How to Deal with Aggression in Dogs?

You may be dealing with an aggressive behavior issue if your dog frequently snaps, growls, or bites. One of the most common causes for dog owners to consult a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist is aggression. And any breed can become aggressive given the kind of environment they are in and how they are handled; it’s not just big dogs and so-called dangerous breeds that are prone to aggression. But the big question here is how are you supposed to manage aggression?

Even though it takes time to overcome aggression, there are things you can do to prevent aggression and promote a calming behavior in your dog. Consistency is the key to managing this.

What Causes Dogs to Act Aggressively?

Any behavior associated with an attack or an impending attack on a dog is considered aggressive behavior. This includes stiffening up, becoming still, displaying teeth, lunging, nipping, or biting.

Discovering the source of your dog’s aggression is the first step in stopping this behavior. Some dogs, for example, growl when people approach them while eating or chewing a bone. Some dogs on the other hand, are more specific and react violently to children or strangers.

Some dogs even develop aggressive behavior when they are around other animals or inanimate objects, like the wheels on cars or yard tools. Needless to say, aggression can be triggered by practically anything and being able to pin-point the cause is vital.

Being able to identify the cause of your dog’s aggression and develop a plan to change it is the first step. The following are the most typical canine aggression patterns:

Territorial Aggression

The dog will defend its territory or your home when it perceives an intruder. When a dog exhibits protective aggression, it defends other animals or people in its pack from harm. In addition to being fiercely protective of their pups, mothers’ dogs can turn aggressive if anyone approaches them.

The dog exhibiting possessive aggression protects food, chew toys, bones, or any other valuable item. Guarding resources is another name for this.

Fear Aggression 

When faced with a frightening situation, the dog tries to flee but charges when cornered.

Defensive Aggression

Like fear aggression, defensive aggression occurs when the dog launches an attack without attempting to retreat. Before biting, these dogs typically gave other, subtler signals that they wanted to be left alone, like turning their heads away.

Social Aggression

The dog exhibits social aggression when interacting with other dogs. Aggressive behavior can also be seen in dogs without proper socialization with humans and other dogs.

Frustration-Triggered Aggression

Aggression brought on by frustration: The dog exhibits aggressive behavior when restrained on a leash or in a fenced-in area. When a dog is overstimulated and unable to respond to it, it may act out. A dog may occasionally bite its owner if it becomes overly excited, like before a walk.

Redirected Aggression

Redirected aggression is when someone tries to break up a dog fight, the dog may become aggressive toward them. It might also occur if the dog’s intended victim is out of reach, like a dog next door on the other side of a fence.

Pain-Triggered Aggression

As the name states, this kind of aggression is when a dog is hurt or in pain, it exhibits aggression.

Sex-Related Aggression

This is when a dog is competing for a mate’s attention, two male or two female dogs become aggressive. This is true of intact animals and can be prevented by having dogs spayed and neutered.

Predatory Aggression

When engaging in predatory behavior, such as pursuing wildlife, the dog exhibits aggressive behavior without much prior notice. This instinct could become dangerous when a child plays chase with the dog. Although it may begin as a playful game, dogs with aggressive predatory tendencies may quickly become excited and may bite the child.

How Can You Tell When Your Dog is Developing Aggressive Behavior?

Any dog can learn aggressive behavior, so it’s crucial to look for a pattern of good indicators, such as:

  • Snarling and Growling
  • A Stiff Body and a Waggish Tail
  • Yawning or Lip-smacking
  • Averting Gaze
  • Cowering and Tucking Tail
  • Seeing the Whites of the Eyes

Many of these warning signs also indicate fear or anxiety in dogs, which is why not all dogs who display these behaviors are generally aggressive.

Should You Keep an Aggressive Dog?

Having a dog in your life has many wonderful benefits. Our lives are enriched by their companionship, shared experiences, nurturing, amusement, and enrichment, so choosing to live with a dog that is hostile toward you is not a decision that should be made lightly. 

The ability to ensure the safety of those around the dog must precede the choice. The number of family members in some households, daily responsibilities, and other factors might make keeping and rehabilitating an aggressive dog risky and unrealistic. 

