Aggression Training Using Robotic Dogs

Bark Buster David HayBy: Guest Expert David Hay (left, with Mighty Tiny Mike Tyson) of Bark Busters West Houston


In some cases of dog-on-dog aggression—for instance, a day-sleeper leader who has few opportunities to set scenes at a conventional time of day—a robotic dog can serve as a surrogate foil during leadership and desensitizing exercises. Other times, for safety’s sake, the behavior is too severe to introduce another live animal, at least at the beginning.

Robo-dogs are available at toy stores, technology outlets, and, surprise-surprise, the Internet. (Buyer beware, the shar-pei robo-dog purchased online may not be the authentic version.)

The trainer and the leader of the home pack should not immediately open the box, insert batteries and begin exercises. We need to train ourselves with our new robo-dog so that we know exactly the right amount of distraction/stimulus or challenge we are presenting to a live dog. The controls may be sensitive; take the time to become familiar with the motions and commotions of your new robo-dog.

The live dog will be watching robo-dog’s body language just like he would another live dog’s body language. Robo-dog is likely to be small, but we know that in real-dog world a Chihuahua can lord over a Doberman if the Chihuahua knows what he’s doing and the Doberman is relatively clueless.

Therefore, we want to keep all four of robo-dog’s feet on the ground at all times. Having robo-dog prance around the first day like a Tyrannosaurus Rex or Tyrannasaura Reginae is going to be too much stimulus for an already dog-aggressive live dog. Just because your new robo-dog can do something gymnastically does not mean that he should do it.

On the first session with the live dog, your new robo-dog should not even have his batteries inserted. Start indoors in a quiet, spacious room. Proceed through a customary 2-second meet, sniff and greet. Any sign of aggression should be corrected and the live dog should be led away.

Your new robo-dog and live dog should not be left in a room together unsupervised. Secure baby gates or other barriers may be used as well as supervision through video baby monitors or Skype-induced computers.

Advantages to using a robo-dog or a less animated stuffed dog: The artificial (robo or stuffed) dog will not react, aggressively or otherwise (please never use your new robo-dog to tease, confuse or antagonize a live dog). The leader (you) can concentrate on controlling one dog rather than two dogs. The live dog can approach and be introduced to robo-dog politely with fewer variables and less risk than would be involved with a live dog to live dog introduction.

Your new robo-dog may actually cost more to adopt than your average rescue, but will be much more economical to feed.

AND NEVER GIVE YOUR NEW ROBO-DOG WATER!

David Hay has been a Bark Busters Dog Behavioral Therapist in Houston, TX, for 5.5 years—that’s 38.5 in dog years.

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