Are dogs becoming more aggressive, having more problems than in years past?

Fifty plus years ago our family dogs had a dog run on the side of the house, access to the yard, and if the gate was open, access to the neighborhood. They ate bagged dog food, all of our leftovers, food we snuck under the table for them, plus raw fish from our boat, and raw bones.

We always knew they would come home if they got out of our yard, so we never went to look for them, and we never pondered what they did with all of their free time. It was just a dog thing.

Our dogs were all people friendly, dog social that we knew of, and happy. They were for sure all ‘kid-dogs’ and did everything we did, walk to the pond, roller skating, swimming, wondering through the woods, running and playing in the yard, garden work, etc. We had no behavioral issues, no barking, fence running, or blustery acts of any kind. But we also never had one that died of old age, they all lived large but rather short lives, hunting and cars seemed to be the culprits, not disease.

They had access to ample sunshine, rain, dirt, mud, grass, water, and everything else nature provided.

And if my Mom remembered, they had ‘a’ rabies shot in their lifetime. That was it. They went to the veterinary for desexing and minor injuries, but our visits were years apart, or maybe more.

And our neighbors dogs were pretty much the same. And we all knew the one dog that we needed to stay away from in the neighborhood, and it was literally one.

Was this right or wrong? I don’t know, it was just how it was, a more natural life, but for sure lacking good management.


Fast forward to today, and every other puppy or dog I work with has a digestive issue, cyclical parasite issues, auto-immune disease, liver issues, joint problems, cancer, opinions that fall outside of neutral, or damaging behaviors to self, property, or others.

So what’s the rub here? Today we have advancements in science, medicine, lifestyle, food, knowledge, oh wait a second …

Have we been seeing advancements in health, or advancements in advertising and marketing?

It seems to me that modern dogs are our ‘canary in the coal mine’, and we should be paying attention because right in front of our faces in our vary own living rooms, our dogs are giving us the heads up that all is not well. We have been convinced that trading a more natural life for a processed and pharmaceutically driven life, is somehow better.

Our modern dogs do have more behavioral issues, but is it coming from their breed or breeding or is it coming from, inappropriate processed food, unnecessary medications, household toxins, over vaccination, lack of time in the outdoors, and just maybe all of the things we are being sold to use on them and in them? Or is it a combination of everything, like a ‘layered crap cake’, hard to parcel apart which what is coming from whatever place?

When dogs walk into my classroom I can tell within minutes who is on sugar and who is raw fed. Who is being fed dog food but nutritionally starved. I can tell who is having an adverse reaction to recent vaccines, and which dog has a parasite load. It isn’t rocket science, but rather acutely observing how a dog is negotiating the environment, or not.

And dogs are labeled everyday as difficult, hyper, over the top, aggressive, blustery, a problem, too much for the household, etc.

And I hear the words, unacceptable behavior, must change, must obey, must learn to submit, does my dog need a shock collar to learn? etc.

And when I suggest that in order to see change the household must change, meaning a whole new landscape much different from the current one, and that change starts with diet, I am 50% of the time met with ‘no way’.

There are many steps to change, diet is always number one because we are literally what we eat, and diet determines how we feel and how we act, and will either hijack or enhance over all well-being and health. Without changing the diet it is nothing more than a band-aid on a leaking dam.

Compliance is a funny monkey though, while owners want change with their dog, over half of the people I work with are reluctant or down right resistant to change the people ‘choices’ end of things.

Why? Because advertising and marketing firms know that fear sells things, in fact fear is so powerful that it trumps knowledge, common sense, logic, and love.

If you are told that a raw diet will kill your dog and in turn your children, friends and family, and you will all be shedding salmonella and become the typhoid Mary’s of your neighborhood, you will most likely stick to dead processed food in a bag. Even though we all have a level of common sense and logic, fear tells us not to use it.

And if you are told that heartworm is now rampant in your area and your dog will die a horrible agonizing death, even though since the beginning of time heartworm has never existed in your area, and it isn’t possible because of the colder temperatures, and you have an eight month winter with no possibility of mosquitos, you will sign up for year-round heartworm treatment. Why? Because fear sells, and there is oodles of profit to be had on this medication, and the marketing is strong.

For me, I see sicker dogs every year. I see dogs on diets that are no healthier than a leather boot. I see more medicated dogs every year. I see vaccine injured puppies every night I have class. I see dogs on preventatives for things that don’t need preventing. I see increasing health issues in dogs that shouldn’t be happening, they are almost all man-made. I see gut issues 24/7 365 and this is so upsetting to me. I see it all.

And when a dog doesn’t feel well they don’t act well. This my friends is a fact.

