Just like people, dogs can cover up insecurities with bombastic behavior and even aggression.
I was working with two huge males Great Danes that were acting in an aggressive manner whenever anyone came to their front door. I was the fourth private dog trainer they had, basically meaning nothing in the past had worked, whether it be positive reinforcement by re-directing their behavior or negative reinforcement by correcting them.
I was worried as these 2 dogs are waaaaay bigger than me, which is absolutely not fun knowing that they enjoy their aggressive greeting.
I don’t believe in the nonsense of dominance or in trying to overpower a dog. I want to connect with them, to understand them, and to see the motives behind their behavior. The way I do this is by asking “What Core Need are you trying to meet?” My job is to find the answer and then give the dog a better way to meet their Need.
Most of the time when a dog or a person is aggressive or bombastic, it stems from insecurities! They are attempting to cover their insecurities by acting all tough. After all, we have all heard the term “The Best Defense is Offense”.
Once we determined that the Great Danes needed the Core Need of Certainty in order for them not to feel fear and therefore not to cover it up with aggression, we went to work building their confidence up with games and with acting very silly. Very quickly we got to see that particularly when we jumped and acted like silly kids, the dogs would run away in fear. It was so amazing to see their transformation as we got them to associate the UNKNOWN with a sense of pleasure and fun, instead of fearing it and trying to control everything.
Then we started working with people at the door. One of the people was their security man. He was all tough and acted like he wasn’t afraid at all. The dogs really acted out when they saw it was him. I asked him to lose the tough look and smile instead, even if it was fake. He refused. “I train rottweilers and other dogs, I know what I’m doing,” he insisted although, clearly, all he did was create chaos. No matter how much we tried to convince him, he insisted on staying tough. We also came to realize that no matter what the topic we talked about with him, he was an expert on that topic… at least in his own mind. He was married to the idea that in order to be respected and to meet his Core Needs for Significance and for Certainty, he needed to be tough and an expert in everything.
It was unbelievable to see how the man was stuck at having to be in control no matter what, while the dogs were courageous enough to relinquish control and actually experience trust and being emotionally brave. They no longer needed to cover up their insecurities with bombastic behavior, but the security man, sadly, was stuck.