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HOW TO SOLVE CANINE AGGRESSION

Has your dog shown signs of aggression? Does he snap at you? Do you become alarmed when they snarl and aggressively show their teeth to you? It is normal to feel intimidated and frightened by this behavior because your dog is displaying canine aggression. Canine aggression can be dangerous and sometimes fatal if not recognized and properly treated. The purpose of this article on canine aggression is to provide the tools you need to combat your dog’s aggressive tendencies. Following is a list of questions and topics that will be covered in this article:

  • What are signs of canine aggression?
  • Why do some dogs become aggressive?
  • What should you do if your dog is becoming aggressive?
  • Is there a step-by-step plan you can follow to solve aggression problems in your dog?
  • What should you know about professional dog trainers/behaviorists?
  • How can you prevent canine aggression in the first place?

What are signs of canine aggression?

Signs of canine aggression can range from body language to behavior. Body language involves the way your dog carries himself. For example, does he have an intimidating stance while showing his sharp teeth? Does he pounce at strangers the minute you open the front door with their held high and their tail wagging stiffly?

Signs of aggressive body language include:

  • Tall stance with their ears straight up is a sign of dominant aggression
  • Tails are held high in an offensive position
  • Low growl while showing their teeth
  • A low head may be a sign of submissive aggression

Signs of aggressive behavior include:

  • Biting people and other dogs whether provoked or not
  • Aggressive barking that is a loud bark and/or low growl
  • Snarling and snapping whether provoked or not
  • Stop eating when you approach their food
  • Extremely protective of their sleeping area
  • Fearful and extremely wary of strangers
  • Jump forcefully on people and other dogs
  • Urinate often to mark their territory
  • Snap when you try to pet them or lift them
  • Snarl when being groomed
  • Often run away from home to explore by themselves
  • Destroy your house by chewing everything in sight

Why do some dogs become aggressive?

While dogs may be our best buddies, some dogs can become aggressive and may snap, snarl, or bite someone. Dogs that are aggressive and/or bite behave this way due to a number of reasons. Perhaps the dog has always had an aggressive nature and perceives you as an unwanted stranger.

The breed of dog you have can also play a role. Historically, there are certain breeds that have been known to harbor aggression. The Pit Bull breed is a common example. It is important to note that not all dogs of “aggressive” breeds are aggressive. With proper breeding, socialization and training, dog aggression can be minimized or even removed.

The dog’s breed is only one factor and doesn’t always mean the dog will be aggressive and prone to biting. You might encounter a dog that has been healthy in the past and free from offensive behavior. However, the dog has recently suffered from an illness such as rabies. Rabies can cause dogs to become disoriented and lash out by biting people. A classic sign of rabies is drooling and foaming of the mouth.

A dog’s environment is also a factor. What are the living conditions like? Dogs that are not properly socialized from an early age will have stunted social development. This lack in experience can bring on aggression.

The manner in which you discipline your dog also affects your dog’s aggression level. Dogs that have been subjected to excessive punishment may become defensive and lash out through aggression.

On the other hand a dog that has been spoiled or not taken responsibility for his actions may become aggressive. This type of aggression is due to the fact that the dog feels he can do whatever he wishes to do because he knows he won’t have to fess up to the negative consequences.

Aggressive dogs may also have dealt with teasing and prodding from children and people in the past. Dogs that are abused and mistreated are prone to aggressive tendencies. It is their defense mechanism and part of their survival instinct.

Dogs are also born with a “pack” mentality. Some dogs wish to be the “Alpha” male or the head of the pack. Their instincts tell them that they should act aggressively to achieve this status. This mentality needs to be corrected by their owner. If this issue is not addressed they could become a highly aggressive dog.

What should you do if your dog is becoming aggressive?

Take action! If you notice that your dog has been aggressive from day one then the aggression may be nearing a drastic level. If you wait too long your dog could bite and/or seriously injure someone. This makes your dog a high liability.

Take your dog to the veterinarian for a check up before you engage in a discipline program with your dog. The reason is that your dog may be suffering from an illness that has affected their behavior.

Explain your dog’s behavior and symptoms to the veterinarian. Make sure to let the veterinarian know how long the aggressive symptoms have been going on. Your veterinarian can rule out any illnesses and determine if behavioral modification is necessary.

If you determine that your dog’s health is fine then you should engage in a behavioral modification program for your dog. It is important to nip any behavioral problems in the bud before they become worse.

Is there a step-by-step plan you can follow to solve aggression problems in your dog?

Yes, there is a step-by-step plan you can follow to curb your dog’s aggressive tendencies. In the majority of cases, these obedience exercises can be completed in the comfort of your own home. If your dog doesn’t curtail their aggression problems after employing these techniques then you can consult a professional dog behavior therapist.