The want to change, to want to learn more, the want for more information is low. People are busy, things to do and places to go, and for some weird twisted reason, these people are more comfortable paying for more of the very things keeping their dogs unwell, than stepping up, slowing down, and creating real change.

Do I work with people who want change, yes, yes I do. People who are looking for truthful information, as hard as it is to hear, find me and do the work, and it is a breath of fresh air to see real change, sustainable healthy change, that takes work and effort, but all so worth it. This, this is what I wish for more and more.


38 Comments Add yours

  1. dayphoto says:

    Oh! I so agree with you!. And that nasty sawdust dog food out there…well, enough said.

      1. I think that the difference is that in the 40s and 50s there were no leash laws, and many dogs wandered in ‘local packs’ during the day. As well as this, because dogs tended to be everywhere, most people learned when tiny how to behave around dogs. Dogs were NOT expected to let every child run up to them, and adults didn’t act fearfully or aggressive around loose dogs.
        The downside was that many pups died of Distemper and many more dogs were skittled on the road. Then people did NOT tolerate badly behaved dogs, and a quick trip to the tip with a gun was often the solution for problem dogs,

  2. Casper O' Hane says:

    What do you think about heart worm prevention meds if the dog lives in an area where there is heartworm? And here’s what I don’t get: if I’m using a flea and tick repellant that supposedly repels mosquitos, why do I need heartworm prevention? Doesn’t heartworm come from mosquitos?

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      So I would do some reading – if you yourself don’t take flea and tick medication when going outside, why does your dog need it? Here are some links worth reading – and the decision needs to be yours but through reading and researching – Nancy

      FLEA & TICK –

    2. None of the flea/tick products here claim to repel mosquitoes. And knowing the determination of our Mosquitoes to bite despite mosquito repellents I would not rely on them.
      I’ve always want to produce T-shirts for Foreigners visiting Australia, saying ‘I’ve been Bitten by an Aussie- Mozzie” with a picture of a Mosquito carrying off a baby!!

  3. Casper O' Hane says:

    Thanks for those articles. I actually had read the flea and tick one. My issue is that none of the natural stuff I have used this far has worked. My dog has a flea allergy and spent all of last summer scratching constantly until I discovered Bravecto. Which like all chemical flea and tick prevention is toxic. But I swear, I never knew a little bug could cause so much suffering, and believe me she suffered, for months on end, as I kept trying this and that natural thing and this and that chemical. I’m still searching for a natural way, but for now, I will do anything not to have to watch my dog go through that again. Much research ahead still.

      1. You are most definitely correct on all counts. One of my dogs was given a shot at 12 weeks in order to get an health certificate to leave the state. He is so different from my other 2 in his ability to learn new things. He is a wonderful, loving dog and I would not trade having for anything even though it takes him months to learn what other dogs learn in days or weeks. My dogs are raw fed from the day I get them and he is healthy, happy and active. He just takes longer and I suspect is has something to do with the vaccine being given way too early. You are so right about fear. I joined a group because the sound of the topic was of interest to me. As I read the daily writings and listened to the almost daily pod casts I began to wonder when the products would be offered. It wasn’t long. But, before the products came the information generating fear. Yep. Fear sells. Thanks for you blog. I enjoy and appreciate reading what is written truthfully and with good sense.

    1. Eve says:

      Mine gets Bravecto as well. We are in ticks area during their active time and had an experience with a nest of them. It’s a new sort of these beasts that cannot be controlled by natural stuff. Since three years now not having any problems

      1. d says:

        Mine is not on Bravecto, but Simparica. Ticks have been horrible this year in all the public parks. This pup has not shown any flea allergy, but had a dog before who had it & nothing I could do worked; this is before Revolution, Bravecto, & Simparica, became available. As for Heartworm. Maybe our area shouldn’t be infested due to the weather being negative for mosquitoes in the winter, but round worms, etc., are also a problem, & the H Worm meds take care of that too; as well as other type of worm infestation possibilities. As far as Salmonella … well have dealt with that too in the past, not fun, scary, & yes she survived. I just avoid fish based products for my current pup.

      2. Casper O' Hane says:

        We don’t yet have a problem with ticks where I live, (knock on wood.) And I agree, the fleas and ticks never used to be such a problem. I feel like I’m adding to the problem, using a chemical that is ultimately going to make the fleas stronger when they become resistant to it. But right now, while I search for something better, it works and it keeps her from spending the summer in misery.

      3. My dogs love to Sunbake, and will lie in the sun until their coats are uncomfortable to touch. I strongly suspect that this behaviour is to help eliminate fleas. I know that fleas tend to leave a fevered body.

  4. Julia says:

    Great post, Nancy. Thanks for writing about this.

