One of my dogs had slight behavioral problems and I've learned how to help other pet owners overcome these challenges.
How to Prevent Aggressive Behavior in Dogs
There are many problems that pet owners may face when it comes to having dogs in the home. Misbehaving dogs chew up our favorite items, get into the food that’s left on the kitchen table, and use the bathroom inside the house. All of these things can be difficult to deal with. However, the most difficult problem of all when it comes to owning a dog is dealing with aggression.
An aggressive dog poses a danger to the people who live in the home, the people who come into the home, and even to people passing by the home if the dog is able to get out of the house or yard. Aggressive dogs may frighten young children by barking loudly at them and may injure people of all ages by biting them or otherwise attacking them. This can cause serious physical harm to the individual being attacked and can also result in a costly lawsuit against the owner of the pet. In extreme cases, the dog may have to be put to sleep because of its aggressive behavior.
So, what can you do to make sure that your dog doesn’t get aggressive and how do you stop aggressive behaviors that are already present? Here are some guidelines to follow in regards to dealing with dog aggression:
One of the most important things that you can do to prevent dog aggression is to start dealing with the problem as early as possible. If you get the dog when it is still a puppy, you can implement proper training in the early stages of the dog’s life so as to give it a structured home in which you are the boss. This prevents aggressive behaviors from developing in the first place. Making sure that the dog gets socialized with other dogs and with people at a young age is also a good way to prevent the dog from ever developing aggressive tendencies.
Consider the Causes of Aggression
If you have a pet that has only recently become aggressive, the change may be due to some sort of change in the dog’s life. For example, a jealous dog may begin to act aggressive.
Be Kind to Your Dog but Be Firm With Your Dog
As soon as you decide that you need to deal with pet aggression, you need to modify your own behavior with your dog. The first thing that you need to do is to make sure that you aren’t mistreating the dog in any way. If you physically harm your dog then it will likely act aggressive in response. Going overboard with spoiling the dog can also cause problems with aggressive behavior. Learn how to maintain a proper balance between loving care for the animal and firm treatment of its behaviors.
Consider Whether You’ve Provoked the Dog’s Aggression
Of course, you probably haven’t actually harmed your dog but you may do things that allow it to believe it should be aggressive. For example, when you take your dog for a walk and see someone a little bit frightening, do you move behind your dog for protection? Or do you encourage your dog to protect your home or kids in any way? If you’re asking the dog to be a protector of the family, you are setting the stage for some level of aggression with strangers.
Firmly Correct Aggressive Behavior
If the dog growls at others when eating, barks at people passing by on the street or displays other signs of aggression then it is up to you to correct that behavior. This means stopping whatever you are doing at the time to reprimand the dog. Basically, the dog needs to know that you’re the one in charge and it needs to be told what it’s doing wrong.
Encourage Others to Be Firm With the Dog
If you don’t want your dog jumping on guests who come to the home, tell your guests how to tell the dog to get off of them and encourage them to do so appropriately.
Reward the Dog’s Good Behavior
Part of re-training an aggressive dog has to be noticing when the dog is behaving appropriately and rewarding it with treats. Some basic books on dog training can give you more information about how to do this appropriate with your pet.
Pay Attention to the Dog
Sometimes aggression in a pet is caused by being mistreated by others. If you leave the dog in the yard all day while you’re at work, it may be getting teased by people in the neighborhood. Likewise, if you let your kids play with the dog unsupervised, they may be treating it poorly. While trying to reverse aggressive behaviors in a dog, you should be keeping a close eye on the animal so you really know what’s going on with it.
Get Professional Help for Training the Dog
If you have a really serious problem with a dog that is already too aggressive for you to manage then you may want to seek the help of a professional dog trainer to reverse the problem.
The majority of aggressive dogs can be re-trained to behave appropriately in the home but you have to be willing to invest the time to do so. Consider the risk that you are taking by keeping an aggressive animal in the home – particularly if you have young children in the house – and determine whether or not you are capable of investing the time and energy necessary to retrain your pet.
Finally, think carefully before getting another dog in the future. There are some dog breeds which are naturally more aggressive than others so you should work on choosing a breed that is going to be non-aggressive in your home. Then you should aim to socialize and train that dog early on to avoid any problems.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Rottiefan on February 20, 2012:
You should never reprimand or correct an aggressive dog! Aggressive behaviour is prompted by a dog (or any animal) perceiving something as a threat. By correcting a dog (shouting, lead jerking, Alpha rolling) you will not be working on the feeling of fear underlying the behaviour, only serving to 'suppress' the behaviour. Only so much suppression will work, before the dog is so stressed that it could react aggressively to you. Dogs do not live in packs and do not need to be 'taken charge' of. They need proper socialisation and monitored interactions with other dogs, where they can learn that other dogs are fun and positive experiences.
Remy Francis from Dubai on August 23, 2011:
Hello there Thank you for sharing this very useful hub.
brennawelker on May 10, 2011:
This is informative. Thanks for sharing.
Training Tips on April 29, 2011:
Dog training videos, resources, tips and help.
Ray Wilson on April 22, 2011:
I would say the most difficult problem is to really pay attention to the dog. We often very soon get distracted by the environment that the dog does its own thing if we ignore the dog. Other people can influence the dog pretty easily so I would say stay alert always.
~Ray Wilson the DIY home solar panels guy
Other Dog Aggression on January 04, 2011:
Great advice, another important tip would be to make sure you are consistent with your aggression training, otherwise you may end up sending mixed signals to your pet.
Mr. Mom from San Jose California on March 21, 2010:
Do you know anything about agressive turtles?
Deena M. on March 22, 2009:
Carl; when looking at a litter, your best guide will be the breeder. If they are a knowledgable breeder, they should be able to point out which pups in the litter would be a good "fit" for what you are looking for. If they can't do that, I personally would keep looking. "Aggression" is a very general term commonly used to describe not only specific behaviors of a dog, but also it's temperament. That gets tricky. As a professional trainer, I can't tell you how many times people bring "aggressive" dogs to me, and when we meet, all that is in front of me is an exhuberant, perhaps pushy dog. So while it is difficult to talk about "aggression" without spending time defining terms, typically when looking at a litter, either end of the spectrum in temperaments is going to be more of a challenge to raise: the very pushy, outgoing, always-into-everything pup in the litter as WELL as the timid, hesitant, hang back, maybe even fearful one.
Of course the first place to start is the breed you are considering. Behavior differs between breeds a LOT, so it pays to do plenty of research, and meet a lot of dogs of your breed of choice to be sure it's a good fit for what you are looking for. For example, even a "laid back" member of an assertive breed may be too much dog for some people. It really depends on the type of dog you see as "ideal". Hope that helps a bit.
Carl Jagt on February 25, 2009:
When choosing a puppy from a litter, are there any tell-tale signals to avoid choosing a dog with potential, future aggressive challenges?
Puppy In Training on February 24, 2009:
Great Article! I've been raising guide dog puppies for the past 2 1/2 and start socializing early is very important for a guide dog. Another important point with our puppies is to supervise play. Be sure to keep a close eye on your puppy when he/she is playing and break up your puppies if one starts to get overly aggressive.