CANINE AGGRESSION SITUATION #1:

Your dog becomes aggressive with other dogs.

Your dog may feel a natural instinct to protect their territory and/or become aggressive with other dogs. This behavior is characterized by loud barking, aggressive stance, and snarling at other dogs. Your dog may also have a tail that is held high and stiff. These behaviors are classic signs that your dog may initiate a fight with the other dog.

It is important to note that you would intuitively think that pulling back on your dog’s leash during this confrontation will stop them from being aggressive. Pulling your dog closer to you may actually worsen the situation because your dog wishes to protect you. Your dog may then associate pulling on their leash with aggression.

An immediate way to avoid a dog fight is to divert your dog’s stare from the other dog by turning their head. You can also remove your dog from the situation. However, you can prevent this behavior in the first place by using the following training techniques at home.

Training Technique: Ease your dog into being comfortable and not threatened by other dogs in the environment.

1. Find a quite place at home free from distractions. Attach your dog to a long leash. Place a treat or your dog’s favorite toy at the end of the leash by you. Use the “come” command to have your dog come to you. Reward your dog with the treat or toy.

2. Repeat this same training technique in a park that contains other dogs. Find an area that has a limited number of dogs that are spread out. This will help to ease your dog into coming when called even when there is another dog in their environment. Reward them with a treat or toy if and only if they do not show aggression to other dogs.

3. Next allow your dog to interact with other dogs. Avoid any aggressive behavior by commanding your dog to come with the presence of the other dog. Reward your dog if they don’t show aggression towards the other dogs.

NOTE: You can also have your dog wear a muzzle. A muzzle will help decrease dominance by controlling your dog’s ability to bite. A muzzle may appear to be inhumane; however it is an accepted training technique. A muzzle is used for training purposes and should not be worn when your dog is unsupervised.

Ensure that you understand how to place the muzzle on your dog properly. The muzzle should be secure, but not unyielding. Your dog should be able to open its mouth and pant in the muzzle.


CANINE AGGRESSION SITUATION #2:

Your dog has deemed themselves the dominant “Alpha” dog.

What is an “Alpha” dog? An Alpha dog is one that considers himself the leader of the pack. This type of dog feels that they rule the home and should have all their needs met immediately. Training Technique: You need to demonstrate that you are the leader of your household and not your dog. You need to remove privileges that tend to make your dog feel more dominant.

• Have your dog wear a muzzle or restraint to diminish their dominance.

• Do not allow them comforts such as sleeping on your bed or on the living room couch. If they jump on the couch immediately remove them from the furniture. Teach them to obey you by using the “Off” command. • Ignore your dog when they are displaying aggressive or incorrect behavior. This is important because responding to negative behavior will often reinforce the unwanted behavior.

• Make sure that you and your family eat FIRST at meal time. You may prepare your dog’s food when you prepare your own, but don’t allow them to eat. This will teach the dog that they are not the leaders. You eat first and your dog will eat second. This is not cruel; it is a way of creating a pecking order with you at the top instead of your dog.

• Make sure that you are always the first one to leave your home. Have your dog follow you so they will understand that they are not first in command.

• Try to groom your dog on a daily basis. Have them wear the muzzle while you groom. By submitting to your grooming they are giving up their dominance.


CANINE AGGRESSION SITUATION #3:

Your dog is extremely possessive of their food, toys, and other items.

Does your dog snip and snarl when you come close to them while they are eating? Do they refuse to remove themselves from their favorite spot on your recliner? Do they continue to tug on a toy even after you have commanded them to release the toy? If so, then your dog is displaying signs of “guarding” aggression. Training Technique: Control the situation to train your dog to stop their guarding tendencies.

• If your dog refuses to get off the furniture then place them on a leash. Command them with “Off” and use the leash if they will not get off the furniture.

• If your dog growls when you come near their food then enlist the help of another person. Have this person hold your dog on a leash while you fill up and place the dog’s food bowl in front of them. Allow the dog to then come to their dog food bowl.

• If your dog will not relinquish a toy then use the command “Give”. Give them a treat if they submit the toy. This technique will enable your dog to associate a positive feeling with the “Give” command.


CANINE AGGRESSION SITUATION #4:

Your dog displays submissive aggression such as biting out of fear.

A dog that bites out of fear may appear to be submissive and then suddenly lash out with a bite. This type of dog may not have been properly socialized in their early years. They may be unsure and nervous when in the presence of other dogs. Training Technique: You need to improve your dog’s self confidence and comfort level around other dogs.

• Enlist the help of another person. Have this person stand some distance away from you with a treat in their hand. Walk your dog on a leash calmly to the food treat. Have the person not move and allow the dog to safely take the food from their hand. This safe environment will help promote your dog’s confidence around others.

• Repeat the process by increasing the interaction between your dog and the other person. Have your partner gently pet the dog when they take the dog treat.


