Are you wondering how to stop your dog from being aggressive all the time?
If your dog is regularly displaying behavior like snapping, biting or growling, you have a serious behavioral issue on your hands which needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Dog aggression is one of the primary reasons why dog guardians go for the help of a professional animal behaviorist or dog trainers. If you are lucky, you may come in contact with a trainer who understands the reason behind your dog’s aggression and deals with the problem by using positive reinforcements, However, if you have a bad luck you may land up with a trainer who uses negative reinforcement on your pup, thus making the problem worse than it already was.
One of the first things you must understand as a dog guardian is that dogs are not born with such behaviour. Just because a few dog breeds have been labelled as aggressive, it does not mean that these dogs have been snapping and biting since birth. Any dog, irrespective of its size or breed can become aggressive. Development of aggression depends on the circumstances, not the pedigree.
Coming to the topic at hand:
What is dog aggression?
Aggressive behavior in dogs refers to a behavior connected to an attack or impending attack. The dog may display behaviors like snarling, baring teeth, becoming still or rigid and nipping or actually biting.
I always mention, to correct a specific behavior in your dog, you first must understand the reason behind the behavior so that the problems can be eliminated from the root rather than just doing a symptomatic treatment. Treating the problem without treating the cause always comes with the risk of the problem relapsing in the future in a far worst condition.
Causes behind dog aggression:
Keep a very close watch on your dog’s behavior and try to understand the reason behind his/her aggression. Your dog may react aggressively towards strangers, kids, other dogs etc. the most common types of dog aggression are the following:
The dog defends his or her space/your home from what seems like an intruder to him. This intruder in your dog’s eyes can be anyone who does not belong in the house like guests, other people’s dogs etc.
Most dogs protect the members of their pack. When you adopt a dog, you become a part of his or her pack. Your dog will do anything he or she deems necessary to keep you away from any harm. Mother dogs are extremely protective of their newborn and may become hostile towards anyone whom they don’t trust around their kids.
Aggression over possessiveness:
Your dog is hell bent on protecting his food, toys, blankets or other belongings which are of value to them. This behavior is referred to as resource guarding.
Aggression stemming from fear:
The dog is afraid or someone or something and tries to run away from whatever is making his or her scared. If your dog is cornered during such time, he or she may react aggressively.
The dog reacts to purely defend his belongings or his people.
These dogs do not take well to being near other dogs. If the dog has not been properly socialized, he or she may display aggression towards other dogs in settings away from home.
Aggression arising from frustration:
These are mostly related to leashes or collars. The prospect of going for a walk may overexcite your dog and he or she tries to relieve the aggression by nipping or biting you or the leash.
This happens in case dogs are fighting. They may become aggressive towards the person who tries to break up the fight.
Aggression due to pain:
Dogs cannot express their pain verbally. When injured or in pain, dogs tend to become aggressive so that other dogs or humans may stay away from them. Check out this blog post to understand the symptoms of pain in dogs.
If your dog is chasing a squirrel or chasing his ball he or she may not appreciate others chasing the same game. This may lead to aggression. This behavior can become particularly dangerous if the dog is playing chase with a wound child. Your dog may bite the child under the influence of aggression.
Aggression due to sex:
Male dogs or female dogs can become aggressive towards others of same sex when looking for a mate.
If you have been a regular reader of my blog, you know by now that I am a mom to 8 homeless dogs who live around my place. Life is not easy for dogs living on the streets. Food is hard to come by and sometimes a long duration of scare food availability can lead to heightened aggression in dogs. A lot of times I have jumped in between two dogs to separate them from fighting with each other. Luckily, they recognize and respect me. They never undermine my authority even when they are in the frenzy of a fight. Overtime, they have learned to control their fighting urges and live more amicably with each other. However, for dog guardians who have their kids (dogs) living with them, controlling and reducing their aggressive behavior is much easier. However, without understanding the causes behind the aggression, it is impossible to reduce or try to control it.
