Dog aggression can change the entire relationship and lifestyle between a dog and its owner.
Owners are less likely to take aggressive dogs out where they can become potential threats to other dogs, people, and animals. Training is, therefore, essential to curb the underlying causes of aggressive behavior: frustration and dominance.
Here are the expert’s five top tips for training an aggressive dog.
Understanding Dog Behavior
While some dogs have bad reputations for aggressive behavior, it is important that every dog owner understands that any dog can become aggressive. Big dogs just do bigger damage. Dogs are pack animals that rely on a pack hierarchy with the most dominant dogs being the leaders. When a dominant dog becomes frustrated with a situation, he can become aggressive.
As the pack leader, a dog owner must establish clear boundaries and limitations for their dog. It is also important to give every dog ample time to run and play, releasing pent up energy that might otherwise be misdirected into aggressive tendencies.
Signs of Aggression in Dogs
There are two body stances in dogs that should raise concerns about aggression in dogs. The first is a dominant aggressive stance and the second is a fearful, aggressive stance. When dogs are happy and secure, their body language is more relaxed with ears perked up but not erect, tails wag, and their head is up and alert but not stiff.
A dominant aggressive dog places his weight on his front paws as if to get closer into the situation and exert his behavior. His tail stands up, hackles raised with his lips snarled showing teeth. Growling may be audible but don’t wait for the growl to recognize an aggressive dog.
A fearful, aggressive dog isn’t a dominant dog by nature but is reacting to something where he feels he needs to defend himself. His tail is cowered between his legs with ears slicked back and lips slightly curled. His hackles are raised, and he will attack if pressed. This is how many eager children get bit, approaching and forcing an otherwise agreeable pet into a fearful dog posture.
Do not approach a dog in either aggressive stance and don’t allow people or other animals to approach your dog if he is exhibiting this posture.
Aggressive Dog Training Tips
The good news is you can train an aggressive dog to understand he isn’t the leader of the pack and give him coping skills not to lash out. When they don’t have a leader, they step in and take control. When dogs don’t have rules, the make up their own. Take the role of leader and take back control over your dog.
We’ve already blogged about how virtual reality has helped people train their dogs, but here are some tips to alleviate aggression in dogs:
Pro Tip 1: Overcome Leash Aggression
Leash aggression can affect any dog. Every dog owner should understand what leash aggression is and how to deal with this common problem. Dogs greet each other in close proximity, giving each other the full sniff test from nose to tail. A leash constricts a dog in a time when they want the freedom to check things out and move quickly if needed.
The simple solution to leash aggression is the off-leash socialization of dogs. By giving your dog the time, space and desire to meet and greet other dogs, he builds confidence in his stature in the pack. Of course, you need to be aware of dog postures and the signs of aggression. Over time, as your dog becomes more socialized, he will be better suited to meet and greet other dogs while on the leash.
Pro Tip 2: Help Foster Socialization Skills
It’s not just alleviating leash aggression where socialization helps. Dogs who don’t get socialized are often defensive or fearful of new people or animals. If your dog is nervous or fearful of new people, calming tablets can often help.
When a dog develops an aggressive mentality by taking a dominant stance and growling, owners usually remove him from the situation. This gains the opposite desired result by actually rewarding him. It teaches him that his behavior was correct because he was removed from something he didn’t like. He never gets the chance to determine if the threat was really nothing to be concerned with at all.
Being proactive with a young puppy or a newly adopted dog is important. Take him to group obedience training classes, walks in the neighborhood and to dog parks or daycare facilities. It is easier to address socialization while your dog is still defining his place in the pack. At the same time, do know that it is never too late to help an adult dog overcome aggression but is probably best done with a professional dog trainer assisting. Of course, there are some products on the market which can also help; if your pooch barks loudly and constantly or is aggressive, SENTRY Stop That! Noise and Pheromone Spray for Dogs is a good solution.
Pro Tip 3: Control Your Own Reactions
Hitting a dog demonstrating aggressive behavior will only elicit more aggressive behavior. Yanking on his leash when he is pulling will only lead to more pulling. You can’t battle aggression in dogs by being aggressive. Set boundaries and rules for your dog then use positive reinforcement to encourage him to be compliant.
When positive reinforcement is used with a dog, they are more likely to work harder to please you – the person holding the magical bag of treats. Be the leader of the pack with your own consistent behavior, and your dog will follow suit. Using a training collar such as the Gentle Leader will give you control over the dog’s head and face.
Yanking on a collar doesn’t do anything except start tug-of-war. The Gentle Leader controls the head and snaps the muzzle shut if necessary.
Pro Tip 4: Give Dogs Space for Food and Toys
They may sit over their food or a favorite dog toy when other dogs or children are around. Dogs use resource guarding as a way to display dominance and uncertainty. If a dog is fearful that another dog, cat or person will take his food or toys away, he will growl and ultimately become aggressive. The best thing to do is to feed animals apart, especially if someone is new to the pack.
Over time, your dog will realize his food sources are secure and learn to share his toys. But don’t assume this will happen the moment you bring a new dog home.
Pro Tip 5: Hiring a Professional Trainer
A professional dog trainer can help pet owners learn to recognize dominant aggressive behavior and fearful, aggressive behavior in their pets. Dog trainers also help dog owners learn the tricks to help their dog feel secure and understand their role in the pack.
Taking a group class helps to socialize dogs but also gives trainers the ability to see how dogs interact in groups of dogs. They will see your tendencies and help correct you with methods to properly train your dog. Yes, every pet owner requires more training than the pet. Your dog will learn as long as you are consistent, which few dog owners are at first.
If you feel your dog needs more attention than what he is getting in the group, consider individual consultations with the trainer. If you have more than one pet or children, it is good to have the trainer visit your home to see the various stimuli and potential problems that exist. Individual training gives your dog the extra attention he needs to get on track to good behavior.
Good behavior is the goal so you can enjoy walks with him, playing fetch in the park and letting him play with other dogs. Everyone in the family benefits when dogs are socialized and can be out and about without resorting to aggressive behavior.
Kim Leonard is a staff writer for https://thedogtrainingsecret.com, your best source for dog behavior and training information.