How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Dogs: 7 Tips
As much as it is embarrassing for most dog owners, many people have accepted that little aggression between unfamiliar dogs is unavoidable, and this is untrue. Aggressive behavior in dogs is a significant problem for most dog owners, and to stop it, you must understand the causes of dog aggression.
Dog aggression is among the top reasons dog owners seek professional help, and it’s not only for the large dogs and dangerous breeds. Any breed can become aggressive under the right circumstances.
Aggressive behavior in dogs is described as any behavior connected to an attack, or an impending attack, which may come in different forms. However, aggressive behavior in dogs doesn’t have a cure, but there are steps that one can take to curb the aggressive behavior to help your dog remain calm more.
Why Are Some Dogs Aggressive?
Dog aggression results from many different factors, but it’s primarily out of fear and the need to protect you. Even though both reasons are not malicious, it is still important to teach your dog how to manage aggression. Your first step towards stopping dog aggression is figuring out the causes of the dog aggression, where some aggression is directed towards children and sometimes strangers.
However, aggression doesn’t necessarily have to be directed towards a person, and it can be to other animals, specifically cats or other inanimate objects such as vehicles or yard equipment. Notably, you cannot develop a solution to modify your dog’s behavior without knowing the reason behind it.
There are different types of dog aggression: Territorial aggression, possessive aggression, protective aggression, fear aggression, social aggression, defensive aggression, frustration-elicited aggression, predatory aggression, redirected aggression, and sex-related aggression.
Signs Of Aggressive Behavior
Any dog can be aggressive, and it’s crucial to track warning signs such as:
- A rigid body and a quick wagging tail
- Snapping and growling
- Raised fur
- Yawning and lip licking
- Seeing the whites of the dog’s eyes
- Averting gaze
- Cowering and tail tucking
Notably, not all dogs exhibiting this behavior are aggressive, as many of the above signs indicate fear or anxiety.
How Do you Train a Dog to Be Less Aggressive?
To stop aggressive behavior in your dog, you need to notice when your dog becomes aggressive and the circumstances surrounding the behavior. This will help you determine the best way to deal with the aggression.
Your dog needs to have a solid foundation of obedience training, and some people need professional help for this while others can train the dog on their own. If you lack the skills to do training on your own, you can ask a local dog trainer for some help. This training will help you manage and control your dog when he is excited, and it will help teach your dog not to react when it goes around other people and dogs.
You can teach your puppy the basic exercises such as sit, come, down, stay and walk while on a leash, as these foundation exercises are great for obedience training. Another exercise you can teach is the leave-it exercises, which means ignoring what they are focused on now. In addition, there is the watch me exercise, which teaches the dog to pay attention to you.
Reward Calm Behaviors
Aggressive behavior is common in reactive dogs where if your dog pays attention to everything going on and quickly gets excited, you may need to help the dog learn how to calm themselves down. This, in short, is giving the dog permission to be off duty as he doesn’t need to protect everything all the time. Try to keep his training fun by rewarding him as he is working with you but also help your dog do it in the right way.
Regular exercises are essential for all dogs, but it’s more important for dogs showing aggressive behaviors. When your dog’s body is well-exercised and tired, they will be more encouraged to take a nap. You can do simple exercises such as a long game of fetch, a jog with you or where they run as you cycle or swim. Find the most suitable exercise according to what you enjoy and your dog’s willingness to do with you.
As much as obedience training is excellent, keeping the dog’s mind busy is also essential, and it’s one of the ways to minimize aggressive behavior. When your puppy’s brain is tired, he will unlikely get into trouble, and so you should teach your dog tricks to challenge his brain. Apart from trick training, you can teach your dog canine sports such as flyball, scenting games or agility, and some more advanced obedience skills would be like hand signals which will be great for challenging his abilities.
Praise the Behaviors You Want to See Again
Some dog parents yell when their dog makes a mistake but forget to praise their dog when they do right, but this is not good training. Yelling is equivalent to barking, and yelling at your dog teaches them to do the exact thing, which is not good training. Instead, interrupt behaviors you don’t want to happen in the future but do it wisely.
You can use your dog’s leash to remove him from a bad situation and use training to redirect him and gain his attention. After a successful attempt, reward and praise him when he is calm and when he doesn’t bark or when he stops barking when you ask him to.
Make it Difficult
If your dog has specific spots where he waits for any trespassers so he can bark and rage against them, then you can try to avoid those areas. You can do this by closing the door, pulling the drapes, moving the sofa or blocking access to the specific room when inside the house. On the other hand, when outside, you can try to block his vision with a fence, restrict some areas of your yard or take him back inside. Making his aggressive behavior difficult may need you to change some things in your yard, home or habits, which will help stop aggressive behaviors.
In some instances, training alone may not be enough, and sometimes dog with an aggression problem may need medication to manage the problem. It’s crucial to understand that when a dog is experiencing stress, fear or anxiety, they are incapable of learning new things. Try to see medication as a tool to help your puppy overcome their fear, as many dogs only need the medication temporarily. Ensure you talk to your veterinarian about your options.
Tools To Help with Dog Aggression
Some tools can be beneficial in dog training, and even though they may initially seem like harsh forms of punishment, they are more effective than regular collars. The main ones include:
A muzzle is an excellent tool for a dog that intimidates or snaps to other animals verbally, which mostly happens with shy dogs who become nervous in a situation. Try to ease your dog into new social situations slowly. The muzzle is helpful in a social situation but to properly train the dog, and you should put the dog’s muzzle on for about an hour before any pleasurable activity such as playtime or eating. This will help the dog associate the muzzle with enjoyable activities and apply the feeling to social situations.
Prong Collars/ Shock Collars
Prong collars and shock collars are among the best tools a dog trainer can use, where a regular collar will choke your dog if you pull on it. A prong collar may cause shallow discomfort like what a puppy feels when their mother nips him on the back of the neck, and this helps indicate that it is unacceptable behavior. A shock collar is another tool you can use to help with dog aggression where you can start with the lowest shock level.
Indoor dog gates are an affordable, versatile, effective and easy way to manage a dangerous dog, making them serious lifesavers. You should place gates near the entryway of your home to prevent an aggressive dog from going outside and potentially hurting a stranger outside. You can also use a gate on one side of the room while having guests to keep your guests safe or gates to ensure your dog will eat his food in peace and safety.