Jojo – Fear Aggression Case Study

I’d like to recount a recent client of mine who called me about her dog Jojo, who was exhibiting severe signs of fear aggression. After trying out other trainers, there seemed to be little hope for Jojo, and there were worries about his fate.

For some back story: Jojo was adopted at six months. His owner loved him immediately at the shelter and brought him home that day. He was a perfectly well-behaved dog, though she noticed that he seemed a bit shy. They developed a strong bond together, and everything seemed great. However, Jojo’s shyness with other people and dogs started becoming serious, where it was manifesting into fear aggression. With friends coming over to the house, Jojo initially would just hide away. His owner’s friends would joke about how anti-social Jojo was. It wasn’t until a friend decided to really try to meet Jojo face-to-face that it became apparent that Jojo needed help. That friend met Jojo and they left with a bite mark on the face. His owner was appalled and at a loss on what to do. She researched online and many people told her that Jojo would be like this forever, and that she would just have to deal with. Knowing she did not want to give up on either her dog or social life, she called several dog trainers seeking help. Some work was done, but overall, she was not satisfied and did not see long-term results for Jojo’s behavior. She called me, as her and Jojo’s last chance.

I’ve been working with her and Jojo for a few months now. It is not to say that training a fear aggressive dog is a piece of cake. However, it must be said that it is an absolute myth and dangerous theory that all aggressive dogs are doomed to follow this inappropriate lifestyle for the remainder of their lives! Since becoming a professional dog trainer here in the Tampa area, I have encountered all types of aggression in various dogs, and they always have a chance for hope! Trust me, I’ve seen it!

Fear aggression is caused by anxiety and insecurity. One of the many mistakes Jojo’s past trainers made was immediately confronting the aggression, before working on lowering the anxiety levels and restoring confidence within the dog. If we immediately put a nervous dog in a difficult situation, they are probably going to fail miserably! What Jojo needed was to understand and feel success. I believe in exposure and desensitization, but we must get down to the core basics first! Jojo needed to feel like he could at least handle fear-inducing stimuli a little bit more. This is why I work using reward-based techniques and work at the dog’s pace, never wanting to push him over the edge. We bring training exercises and challenges that stimulate the dog’s mind, but if the mind is already overstimulated with anxiety, we need to calm that first! It’s like in the movie What About Bob?: “Baby steps!”

With Jojo’s case, he still has a way to go, but the changes in him have been remarkable. Andrea no longer fears inviting guests over to the home. We have helped Jojo become a more confident, secure dog, and he has learned the rewarding experience of being a calm, obedient dog. We are so excited for both of them!

If you have a dog suffering with fear aggression or any other behavioral problem, call me at 800-649-7297, or email me at!