  5. Sara says:

    Interesting thoughts, but only parts of it rings true to me.

    When my mom talked about growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, it wasn’t one dog you knew to stay away from. It was stay away from all the dogs but one. They chased and bit bikes, cars, and people. My dad’s dogs who got people food and cheap canned dog food were put down at 8 or 9 because they had cancer everywhere. The first one to beat that had more dry dog food and less people food, he was supervised more and not left alone outside for as long. Two years ago, had a heart attack at ten and died at home in my dad’s arms.

    I do agree with you on the idea that things are over marketed. I don’t feed my dog “raw” food or stuff that is just pure meat, but I do have to be careful what I buy him. He gets sick if he eats Purina or puperoni or any “cheap” grocery store dog food. But stagnant puddles, deer poop and dead fish? He’s fine. So when I buy into “natural” products, I am reading ingredients to make sure there aren’t too many dies, preservatives, or corn. The corn thing is because of monocropping and certain types of genetic engineering, i.e. round-up ready corn.

    So, do I agree marketing over-blows claims about natural food? Yes. Do I think we are missing any “good old days”? No. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.

  6. Michelle McCarthy says:

    Thank you for writing about this, something I have been thinking/saying for years. When I was a kid everyones dog lived to be 18, now we are thrilled when our dogs makes it to 5 years old, very sad. For all the advances in Veterinary Medicine, why are our dogs living shorter lives. Why are so many sick from day 1? So many dogs with behavior issues……too many to count. For the past 5 years I’ve taken the ‘less is better’ approach and my dogs are healthier and happier . Our dogs deserve better than a 3-4 year life span or chronic illness.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      You know, so many of my colleagues are seeing the same things, so many, from coast to coast, and it is heartbreaking that pet owners are becoming desensitized to ‘disease’ at early ages, almost like they are waiting for it to happen to their dog.

      It would be lovely if disease was abnormal and health was the norm!

      And yes I agree less is more –


  7. I changed to raw food the day my ex husband moved. To be honest I thought that the change in the behaviour of my dog was due to the devorce and because it is “the 2 of us against the world” now 😉 but after this article I wonder if the diet is the reason. She is much calmer now when we meet other dogs. Well, if it is not one of the few that she just doesn’t like. But even that is much easier to handle.
    What a pity that your are located on the other side of the world (I’m living in Sweden), I’d really would love to introduce you to Maya. 😊

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Sometimes ‘hindsight’ is 20/20 as they say.

      I’m not on the other side of the world, just across a bit of an ocean and one or two mountain ranges!

      All the best, Nancy

  8. Patricia says:

    Interesting thoughts. Perhaps dogs are more hyped up because people are more hyped up. How do you buy raw food particularly meat that doesn’t come from agribusiness? Those animals are full of cortisol and other fear and stress based hormones as a result of the life they live and from the grain they are fed. Do folks only buy grass fed meats for their dogs?

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      You can buy commercial raw from companies that source carefully like ANSWERS, PRIMAL, NW NATURALS – We live in an area were we buy direct from the farmer/rancher – and we have a local raw dog food co-op so we can purchase whole cow, pig, lamb, and share costs. ALl of the meat in our area is grown naturally, pasture raised, no feed lots.

  9. Judy Heise says:

    I did switch my dog to raw because of her skin issues. Unfortunately, it did not work for her. She lost so much weight (she was small to begin with) she was lethargic and it did nothing to help her skin (she was on it for a couple of months). Switched back to a good commercial food and had a good medicated shampoo and she was starting to gain weight. her skin cleared up and she was a happy girl. Vet said not all dogs do well on raw and I believe her, it depends on the dog. Everything else in you article I am in total agreement. Humans, greed and the need for power are the reasons we are all suffering!!!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Judy here is a short video clip, part of a series with WolfRidge Icelandics – Barb switched all 9 of her dogs to raw, and the older dogs de-toxed and cleansed for up to 1.5 years – and after their systems were now truly healed from years of kibble and functioning as they should – she had a ranch full of truly healthy dogs – optimally healthy –

  10. Nan Arthur says:

    Thank you for the great piece. Nearly all of my behavior cases are eating kibble and most people are open to change if they can understand the reasons. I’ll be pointing people to this.