Signs and symptoms of aggression in dogs:
Any dog has the potential to become aggressive. However, there are a few signs which you can watch out for:
- Rigid body with quick wagging tail
- Yawning or lip licking unusually
- Raised fur
- Averting gaze
- Tail tucking and cowering
- Seeing whites of eyes
Showing these symptoms once does not mean that your dog is aggressive. These warning signs can also be indication that your dog is suffering from anxiety or fear of some kind. If you do notice these behaviors on a recurrent basis, then you need to be careful and help your dog.
How to curb aggressive behavior:
The first thing that you need to make a note of is when does your dog start to display aggressive behavior and what are the circumstances surrounding it. This will make it easier to understand the causes behind the aggressive behavior. The unusual aggressiveness is just the manifestation of a deep rooted problem.
Check in with your veterinarian:
If your dog is suddenly displaying aggressive behavior, he or she may be suffering from an underlying medical issue. There are several health issues which can lead to aggression in dogs like painful injuries, hypothyroidism, neurological problems (brain tumors, epilepsy, encephalitis etc.).
The first step to understanding your dogs aggression would be to get his or her checked by the vet and rule out any physical distress which may cause such behaviour in your dog. If it is a physical issue, then proper medication can be very helpful to get your dog back to his or her normal behavior.
Discuss the issue with a professional dog trainer:
Once your have rules out physical disability as being the cause behind the aggression, it is time to have a discussion with a dog trainer or dog behaviorist. Aggression is a serious behavioral problem and should not be attempted to be fixed by the guardian on their own. A dog behaviorist can help you figure out the reason behind the unexpected behavior and provide you with tips and a plan to help you deal with it and eventually reduce it.
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Create a plan:
Positive reinforcement is the best way to deal and change a behavioral issue with dogs. Never punish your dog if they are displaying aggression, always understand the problem first and then take actions accordingly.
If your dog is aggressive towards strangers:
When guests come to your house, ask your dog to it down first and then ask strangers to give treats to your dog when they enter your house. This way your dog will learn to associate strangers with a positive experience like treats. Over time he or she will learn to not be aggressive towards strangers.
If your dog is aggressive towards leash:
Make sure your dog is calm before you get him or her ready for walk. Ask your dog to sit before you put on the leash. If seeing the leash makes your dog go aggressive, let him or her sniff the leash, give lots of treats with the leash so your dog learns that leash means treats followed by walks which is a good experience.
If your dog suffers from aggression born out of fear:
If your dog is scared of something like thunder etc., allow them to find their corner and stay there. Do not corner your dog or hover over them. Stay close by but not too close so that your dog knows you are there for him or her. Put on some light classical music to help your dog feel soothed and relax.
Mother dog protective instincts:
Do not go to your dog when he or she is showing over protective instincts. Just stay close by and allow the mother to come to you. When the mama dog trusts you she will allow you near her pups and even allow you to pick up her kids. Try not to rush the process. Give your dog the time they need and the experiences will be well worth it.
Avoid administering any kind of punishment:
Punishments don’t solve the problem. Instead, they might just aggravate it. Punishment has been observed to backfire and even escalate the behavior. If your respond to your dog’s aggressive behavior by yelling, hitting or by the use of some other form of aversive means, your dog might feel the need to defend him or herself and snap or bite you in return.
Punishment may also lead to your dog nipping or biting somebody else without warning or provocation. Eg. if your dog growls at kids and you punish this behavior, next time your dog may just bite when he or she feels uncomfortable in the vicinity of kids.
Medication or calming oils:
Sometimes, only training might not be enough. If training does not help your dog, you may consider getting some calming medications for your dog. If your dog’s aggression is due to anxiety or fear, it may be due to anxiety. Giving your dog some CBD oil may help calm his or her nerves. Check out this blog post on CBD oil, its uses and benefits for dogs.
Learn to handle unavoidable situations:
Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where no option is a good option. Honestly, it breaks my heart to even write this, but reality prevails. If you have a dog who acts aggressively towards kids and you have a kid on the way, you have tried all options but your dog’s behavior is not improving Under such circumstances, it might be better to consider finding a new home for your dog, preferably with people who don’t have kids.
You are the best judge of your dog’s behavior and will be able to find the best methods to help him or her overcome this difficult situation.
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