If your dog growls, snaps, or bites on a daily basis, you have a major behavior issue on your hands. One of the most common reasons dog owners seek the assistance of a licensed dog trainer or animal behaviorist is because of aggression. Aggression is not limited to bigger dogs or so-called “dangerous breeds”; any breed may become aggressive under the right circumstances.
While aggression cannot be reversed instantly, you can take measures to reduce aggressive behavior and help your dog stay calm.
What Causes Dogs to Be Aggressive?
Any behavior associated with an assault or an imminent attack in a dog is referred to as aggressive behavior. Growling, snarling, baring teeth, lunging, and nipping or biting are all examples of this.
To stop this behaviour, you must first determine what is triggering your dog’s aggression. When someone approaches them while they’re feeding or chewing a bone, for example, some dogs growl. Others retaliate violently when confronted with children or strangers.
Aggression does not have to be aimed at a specific individual. Some dogs become aggressive when they are around other creatures, but only such animals (cats but not other dogs), or inanimate objects such as vehicle wheels or yard equipment.
The important thing to remember is that you can’t come up with a solution to change your dog’s actions until you understand why it’s happening. Dog violence comes in a variety of forms:
- Territorial violence occurs when a dog protects its territory or your home from an intruder.
- Protective aggression occurs when a dog defends its pack members from another animal or individual. Mother dogs are also fiercely protective of their puppies, and anyone who approaches them can become aggressive.
- Possessive behavior occurs when a dog defends food, chew toys, bones, or another valuable item. This is refer to as resource guarding.
- Fear violence occurs when a dog is afraid and attempts to flee from a frightening situation, but then attacks when cornered.
- Defensive aggression is similar to fear aggression in that the dog strikes instead of fleeing. Before biting, these dogs have usually sent other, less obvious signals that they want to be left alone, such as turning their heads away.
- When the dog is in a social environment, he responds aggressively to other pets. Aggression can occur in dogs who have not been adequately socialize with other dogs or people.
- When the dog is restrain on a leash or in a fenced yard, frustration elicits violent behavior. When a dog is excited but unable to respond, it can become agitated. A dog may become too excited and nip its handler at any moment, such as before a walk.
- Redirected aggression: If an individual tries to break up a dog fight, the dog can become violent toward them. It may also happen if the dog is unable to meet the object of its anger, such as a dog on the other side of a fence.
- Aggression elicited by pain: When a dog is wounded or in pain, it acts aggressively.
- Sex-related violence occurs when two male dogs or two female dogs compete for a mate’s affection. This is true for unaltered animals, but it can be prevented by spaying and neutering dogs.
- When the dog is displaying predatory activity, such as chasing wildlife, the dog acts aggressively without warning. When a child is playing chase with the dog, this impulse can be extremely dangerous. While it may appear to be a harmless game at first, dogs with predatory aggression may quickly become agitated and bite the puppy.
Signs Your Dog Is Getting Aggressive
Aggressive behavior can be picked up by any dog, and it’s important to keep track of a pattern of warning signs, such as:
- Snapping and growling
- A stiff body and a rapidly wagging tail
- Yawning or licking one’s lips
- Averting the eyes
- Fur that has been raised
- Tail tucking and cowering
- Observing the whites of one’s eyes
Not all dogs that behave in this way are aggressive; many of these warning signs may also indicate distress or fear.
How to put an end to aggression
Keep track of when your dog becomes violent and the conditions that lead up to it. This will play a significant role in deciding the next course of action. It is important to address the root cause of the violence. The behavior is merely a symptom of a deeper issue. There are a few things you can do to help your dog stay calm and contain the aggression. It will take time, dedication, and even the assistance of a specialist.
Consult a veterinarian
Dogs that aren’t usually aggressive yet unexpectedly become aggressive may be suffering from an underlying medical condition.
Hypothyroidism, painful trauma, and neurological issues such as encephalitis, epilepsy, and brain tumors are also possible causes of violence. To see if this is the case for your dog, consult your veterinarian. Your dog’s behavior might improve dramatically after treatment or medication.
Involve a Professional
It’s time to see a licensed dog trainer or animal behaviorist if your doctor has ruled out a medical issue. You should not try to treat violence on your own because it is such a serious issue. A specialist will assist you in determining what is causing your dog’s agitation and developing a strategy to address it.
Make a Strategy
A behaviorist or educator may assist you in determining the best strategy for dealing with your dog’s aggression. To teach your dog new tricks, you’ll almost always use positive reinforcement.
Start by standing far away from someone your dog doesn’t recognize if your dog is slightly hostile toward strangers. You should be far enough away from your dog to prevent him from growling or snapping. Then, as you progressively and the gap between your dog and the intruder, continue to use positive reinforcement by rewarding with plenty of treats and praise.
In the best-case scenario, the dog will begin to associate strangers with treats, and its hostility will decrease. This method can also be used to acclimate the dog to a number of other scenarios.
Punishing your dog for aggressive action almost often backfires and can make the situation worse. If you strike, scream, or use another aversive approach to respond to a growling dog, the dog can feel compelled to protect itself by biting you.
Your dog can bite anyone else without warning as a result of the punishment. A dog that growls at children, for example, is expressing his discomfort in their presence. If you punish a dog for growling, the next time he feels uneasy, he will bite instead of warning you.
Provide for medication
In certain cases, preparation alone is insufficient. Aggressive dogs can need medication to help them control their behavior. It’s important to realize that a dog suffering from fear, stress, or anxiety is unable to learn new things. Consider medicine as a tool for assisting your dog in overcoming this phobia.
Dealing with Unavoidable Circumstances
Finally, think about whether your lifestyle helps you to adhere to a schedule. If you have a dog that is violent against children and you have children, it is almost difficult to escape the situation that causes the violence. In this situation, finding a new home for your dog with only adults could be the best choice for you and your dog.
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