Perhaps. But let me ask this... WHY would a dog disobey or disrespect it's handler? What is in it for the dog? When he obeys, good things happen (food, treats, praise, play). When he disobeys, bad things happen (correction). Dogs are very simple creatures at heart. They will always repeat behaviors that have brought success in the past, and avoid behaviors that brought negative consequences. They don't have any complicated motivations... they merely do what they believe will earn them the things they want. So why would a dog choose disobedience, knowing it will deny him what he wants and likely bring about something he doesn't want?
Answer: he won't. Yes, on the rare occasion the dog may disobey, but usually the reason behind that isn't obstinance but rather he sees it would be beneficial to him NOT to obey in that situation. In other words, the potential reward for disobedience is stronger than the reward for obedience, or consequence for disobedience.
When this happens, it's generally the handler's fault. The handler either has not properly motivated the dog, or has placed the dog in a situation or amidst distractions that are above the dog's ability to work in at that stage of training. When training is done RIGHT, with the handler possessing the higest value reward for the dog, and the dog understanding that his obedience earns that, things go rather smoothly and the dog isn't likely to give the handler the "big paw".
Another common cause for "disobedience" is confusion on the dogs part. Handlers are often very quick to jump on the assumption that the dog is beind disobedient, when in reality he is confused. Dogs make mistakes, don't clearly hear commands, or when any of the zillion factors in a training session are different from before (different environment, different body language or tone of voice from the handler) it can lead to the dog being confused about what is being asked. No matter how many times he's done "sit" before, if for some reason he seems to forget "sit" on any given training day, 99% of the time it's not because he's being a prick and deciding to blow the handler off. It's because he's confused. Is it fair to correct a dog for confusion? Not in my mind. That is the handler punishing the dog for what is actually his (the handler's) fault.
Same for lack of respect. If the dog doesn't respect the handler (and IMO what is construed as disobedience is very, very rarely a lack of respect, no matter how quickly people like to assume it is), again who's fault is that? The dog's? Or the handler who didn't build a proper relationship of trust and respect with the dog? And if the dog doesn't respect the handler, is the handler going to be able to beat respect into the dog? No. It doesn't work that way. It's just going to further destroy the dog's respect and trust for the handler, and replace it with fear.
Well, maybe this dog is one of the very rare ones that is truly handler aggressive, disrespectful, and more or less crazy. But I'd still place money on the likelihood that this is an issue that was created by the handler, and not because she's too soft, but because she has always met the dog's aggression with further aggression of her own. It's a somewhat natural thing to do really, and thus a common mistake. First, when a dog gets nasty our inclination is to protect ourselves by going into our own version of defense drive, and fight back. Second, it can also be natural to think that by providing a strong negative consequence for the behavior we will cause the dog not to choose that behavior. Sometimes that works, more often it just escalates the aggression.
Let me tell as story of a similar situation to help illlustrate.
Last fall I went down to trial at friend's SchH club out of state. Sunday after the trial, the judge hung around to do a bit of training and somewhat of an impromptu seminar. One of the club members, with a 2yo bitch from our breeding, was having problems with the dog outing the toy in obedience, and handler aggression over outing the toy. She asked the judge to give her some pointers. This was the first time I'd heard of this issue with the dog, and knowing the dogs and bloodlines as I do (and owning a littermate) I had suspicions about what was causing this (pretty much what I wrote above) so when she got the dog out to work with the judge, I had my eyes glued to the field.
Brings dog out, plays some tug, locks up the tug and asks the dog for the out, and the dog *immediately* starts snarling at her, but still holding the tug. She gives the dog a harsh pinch collar correction, while repeating out in a very harsh voice, dog lets go of the toy and lunges for her hand. Repeat a few times. So the judge steps in, and much the same scenario ensues. Only instead of correct her with the pinch collar, he hangs her, preventing her from biting him and choking her off the toy. A very commonly practiced attempt to deal with this sort of situation, and not a surprising one from a European old school trainer.
After beating my head soundly against the nearest tree, I stepped in before this could escalate by merely asking if I could give it a try. Judge looks at me like I'm nuts, but with handler's permission he hands over the now gasping dog and toy. I drop the leash (don't need it), tease the dog with the toy and we have a nice little game of tug. Thank God this is a hard dog would was more than willing to reengage in drive and play with me despite what had happened a minute ago.
So we play a bit, and then I lock up, and ask for the out. Not surprisingly she immediately starts to snarl while still holding the toy. I just ignored that. And rather than grab the leash or collar, I just laid my left hand flat under her chin while still holding the tug with my right hand, and using some light backwards and upwards pressure guided her into a sit. And I waited. The look on her face was pure confusion when I did NOT give her the fight she was expecting, or react to her snarling in any way. So we sat there for a minute, me just lightly holding the tug with my hand under her chin, showing no emotion. Her facial expression changing from one of fear and aggression over the fight she expected, to outright confusion, eventually to relaxing. Guess she thought just sitting there with both of us holding it wasn't all that bad, and certainly better than what she expected when I had asked for the out. Now that she was relaxed and calm, I asked for the out again. She immediately tensed and started snarling again, so we just waited a bit longer until she'd relaxed again. On the 3rd out command, her eyes started to squint and I could see her fighting her natural reaction to start snarling again, but she didn't. Instead, with an expression of confusion but also a little bit of a light bulb, she very tentatively let go of the toy.. and was immediately rewarded with a happy release and me coming alive with the toy to play again.
Next time I locked up and asked for the out, there was no snarling. She didn't let go either, so we waited again and a few moments later I asked her again to out, and she did, though tentatively. Another big party and play session as a reward. Next time I locked up and asked for the out, she popped right off, tail wagging, ears up, happily looking forward to the play session she expected as reward for the out. I worked her several more times that day, and every time I got a nice, clean, happy out without a hint of "handler aggression".
Am I some miracle working dog whisperer? No.
Did she respect me more than the judge or her handler? Well, now she probably does because to her I'm sure I seem much more sane and predictable, making me more fun and more worth listening to. But at the start of this of course she didn't. She doesn't even know me. She was 2 years old and the last time I'd seen her previously she was 8 weeks.
She did it because it was in her best interest to do so. Fun things happened when she outed. So why not out? And when I showed her that I had no interest in getting in a fight with her, she was happy about that. She didn't want to fight either, she just wanted to have fun and play and train. But she'd been well taught to expect a fight.
Had I met her aggression head on with some of my own, like everyone else was doing, I'd have gotten bitten too. And it just would have cemented in her head that yes indeed, the handler is going to pick a fight with her every time over the out, so she'd better be ready for that fight and be ready to get in the first blow. No doubt, as is the case with most situations like this, she's been hoping that her initial display would scare the handler off and make them back down so the fight didn't happen. Dogs don't like fighting with their handlers, but if the handler teaches the dog to expect it and shows them time and time again that is exactly what will happen, the dog fights with the handler.. because that is what they were taught.
To me this isn't rocket science. It's simply understanding the dog's motivations, how they think and why they do what they do, and recognizing how WE affect their behavior for good or ill. This whole situation was pretty depressing to me, made even moreso by the looks of complete wonder on the faces of the dog's handler (who's been training SchH a lot longer than I have), an experienced SV judge and trainer, and all of the club members. The fact that they thought they'd witnessed some miracle when she'd happily out without a hint of aggression is just really, really depressing and shows how widespread the belief that this is a dog problem (rather than a handler problem), the philosophy of trying to beat that type of behavior out of the dog, and a general lack of understanding of why it happens and that WE create it, has become.