Just like humans, dogs will have their bad moments. However, suppose your pet is regularly biting or snapping at humans or other animals. In that case, this is a problem you should address as soon as possible.
When you think of an aggressive dog, you likely conjure up images of snarling Pit Bulls or Dobermans. But, unfortunately, that’s not always the case, as even toy breeds can be hostile. Because of this, many dog owners find themselves turning towards professional trainers to learn how to curb their dog’s aggressive behavior.
Learning how to train an aggressive dog takes a lot of time and patience for the owner, the trainer, and the dog himself. Nonetheless, there are a few things you can work on with your dog to help ease his aggressiveness along the way.
Why is My Dog Exhibiting Aggressive Behavior?
The first step in solving aggressiveness in dogs is figuring out what is causing it. While there can be many factors, it boils down to your pet’s fight or flight response activated. Likewise, how the dog shows aggression can vary.
Pay attention to what triggers your dog. For example, is he only aggressive when he sees strangers? Perhaps the hostility only occurs when he is eating. Or, he may be okay with people but seems to hate other animals.
Aggressiveness in Dogs: Root Causes
Once you have determined the circumstances in which your pet is acting out, you can begin figuring out the root cause of the reaction. The following are the main categories of root causes of aggression in dogs.
If a dog is not socialized properly, they have never had the chance to learn how to deal with situations where there are new people or animals around. In cases like these, the actions are not usually coming from a place of fear; they simply do not know any better. Unfortunately, this situation is seen a lot in dogs that are largely isolated.
Aggression occurs a lot in animals that are not neutered or spayed. For example, males who perceive another male competing with them for a mate can be prone to aggression, and females often become hostile when they are in heat.
When a dog automatically goes into fight mode instead of trying to flee, you will notice that there are indicators that this is about to occur. Please pay attention to them so that you have the best chance of warding off a potentially severe problem.
Just as dogs who get defensive will often attack instead of running, those experiencing fear aggression often do the same. This aggressiveness most occurs when the pup cannot get away from whatever they are afraid of.
Everyone experiences frustration, and for most of us, it is a daily occurrence. While our dogs have a much calmer life than we do, they are still prone to frustration as well. Think of animals that are relentlessly teased; they are bound to act out because of it.
Suppose your dog seems to go from playing to being aggressive quickly. In that case, she is acting on her instinct of predatory chase behavior. As this often seems to come from nowhere, it can be one of the most dangerous forms of aggressiveness in dogs.
Pain is a stressor for everyone, animals included. Even the most docile creatures can lash out when they are hurt, dogs included.
Protective aggression can occur when a female dog is trying to protect her litter. However, it may also be that the pet is overly protective of any perceived member of his family.
Redirected aggression is correlated to something other than what is directly happening. An example of this type would be getting bit while breaking up a dog fight.
If your pet is overly protective of her things, this is known as resource guarding. For example, she could be protective of her food, toys, dog crate, or anything to which she is attached. This type of aggression is easily spotted.
If your pup is okay with others being around food and toys but is protective of particular spaces, this is territory guarding. Your dog may be protecting the entire yard or home, or this could be regulated to where they spend the most time in the house. This form of territorial aggression often shows when anyone tries to come onto the property that the animal is unfamiliar with.
What Are Some Signs of Impending Dog Aggression?
Now that we have covered some reasons for aggression in dogs, it’s time to discuss what warning signs to look for that signal impending aggressive behavior. To be able to eliminate the unwanted responses, you will need to queue in on the preceding factors.
Obviously, a snapping or growling dog is likely to become even more hostile if the situation is not changed. However, other behaviors like cowering, refusing to look at you, or even rapid tail wagging can proceed with aggression in dogs.
It can be challenging even for trainers to notice some of the signs, especially innocuous ones like the tail wagging. Even worse for owners, some responses may be mistaken for fear and vice versa. For instance, a dog who is afraid may suddenly go rigid, or its hair may stand on end. Then again, it may be ready to attack. For this reason, it is vital to pay close attention to what your dog does after these warning signs occur.
How Can I Stop Aggressive Behavior in My Dog?