Placement in a different home may occasionally be an option, if the dog can be taken care of better in another home. If you are not sure you can manage the aggression or if you have exhausted all options, its best consult an animal behaviorist or even your veterinarian.

How to Evaluate Your Dog’s Aggression

According to the CDC, half of the 800,000 people who seek medical attention for dog bites each year are children. While dog bites are not uncommon; they are common in everyday family life, and 15% of dog owners are thought to have experienced a dog bite. A dog is more likely to bite after biting because he has demonstrated his willingness to use biting as a behavioral tactic, at least in that circumstance.

Rarely are dogs willing to use aggression to alter the course of events again cured. The severity of a bite can be determined by carefully analyzing the circumstance, the harm the bite caused, the decisions the dog made, such as his willingness to avoid escalating to a bite by growling, snarling, or snapping, as well as the type of aggression identified. A board-certified veterinary behaviorist may have the necessary experience to evaluate and prioritize this assessment in complex cases.

How to Avoid Aggression in Dogs

To keep other family members safe and to start the process of behavior modification, safety and bite prevention are the crucial first steps. Determine all potential triggers for aggression first, then take steps to prevent exposure to them, or control the dog when a potentially aggressive situation arises. Even though the long-term objective would be to lessen or completely eradicate the possibility of aggression in these circumstances, every new incident has the potential to cause harm and worsen the issue.

Even inside the house, aggression can be controlled and avoided by using a head collar and leash. A properly fitted basket muzzle is even more effective at preventing bites, which may also be helpful in some circumstances. Limit the dog’s opportunity for additional aggressive encounters because he is unlikely to change his behavior without retraining and because he learns from every opportunity to practice his aggression.

When a family decides to start an aggressive behavior modification program, they must continually assess their capacity to keep everyone safe and stop aggressive outbursts. The decision to keep and treat a dog must be reviewed for frequent safety lapses, accidental bites, or new bites occurring in novel and unexpected circumstances.

Will Showing Dominance Will Stop Aggression in Dogs?

Neither dominance nor social standing is likely to factor in aggression toward family members. This is a widespread misunderstanding that may result in aggressive behavior getting worse and ineffective treatment methods. The most common causes of a dog’s aggression are fear, anxiety, conflict over what to do and expect, and the fear of potential punishment. Training programs intended to enforce the human family members as alpha or dominant using confrontation or intimidation-based interventions will increase rather than decrease anxiety and associated aggressive responses if underlying anxiety and fear cause aggressive responses.

Strategies intended to establish pack leadership, alpha status, or dominance over your dog do not address the root causes of the issue, which are fear, anxiety, and a lack of knowledge about what to anticipate or how to respond in a given circumstance. While maintaining control and having regular interactions with the animal is ideal, these goals should be attained in non-confrontational ways that lessen tension and conflict rather than boosting these underlying feelings.

How Can I Manage My Dog’s Aggression?

Family members should establish themselves as capable parental figures in their relationship with their dog as soon as possible. Good dog owners similarly care for their animals to how good parents or teachers care for their charges. It’s crucial to provide consistency, patience, persistence, routine, and predictability as a pet owner. Rewards for positive actions give the dog information, which guides the dog’s interactions with you.

Becoming the leader or being in control does not imply harshness or punishment, but rather that the dog’s behavior is appropriate and will remain so. This is achieved through reward-based training, physical restraints, and oversight. By showing your dog which behaviors will result in rewards and which will not, consistent responses help to reduce conflict and anxiety in your dog. In a sense, by offering you the behaviors you want your dog to learn, you gain control over its behavior, while your dog gains control over its rewards.

Since some puppies are more assertive, excitable, fearful, easily distracted, or difficult to motivate and, as a result, more difficult to train, the owner’s methods for taking the reins will depend on the individual temperament and genetic predisposition of the puppy.

Equally crucial is the ability to spot deference when it occurs. When your dog turns away from you, lowers its head, or avoids you, especially when you are correcting it, this attempts to end the interaction by demonstrating deference, appeasement, and submission. From the dog’s perspective, the interaction is over, and if the human continues to correct or punish the dog, the dog may react out of fear or with defensive actions.

