A positive relationship between dog and owner can enrich the lives of both parties. If you’re the type of person who spends a lot of time hiking, camping or generally exploring unfamiliar areas, having your dog by your side can be an important safety measure in addition to providing you with an adventure partner.
Though dog ownership can be very rewarding, it isn’t always easy. If your dog exhibits troublesome behaviors that put you or others at risk, it can make simple tasks like taking walks or inviting guests over seem stressful or even impossible.
Dog aggression is an important behavior to curb for your own safety as well as for the safety of your dog and other people and animals. Additionally, getting rid of aggression will improve your relationship with your dog, as it will learn to trust that it’s in good hands and doesn’t need to resort to bad behavior.
What Causes Aggressive Behavior in Dogs?
Aggression is not an inherent personality trait in dogs, but rather a pattern of behaviors that can develop over time. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the three most prominent types of aggression seen in dogs are caused by fear, protectiveness or an attempt to redirect.
When a dog is scared for its safety, it may respond with aggressive behaviors like growling or biting to protect itself. Your dog may also exhibit behaviors like these if it senses that its territory is in danger, which could include its owner, home, food, or toys.
Furthermore, if a dog feels threatened by something that it’s unable to take its aggression out on, it may redirect its hostilities to someone or something else nearby.
How to Handle an Aggressive Animal
Whether you adopted your dog expecting to deal with some aggression due to its past or your dog has begun to exhibit aggression for the first time, it’s important to take steps to curb the behaviors before they escalate and put you and others in danger.
Be Calm Around Your Dog
Dogs can develop aggressive habits that have nothing to do with their owner’s behavior. However, animals tend to be more sensitive to their owner’s moods and emotions than we realize. This means that tension or anger from you could cause your dog to feel unstable or unsafe, leading it to feel the need to protect itself.
Use a Positive Reinforcement Style of Training
Many dog owners think that they have to establish dominance over their dog in order to get the obedience they want. In reality, punishing your dog for behaviors you don’t want can make it more fearful in general and therefore more prone to aggressive self-protection.
The best way to earn your dog’s trust and obedience, especially if it has fearfulness or aggression in its history, is to focus on the behaviors that you do want to see and to reinforce them with treats and praise. Positive reinforcement is a much better long-term motivator for dogs than aversion or fear-based training tactics.
Introduce Protective Gear Early On
If you have a pet with aggressive tendencies, the only safe way to take it into public spaces is with protective gear like a muzzle or harness, especially if you’re still in the training stages with your dog and don’t yet know all of its triggers or capabilities.
In fact, introducing protective gear into your training sessions from the beginning can help your dog feel safer and more secure in unfamiliar settings, which can reduce aggressive urges and lead to a calmer, happier dog overall.
Consult with Your Vet
Aggression of any kind in a dog is a serious issue that shouldn’t be overlooked or ignored. As you’re finding ways to curb your dog’s aggression through training, it’s also important to have it examined by a vet to see if some kind of health issue could be the root of your dog’s aggression.
Dogs can become irritable and quick to snap if they are dealing with chronic pain. Additionally, if your dog is an intact male, you will likely see a big difference in his tendency toward aggression if you get him neutered.