  11. Tracy says:

    I am a trainer & im seeing the opposite we are seeing more behavioural issues from raw fed dogs. Particularly in reactivity. Those clients that have transitioned back to dry mix have actually reported that the reactivity has been reduced (e.g going back to Burns dry diet). I’m sad to say as I know there is many health benefits that raw can help with but unfortunately it’s put me off going raw due to links I’ve seen to behaviour at work, I too can pick the raw fed dogs out in a class but for the opposite to what you describe. I’d love to see more research on dietary effects on behaviour. I agree household chemicals, breeding, genetics, life styles (both parents working full time where before you had more stay at home mums etc) have all paid a part. I feel more dogs are owned these days, more multi dog households, when I was young most households only had 1 dog, having a multi dog household does effect reactivity.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Tracy, this makes no sense to me at all, in 16 years I have not seen or experienced this. And multiple dog households are not synonymous with reactivity, that would be a house by house thing. Nancy

    2. I don’t feed ‘raw’ so much as home-prepared fresh. There is no guarantee that a commercial prepared ‘aw diet’ is better for your dog than a commercially prepared /cooked/ diet. Raw meat., raw spongy bones , fresh vegetabl4es and cooked pulse/cereal grain mix. YOU know what goes in and your know which feeds you do has problems with.
      However when it comes to aggression, I’m sure that the home environment and training methods make far more difference than foods. Though any food intolerances could exacerbate aggressive tendencies.

    3. As for multi-dog households — I don’t think that is a factor. Though they can behave much like a pack on their own territory.//home ground. In general the degree of aggression shown depends on a dogs socialisation — and breed. Having had two terriers (at different times) I have made the decision to never have a terrier again. They are simply not my cup of tea!

  12. Diane J Napoli says:

    Back in the 60s commercial dog food was crap and still is. I think if you buy a high-quality food, your dog should be ok. Many behavior issues come from lack of exercise. People shut their dogs up while they work and have limited time when they are home. There definitely is good from having dogs “roam” but with more traffic and people, it’s a different world. What about the puppy mills adding to disease? Back in the day, you would get a puppy when someone in the neighborhoods dog had puppies. Now they are breeding them 4 cycles a year.

  13. In the days before Heartworm preventative, dogs in ‘heartworm areas’ live on average for FOUR years. Before the preventative was available we had a dog contract Heartworm twice, The ‘cure’ (to save the dog’s life) is arsenic. IF your dog will never be bitten by mosquitoes you do not need h’worm preventative.
    Here on the East Coast of Australia we have the paralysis tick. Many many dogs die each year of tick poisoning. Unless you have a small, dog with a coat easily checked daily for ticks and you NEVER let it run on grass of near trees, you need tick preventative. Ticks have been found u dogs’ anuses as under their penis sheath. Only an uncaring fool does NOT use tick preventative. This keeps the dogs flea free as well.

  14. Margaret Parsons says:

    I grew up in the 40s and 50s, dogs were let out to roam and most were dog and human friendly, the only dog I k knew was never allowed out, dogs were well socialised in those days. Then people got cars and things changed, people started to keep their dogs in because of the risk of being run over, very few walked their dogs but gradually more and more did walk them. Now finding somewhere to let our dogs off the lead for a run is getting more and more difficult to find, more and more are having to pay for a secure field to let their dogs run and they are not socialising with other dogs or people.

    I nearly lost a dog through over vaccination, we vaccinate, worm and give flea treatment at the same time or very close, we are putting strong toxins into our dogs and many can’t cope with them. Now I only vaccinate when I get a new dog, I use an electronic comb for fleas, a tick remover to remove ticks and only worm every 6 months.

    If we look on the ingredients of the food we feed our dogs they are full of additives, why do dogs need these additives? In many foods the main ingredient is cereal, they often don’t say what cereal, we have to guess, there is very little food that is suitable for a dog’s digestive system and the food that is suitable has been so overcooked that it is useless. Additives are added to put back into the food that the over cooking has taken out and these additives are not as good, many are synthetic so won’t do the job they are supposed to. The quality of the food is a disgrace, many is what can’t be used anywhere else, cereals have often been walked on then brushed up for dog food. The first thing I look at on dog food is the ingredients, the quality of the protein, mo14st is very poor quality, and if there is any cereal and how many additives are in it. A long list of ingredients I put the food back on the shelf. My dogs do get a meal of raw food, mainly bones, chicken wings and drum sticks, lamb or beef bones and all have white teeth, my dogs ages are 10, 11, 13 and 14.

    My dogs don’t go to the vets very often, As my dogs are all rescues I don’t know what their past has been like, I can only guess. My 14 year old had both her back legs broken when she was 6 months old, there is no sign of arthritis, my 13 year old was 20 weeks old when I got her, she has no health problems. My 11 year old came with a mass cell tumour on one of his hocks and my 10 year old was passed from pillar to post, took her 2 years to believe she was staying and now has lymphoma.

    Too many people expect dogs to live the same way as they do, dogs are expect to understand our language, think like we do and behave like zombies, know wonder there are so many dogs with behaviour and health problems.

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