Ways to Reduce Dog Aggression and the risk of being bitten
A dog is a man’s best friend. But ask any dog owner and they’ll say that this mantra may be reconsidered whenever the dog becomes aggressive. Most people associate dog aggression with biting but there is more to it than this. Some dogs can keep their aggression in check and may only emit an occasional growl whereas others can attack their fellow dogs and even people. There are many reasons why a dog may become aggressive and it is important to understand why your dog behaves the way it does if you hope to bring it under control. Remember that although it can be difficult to handle, dog aggression is ultimately a behavioural problem and one that can be righted.
What signs can you look for to indicate whether your dog is beginning to feel aggressive? If you know the answer to this question, you will be in a better position to anticipate the aggression and stop it in time. The most common signs of aggression your dog can exhibit are a stiff body posture, growling, baring of teeth, snarling, ears that are pinned back and bites of various intensity, from a light nip to a bite that punctures the skin. If you notice one or more of these traits, do not ignore them and respond to them as soon as you can.
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to consider the various reasons why your dog may be displaying signs of aggression. It’s virtually unheard of for a dog to turn violent for no reason. The most common reason for dog aggression is a lack of training and socialising with other dogs, but this is by no means the only reason. Other causes include pain, illness, fear, an attempt to establish dominance and territoriality or possessiveness. In the very rare instance when your dog becomes aggressive seemingly out of nowhere, it is most likely due to pain or the rare condition known as Sudden Onset Aggression syndrome.
Remember that aggression in dogs is a complex matter and there is no overnight fix to put it right. This is especially true in cases of severe aggression. However, if you are prepared to put in the necessary amounts of patience and determination, you will be able to halt your dog’s aggression. Like most other behavioural issues, the best way of reducing aggression in your dog is to stop it from happening altogether.
If your dog is still a puppy, there are several steps you can take to prevent the risk of aggression developing later on. First, discourage your dog from exhibiting dominant behavioural attitudes. Second, be wary of signs of resource guarding (it may be a toy, a bed, a chair etc.), keep tabs on how your dog socialises with other animals and people and finally use positive reinforcement training, which is where you give your dog a reward for good behaviour.
Perhaps you missed the signs of aggression during the puppy stage or you adopted a fully-grown dog. What do you do in the case of your dog becoming aggressive then? Here are a few common scenarios you may find yourself in and how best to train your dog in each. First, imagine that your dog is aggressive around strangers. Try to pinpoint a common denominator among the strangers that your dog may feel especially threatened by. Are there particular types of people such as men or women or children who your dog reacts to? Is it everyone? Is it in the house or on the street? The aggression may require leash training due to leash aggression or the dog may have experienced a traumatic event relating to a certain type of person in the past. In this scenario, positive reinforcement training plus a gradual desensitization to the cause of the aggression will work best.
Maybe your dog is being aggressive with you. This could include growling at you or nipping you, perhaps even extending to biting if the aggression is not immediately dealt with. In most cases, the aggression is being redirected from another matter. It could be a result of resource guarding or aggression directed at other dogs. It’s also worth checking to see if it is the result of an underlying medical condition. Ruling out illnesses and injuries should be your primary goal in this instance and above all do not react to your dog’s aggression with aggressive behaviour of your own.
Suppose your dog becomes aggressive if it approached while eating. This is commonly known as possessive aggression and your goal here is to help your dog to realise that no one wants to deprive it of its food. Once more, patience is required and you should start slowly by standing near to them while they eat. Repeat this process until your dog becomes comfortable and then begin to pet them while they eat. If you have more than one dog and they fight over food while you are out, consider installing a pet camera that provides treats to monitor their behaviour and to disrupt any acts of aggression.
Aggression in dogs is always intimidating to witness, but deep down your dog may just be scared and poorly socialised. If you are willing to put in the time and effort your dog deserves, you can overcome this problem together. Any aggressive dog can change provided it is given a chance to. The solution could be as simple as a basic change in routine or it may require assistance from a professional trainer. Whatever it takes to reduce your dog’s aggression, take time to find out what best suits your dog and remember that any treatment will be worth it in the long term. In your dog you will have a friend for life.
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