We get a lot of emails inquiring about the gloves that we use when working with dog aggression rehabilitation. There are many different choices out there ranging from leather work gloves to heavy duty specialty gloves with many protective layers.
The most important thing to remember is that none of the gloves on the market that we have used should be considered completely safe. Not only is the rest of your body vulnerable, but also the “protected hands” are still prone to crushing type injuries and lacerations.
Chance of injury will depend on many factors – the biggest factor is misjudging the strength of a dog’s bite and the type of bite a dog may deliver.
Some of the lighter gloves we consider “better than nothing” type gloves and we use them for when there is no plan to get bit by a dog, but are otherwise in a situation where an accident may happen – such as when we do protection training. Here we do not target the dogs to bite our hands, but if an accident does occur it is better to have the gloves on rather than nothing. It may mean the difference between the first-aid station and the emergency room, although nothing is guaranteed.
The heavy duty specialty gloves we use mainly for emergency purposes, where we must handle a dog that is likely to bite. For instance, when an extremely fearful/aggressive dog is first in our care, or a medical emergency – where a panicked dog must be touched. Occasionally, we may use them in aggression rehab during an operant conditioning technique called extinction.
Extinction is a technique where a previously learned outcome of a behavior no longer yields any consequences. It has many uses in animal and dog behavior modification. During aggression rehab we mainly use the technique to teach a dog that has previously learned that biting solves his/her immediate conflict that biting no longer yields any consequence good or bad. It helps open the doors for them and us to reinforce better behaviors such as “not biting” which are difficult to reinforce if a dog consistently bites in predictable situations.
We feel it is a better alternative than administering some type of aversive (or physical correction) for biting, since the majority of reasons dogs do bite is fear related. Whether it be fear that a person is going to take their food or fear that a person is going to hurt them during a physical examination, in most cases we have found that teaching a dog that they should fear to bite the person he/she is fearful of in the first place does not get to the heart of the problem.
Below I am going to post two videos. The first is just an intro to different types/styles of protective gloves and the second is an old video we shot a few years ago that does show us using protective gloves during aggression rehab. A few points to be made about the video and the use of gloves for aggression rehab:
1. Using “extinction” during dog training can be bordering on the technique “flooding”. Flooding in most cases should be reserved for emergencies. One of the major differences between flooding and extinction in dog training is whether the dog seems to be able to make a choice whether or not to bite (dealing with extinction) or if the biting is done due to a flight or fight response (dealing with flooding). Also, in order to be considered extinction the behavior must be one that was previously reinforced. Sometimes the difference between the two is a judgement call. Extinction and flooding are not the same, but there is a grey area.
2. Use the rehab video for educational purposes. We don’t necessarily recommend doing what we do in the video. But, it is hard to find examples of this technique done so at least you can watch and make your own judgments. These techniques are not necessary to work on the issues you see. Different approaches work better on different dogs and situations. You are mainly seeing a combination of extinction and counter-conditioning in the videos using primary and conditioned reinforcers. We do not put our hands in the food bowls of dogs as a standard way to work on food aggression. In the vast majority of cases simply managing the situation, basic obedience, building trust, and counter-conditioning is the best direction.
This video is an intro to some of the different types of gloves:
This is an old video showing us using some of the gloves in three different scenarios:
Want to mention one more time that there is serious risk of injury when working with aggression rehab cases and using the techniques in this post. Please use for educational purposes only unless you are a professional who assumes all the risks involved.
Feedback and suggestions are always encouraged!