Now that you know why dogs become aggressive and what warning signs to look for, it is time to begin halting the disturbing behavior. Your ability to observe the warning signs leading up to the aggression and the circumstances surrounding it are critical. Have patience and be consistent, as this will take time.
Consult With Your Veterinarian
If your ordinarily sweet dog is aggressive suddenly, it is imperative to get him to the vet as soon as possible. This shift in behavior is indicative of something wrong with the animal. Your vet will determine what the medical cause is and work with you on a solution to get your docile pooch back on track and healthy. Once the underlying cause is gone, the aggressive behavior should disappear with it.
Enlist the Help of a Professional Trainer
If your vet determines there is nothing medically wrong causing aggression in your dog, bringing in a professional dog trainer will be necessary. While it would be great if you could solve the problem on your own, a trained pro can help you figure out the root cause of the behavior and how to handle it most efficiently .
Stick to the Plan
The trainer will develop a plan to help you deal with your aggressive dog, but it is up to you to stick to it. This plan will likely involve lots of small steps of positive reinforcement.
For example, if your dog tends to be hostile around other pups, the trainer will teach you different ways on how to socialize a dog. When the dog reacts in the manner you want, you offer a treat as a reward. Dogs are intelligent and can easily learn to associate this newfound good behavior with the treat. It is the same concept as teaching simple commands. Instead of sitting or offering their paw, they adjust their behavioral response.
Is Punishment Appropriate for Dog Aggression?
Punishment will not have the effect you want on your aggressive dog. In fact, it will likely exacerbate the hostile behavior. For this reason, positive enforcement is the way to go when your dog is aggressive. Remember, the goal is to teach your pet what behavior you expect. Punishing her will only teach her not to warn you about what is getting ready to happen, which can be dangerous for all involved.
Should Aggressive Dogs Be Medicated?
Suppose you have done everything you can with the dog trainer and followed every instruction with no luck. In that case, it may be time to think about medication.
Medication is especially warranted when the dog is aggressive because of stress. Options like cannabidiol oil (CBD oil) can be effective in helping the dog relax enough to be receptive to training techniques.
What if I Cannot Deal With the Aggressive Dog Any Longer?
Regrettably, you may find yourself faced with a hard decision. You may not have the time or proper environment for training. In cases like this, rehoming may be the best option for you and the dog. While giving up a beloved pet is challenging, it is much better than any disasters that could happen with aggressive behavior. This is especially true if you have children, as they are often triggered by aggressive dogs. A home without kids or other pets is a much safer environment.
Dog Aggression Frequently Asked Questions
Can an aggressive dog be cured?
Curing an aggressive dog is mainly dependent on the owner’s efforts. However, if you are proactive in figuring out your pet’s triggers and consistent with positive reinforcement, successfully curbing the disruptive behavior is likely to occur.
Can an aggressive dog be trained?
Aggressive dogs can be trained to exhibit better behavior. Nonetheless, you should know that it will take a lot of patience and consistency on your part, as it will not happen overnight. Positive reinforcement is key.
How do you discipline an aggressive dog?
You should not discipline an aggressive dog with any form of punishment. Reacting negatively will likely have the unintended consequence of making the hostility worse. Instead, always utilize positive reinforcement when training a dog for better behaviors, just as you would teach her to sit or stay.
How do you stop a dog from being aggressive or attacking?
The first step in stopping aggression in dogs is figuring out why they are behaving that way in the first place. Is it fear aggression? Perhaps the dog is overly protective of his owners or the property in general where he lives. Has he been adequately socialized around other dogs? Maybe the aggression seemingly came out of nowhere, in which case it is likely a medical cause. If the veterinarian cannot find an underlying cause, a professional dog trainer is recommended next. They will help you get to the root of the problem and give you direction on properly handling the issue.
Do aggressive dogs get put down?
In some areas, a dog that bites a person will not automatically be put down. Instead, the owners are held liable for the injury. However, in other places, the laws differ. Just because your dog exhibits aggression is not a cause in itself for euthanasia. Every option should be exhausted. A veterinarian should do extensive testing to make sure there is not medical issue. If there is not, then you should employ a dog trainer to help. Finally, if there are children in the home, or you just do not have the time or proper environment for training, rehome the animal. Euthanizing an aggressive dog should be a last resort.