Do not assume that because the dog deferred once, he will do so again. Each context is distinct, and the response considers the dogs’ desire for the resource.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Disobeys Your Commands?

The owner must avoid any conflict or circumstance that could result in harm, or the owner might not be able to gain control safely. You might be able to manipulate events and the environment to force the dog to comply. It is not a good idea to force or confront your dog to avoid resistance and aggression. Instead, consider whether compliance can be attained in each circumstance. If not, don’t go any further; instead, modify the possibility to enable you to achieve the desired result successfully.

If the dog is equipped with a remote leash and head halter that can be used to lead the dog on walks and remain attached while the owner is at home and the dog is inside, you can achieve more immediate control, except for bedtime. The leash and head halter can be used to get the desired response each time the dog is given a command that is disobeyed. Even though using a head halter and remote leash is an excellent way to ensure success and physical control, you will know you’ve succeeded once the dog responds to your verbal commands without needing leash pulls.

What are the Chances of Dogs Acting Aggressively Towards Their Family?

Dogs willing to use aggression to influence a situation’s outcome are rarely cured but frequently controllable. A good daily routine of exercise, play, and social interaction, as well as avoiding stimuli that cause aggression, can all contribute to improvement. However, some dogs might still threaten those who live with them because of their aggressive behavior toward family members. It might be impossible to safely rehabilitate an aggressive dog while protecting people in some family situations. Each case needs to be evaluated by a veterinary behaviorist, and progress must be continuously monitored.

What Steps Can You Take to Stop Your Dog’s Aggression?

Keep track of the instances when your dog exhibits aggressive behavior and the circumstances. This will primarily influence your next course of action. Taking care of the aggression’s root cause is crucial. A deeper issue is only being reflected in the behavior. You can help your dog maintain his composure by using various strategies to control aggression. It will take effort over time, perseverance, and expert assistance.

Consult a Veterinarian

An underlying medical condition may cause a dog’s sudden onset of aggressive behavior if they are not typically aggressive. Hypothyroidism, painful wounds, and neurological conditions like encephalitis, epilepsy, and brain tumors are among the health issues that can lead to aggression.

To determine if this is the case with your dog, speak to your veterinarian. The behavior of your dog may significantly improve with treatment or medication.

Call in a Professional

It’s time to consult a qualified dog trainer or animal behaviorist if your veterinarian has ruled out a medical condition. It would be best if you didn’t try to resolve aggression alone because it is such a serious issue. Your dog may be aggressive, and a professional can help you identify the source of the aggression and develop a management strategy.

Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation for a dog behaviorist or trainer.

Develop a Plan

You can determine the most effective strategy for controlling your dog’s aggression with the assistance of a behaviorist or trainer. Positive reinforcement is typically used to teach your dog new behaviors.

For instance, if your dog is a little aggressive toward strangers, start by standing far away. Your distance from your dog should be sufficient to prevent growling or snapping. As you gradually close the gap between your dog and the stranger, continue to use positive reinforcement by rewarding plenty of treats and praise.

Ideally, your dog will start to understand that strangers are equivalent to treats, and you’ll notice a decline in aggressiveness. The same method can acclimate your dog to various other situations.

Avoid Punishment

Usually, punishing your dog for being aggressive has the opposite effect and worsens the aggression.

A dog may need to defend itself by biting you if you hit, yell at, or react angrily to a growling dog.

As a result of punishment, your dog might suddenly bite another person. For instance, a dog that growls at kids tries to tell you that he doesn’t feel safe around them. If you spank a dog for growling at you, he might not warn you the next time he feels uneasy—instead, he might bite.

Consider Medication

Sometimes training alone is insufficient. To help manage the issue, aggressive dogs may also require medication. It’s crucial to realize that a stressed, afraid, or anxious dog cannot learn new things. Consider medication as a tool to aid in your dog’s recovery from this phobia. Many dogs only need medication for a brief period. Discuss your options with your veterinarian.

Deal with Unavoidable Circumstances

Finally, it would help if you thought about whether your way of life enables you to follow through on a plan. For instance, it would be impossible to avoid a situation where your dog would act aggressively toward your children if you have both a dog and children. The best action in this situation for you and your dog may be to find a new home with adults.

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