Tips and advice on how to stop dog aggression
Dealing with an aggressive dog is a frightening experience, especially if the dog happens to be your own pet.You’ll find yourself wondering where the aggression came from, what you may have done wrong, and whether you can continue to keep a potentially dangerous dog. And you’d be right to worry because an aggressive dog, especially a large one, can inflict serious injury if it attacks.
However, while it is advisable to take all necessary measures to stop dog aggression, a bit of perspective is also called for. Given the number of pet dogs kept by humans, dog attacks are extremely rare. Very few dogs are outright aggressive and those that are, more often than not, have been made so by human abuse or programming. Still, if your dog displays signs of aggression you’ll want to take steps to stop dog aggression immediately.
Often, the problem is relatively easy to deal with. The vast majority of dogs are not aggressive by nature, and often the aggressive behavior has a specific trigger which, if removed, resolves the issue straight away. For example, if two normally placid dogs become aggressive toward each other at meal times, feeding them in separate areas is a simple and effective way to stop dog aggression.
Stop Dog Aggression: Taking Control of the Situation
The first time your dog acts out aggressively your initial response is likely to be fear. This is only natural, and taps into a primal instinct humans have when confronted by danger. But if you want to stop dog aggression it is important that you quickly take control of the situation. Dogs communicate largely by body language, so your fear response and the fear scent you give off may actually spur the dog’s aggression.
In the wolf pack, the alpha would respond to aggression by standing his ground, so do likewise. Don’t be confrontational, but don’t be fearful either. Most dogs will back down when faced with a foe who stands his ground. Your next step is to address the source of the aggression, and this involves understanding the type of aggression you are dealing with.
Dogs are rarely aggressive without cause, and if you want to stop dog aggression you need to use an approach that works for the form of aggression you are faced with. Here are the most common types of dog aggression, and how you might handle them:
- Dog on Dog Aggression – Often this stems from a misunderstanding of his role in the pack structure. The dog might see himself as the pack leader, and think he has to act as protector. This form of aggression will sometimes rear its head when you bring a new dog home. The resident dog may feel his position is under threat and act out accordingly. In this situation, it is important to show that both dogs are subservient, and that as pack leader and will not tolerate any fighting. In time, the dogs will adapt to their new living arrangements and most probably become firm friends. You can accelerate this by involving them in “bond building” activities like walking them together.
- Leash Aggression – Sometimes even placid dogs become monsters the minute they are on a leash. This stems from not being able to get at the objects they perceive as threats, often other dogs. One way of addressing this is to make the dog sit and remain calm in the presence of the perceived threat. Treat and praise the dog when he complies.
- Aggression towards Strangers – This is most often a problem with dogs that have not been properly socialized. They perceive anyone outside their immediate pack as a threat. Ideally, you want your dog to be fully socialized by the time he reaches 14 weeks. It is still possible to socialize an older dog, but with an aggressive dog it is best to do this while the dog is restrained, and possibly muzzled.
- Food Aggression – This is one of the most common forms of aggression directed from one dog to another. It can easily get out of control. Often, even normally placid dogs become aggressive when food is involved. It is vital that you keep both dogs calm at meal-times. Keep a good distance between them, so that you can step in to stop dog aggression before it escalates. If this doesn’t work you may want to try changing feeding times, and/or where you feed your dogs. In severe cases, you may even want to feed your dogs in separate rooms. It’s also advisable to have your dogs looked over by a vet, just to eliminate any health issues. For example, a dog with digestive or dental problems may become aggressive due to pain it experiences when eating.
- Unprovoked Aggression – A dog that becomes aggressive without apparent cause or provocation is extremely dangerous. Often this can be a health-related issue or even one of mental instability, so you’ll want to consult a vet immediately.
If the vet gives your dog a clear bill of health, it is strongly recommended that your next port of call is an experienced dog training professional. An aggressive dog is dangerous and it is important that you stop dog aggression before it has a chance to escalate.