Dogs can be aggressive in a number of ways, to include biting, growling, snapping, baring teeth, and barking. Aggression is the main reason people hire someone to train their dog.
You can’t fix threatening behavior immediately, but there are definitely ways you can mitigate it.
WHY IS MY DOG BEING AGGRESSIVE?
Before you can address the aggression your dog is exhibiting, you need to understand why it’s happening. This is because knowing the cause of the behavior is vital in determining how you go about addressing it.
So what are the most frequent causes for aggression?
- Medical condition
- Defending territory
- Being possessive of things
- Being protective of people
- Trying to be dominant/alpha
- Fear or defensiveness
- Overly excited or frustrated
- Hunting mode
- Sexual competition
SEE THE VET
If your dog is usually pretty calm and showing aggression is uncharacteristic for him/her, the first thing you want to rule out is a medical cause.
Certain conditions can predispose dogs to aggression. These include pretty serious things like a brain tumor, seizures, neurological difficulties, and hypothyroidism.
So make an appointment with your veterinarian, explain the situation, and enlist his help in ruling out any obvious medical reasons for the behavior.
TALK WITH A TRAINER
Once you’re sure it’s not medically related, you want to talk with and experienced trainer.
While you may have a really good idea what’s going on with your dog, it’s a good idea to run it by someone who has a broader base of knowledge.
Aggression can become a significant problem if not addressed properly. So don’t try to wing it. A trainer doesn’t have to necessarily spend hourly sessions with your dog.
While the trainer will probably want to meet your dog, he should sit down with you, listen to all the information you have to share, and help you come up with a method to regulate the situation.
DON’T CHASTISE YOUR DOG FOR BEING AGGRESSIVE
The plan you put together with your trainer should include lots of goodies and affection. If you try to discipline your dog while he’s aggressive, it can intensify the aggressive behavior.
Your dog is already in a fight mentality, and cracking down on him won’t bring him out of that mind set. It will usually drive him further into an aggressive attitude.
And if your dog is only showing his teeth (for instance), you don’t want to train him into snapping or biting because he’s afraid of being chastised for showing his teeth.
CONSIDER ALL OUTCOMES
The factor causing the behavior might be something you can’t influence.
For example, if your puppy becomes aggressive with strangers and your job is such that you see clients in your home on a regular basis, you may need to consider if your home is a good fit for your puppy.
Maybe you’re lucky enough that you can simply find a different job. But it’s important to realize that sometimes the best solution may not be what you had hoped.
If your dog becomes aggressive, don’t use negative reinforcement and address is it as soon as you can with your vet and a trainer.
Come up with a specific plan based on what’s causing the behavior. And most importantly, be patient. Changing behavior takes consistency and lots of love and time.