CANINE AGGRESSION SITUATION #5:

Your dog will not stop barking and uses barking aggressively.

Dogs bark for various reasons such as asserting their dominance and voicing their commands. If your dog barks excessively and pairs this with other aggression tendencies try the following techniques to curb their destructive barking habit.

Training Techniques:

• Do not respond to your dog’s barking. Ignore them or place them in another room so they understand that their barking is unacceptable.

• Command them by saying “Quiet”. When they settle down praise and reward them. • Command your dog to go to their kennel or specific room when they bark. Provide them with a treat when they follow orders and settle down.


CANINE AGGRESSION SITUATION #6:

Your dog continues to be aggressive despite your discipline efforts.

Your dog tries to jump on your lap when you are eating dinner or working at your computer.

You can alleviate this situation by determining how much attention you give to misbehavior. Did you know negative attention can backfire as it can reinforce the associated behavior?

An example of negative attention would be the amount of attention you give your dog when they jump all over you. If you let them get away with this behavior by petting them before you take them off your lap then your dog will perceive jumping on you as acceptable behavior.

Another option to help you out this situation is to consult a professional dog trainer and/or dog behaviorist. This option will be discussed in the next section.

What should you know about professional dog trainers/behaviorists?

If your dog has a high level of aggression or you can’t seem to control his aggression through your own training then you can seek out the services of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

The key is that you find a respected, knowledgeable professional dog trainer/behaviorist. You can find a professional dog trainer/behaviorist through a referral from your veterinarian or the American Kennel Association. You can also check out the American Dog Trainers Network at http://www.tonypassera.com/thedogsite/www//new/index.php.

It is crucial to the safety and health of your dog that you interview several different dog trainers/behaviorists. Ask them what training methods they use. Avoid any dog trainer/behaviorist that used “hanging” methods or shock collars on aggressive dogs. These are cruel, excessive technique that will only abuse your dog and are inhumane.

Try to find a dog trainer/behaviorist that doesn’t rely on brute force or excessive punishment. Methods they may use include prevention by removing temptation. For example, does your dog snap when you try to stop him from urinating in your flower beds? Remove his accessibility to the flower beds by putting him on a leash in the backyard when you take him out to do his business.

A dog trainer/behaviorist will work with you to correct your dog’s aggressive behavior. They will want to know the person in your home that your dog is being the most aggressive towards. For example, is your dog most aggressive towards your husband or significant other? This person should be the one to engage in the discipline. Why? Because if this person didn’t confront the dog then the dog would feel that he really does have dominance over this person.

This designated person should take care of the dog through feeding, play, and taking them outside to go the bathroom. As hard as it can be other members in your home should not pay as much attention to your dog until your dog has his aggression under control.

The designated person, along with the professional dog trainer/behaviorist, should teach the dog basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and lay down. If your dog starts to warm up to the designated person, this behavior should be rewarded with positive reinforcement.

The next step is to work on conditioning with the dog behaviorist/trainer. The two of you will work together to ease your dog into submission. You will get your dog used to having its feet touched and belly rubbed even when it wouldn’t let you do this in the past.

How do you get your dog to submit to paw touching and belly rubbing? Your dog needs to know how to stand on command. Begin by gently touching your dog on their paws and rear end. If they behave and allow you to do this then praise them and/or give them a food treat. Work on this technique and extend the amount of time you place your hand on their body. Eventually they will become used to being touched and not feel threatened. Positive reinforcement is the key.

How can you prevent canine aggression in the first place?

There are a few ways to prevent canine aggression in the first place. First of all you should establish a healthy relationship from day one. Do not allow your dog to easily demonstrate dominance over anyone in the household. Dogs must understand there place in the family “pack”.

Purchase your dog from a qualified, respectable breeder. Puppy mills and over breeding can affect the physical and mental integrity of a dog. Find out all the family history of your dog. Your breeder should provide you with a “Certificate of Origin”.

Your breeder should engage in effective socialization during your dog’s first weeks of life. You should follow in their footsteps by handling your puppy with care and not subjecting your puppy to scary or loud situations. Children should be taught how to properly handle and play with puppies. Rough housing with a puppy can cause them to feel threatened and build aggressions.

Your breeder should take care of your dog’s initial vaccinations. You should have your dog vaccinated each year to help prevent various diseases. For example, you should have your dog vaccinated against rabies each year. It can be disastrous if your dog contract rabies as they will become aggressive and prone to biting.

Conclusion

It is a good idea to be aware of these canine aggression problems even if your dog doesn’t currently suffer from any of them. Why? Your Dog may be a model dog right now, but times change. Life circumstances can change in a moment. For example, a new child or animal could become part of your home. This could cause your once perfectly behaved dog to act up.


Categories: Pets


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