests this type of aggression occurs without an apparent stimulus or motive. This type of aggression is a sudden / explosive attack - severe and fatal dog-human attacks often fall into this category. Thankfully this type of aggression is also rare and there are subtle signs leading to an attack.  

Contributing Factors

Aggression and reactivity are complex issues to resolve. Sometimes the cause is obvious...your dog was great around other dogs until they were attacked at the dog park...go figure! However, most times it is not so clear and many times we won't identify a specific cause. There are often several factors at play. 

  • Age and Sex. Statistically aggression is most common in male dogs over 12 months of age who have not been neutered. 

  • Inadequate Socialization. This is prevalent at the moment due to all the COVID puppies who were not exposed to enough dogs, people and places during the socialisation period. 

  • Poor Breeding. When anxious dogs with thin nerves are bred their offspring are likely to possess the same qualities. 

  • Unfulfilled Prey Drive. Prey Drive (or Hunting Drive) is an innate desire to chase and catch moving objects. Dogs with a lot of prey drive (working dogs: shepherds, retrievers, terriers) need an outlet for this drive, or it can manifest in unacceptable ways. Playing tug and fetch with these dogs is essential. 

  • Negative Associations. The dog may have been attacked by another dog, or received harsh corrections from the handler in the presence of an unknown dog and now finds them extremely aversive. 

  • Accidental Reinforcement. The handler reinforced aggressive behaviour when the dog was a puppy - 'Oh look at you, you're so tough!', or by petting the dog when it feels anxious - 'There, there, it's okay'. 

How does the Program fix Aggression?

 Firstly, we recognize that confidence is key to resolve anxiety, as is healthy relationship with you the owner!

To that effect we work on your handling skills and your communication with your dog, building engagement. This is super important - a dog cannot be engaged and reactive at the same time and in some cases, this will completely eliminate aggression / reactivity. The next step is to work on counter conditioning, teaching the dog what we want them to do instead. Finally, we do desensitization exercises using one of our HELPER DOGS.   


Week 1

The first step is a comprehensive behaviour functional assessment. This helps us identify what triggers the aggression, what reinforces it and how to manage it effectively. 


Weeks 2 -3 

The next step is to address impulse control and behaviour management techniques within the home environment. 


Week 3 - 6

Finally, we go to a park near you where we do counter conditioning and desensitization exercises, with the use of a helper dog, or person. 



You will receive access to our proprietary training material which explains the process in detail. Of course, we will be here to assist you with ongoing support

Customer Reviews

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Frequently Asked Questions

We have answered the most frequently asked questions below. If you have another one, please don't hesitate to give us a call or contact us.  

Will the Program work for my dog?

We have trained over a hundred dogs using our method and, in each case, reactivity was either completely extinguished or reduced to a manageable level. The program works for all breeds, with all levels of intensity, from Poodles to German Shepherds. Any dog will benefit.   

How long does the Program take?

The program consists of 6 sessions typically delivered once a week; however, we are very flexible around this timing. If you, or your dog, need more time to practice between sessions we can extend them to 2-3 weeks apart without affecting the program. 

How long is each session, and how much does it cost?

The first session is 2 to 3 hours. The remaining sessions are a minimum of 1 hour but typically run to 90 minutes. The average is 10 hours for the entire program. The ARDP is currently offered at a fixed price of $1,800 which makes it great value (around $180 per hour).

Is this an aversive free, or force free process?

Let me be clear on this - punishment is never the answer to any behaviour of concern and aggression is no exception. Our process is based on differential reinforcement and respondent conditioning which occurs when good things start to happen in the presence of an aversive stimulus (a strange dog or person). After multiple exposures the stimulus becomes less aversive, so aggression or reactivity become irrelevant. While we attempt to keep your dog below threshold for aggression / reactivity at all times if they do react, they will experience leash pressure (mostly applied by themselves), as well as the process of taking away reinforcement for the aggressive behaviour (by not creating distance), which some dogs find aversive.     

Can you help my Menacing or Dangerous Dog?

We have experience working with local councils to resolve behaviour for dogs that have been declared menacing or dangerous, including dogs with serious bite history. Although we are not currently certified to assess these dogs - this is something we are working towards.

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