What You Should Do If Your Dog Is Aggressive
Admitting that your dog isn’t the friendliest hound around isn’t always easy, but it is always necessary. Denying or being ignorant of your dog’s behavioral issues won’t make them go away; it’ll just lead you, your dog, and others into dangerous situations.
Whether your dog doesn’t like people, other dogs, or both, it’s your responsibility as their owner to ensure that your dog stays under your control. You and your dog will be happier for it. Here’s what you need to know to be able to handle your aggressive dog:
Why Are Dogs Aggressive?
First off, try to understand why your dog behaves this way. There are a few reasons dogs are aggressive, and if you know the cause of your dog’s aggression, you will be much better equipped to handle it.
One of the most important things an owner can do for their puppy is properly socialize them. A short span of time — about from seven weeks to four months of age — can influence how your dog sees the world for the rest of their life. During this time period, owners introduce their dogs to the world and frame new experiences, people, and animals in a positive light. If dogs aren’t properly socialized, they can become fearful and aggressive in new situations, leading to reactivity with unfamiliar people and animals.
There are a plethora of different dog breeds, all bred for a variety of purposes. Some dogs are naturally more reactive than others because they are bred to be protective. Common breeds meant to be guard dogs include Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Lhasa Apsos, and Belgian Malinois. These breeds often get a bad rap for being aggressive, but they are not inherently hostile dogs. However, they are inherently protective, and without proper training, socialization, and exercise, those protective instincts can translate into aggression.
Just like humans, dogs need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to lead happy, healthy lives. Dogs need to be able to let out their energy. When they’re deprived of that chance, not only do they get anxious and bored, they often engage in undesirable behavior, such as destroying furniture, barking at any and everything, or being aggressive with other people and animals.
Do your best to prevent your dog from feeling aggressive in the first place. While not always possible, thwarting your dog’s attempts at aggressive behavior can make everyday interactions less stressful.
Work on building up your confidence as your dog’s handler. Dogs can understand human emotions, and if you are upset or anxious about a situation, they will be too. Remember that you are in charge here. Establishing that you are alpha of the pack will help your dog trust your ability to handle uncertain and unfamiliar situations. After all, if you can keep the pack safe from harm, your dog doesn’t have to.
Try to see what specifically triggers your dog to react aggressively. Is it dogs that are off-leash? Squirrels darting by unexpectedly? Children running over to pet them? Get as specific as possible, then do your best to avoid your dog’s triggers. You can’t control everything, and chances are, you will eventually encounter something that upsets your dog. However, it’s still worth trying. If your dog doesn’t notice the trigger, they won’t get the chance to react aggressively.
Find an Outlet
As mentioned above, dogs are bred to do certain things — to herd, to guard, to retrieve — but many of the jobs dogs were originally bred for are no longer as widespread. Many people with Australian Shepherds don’t have sheep to herd and Beagle owners aren’t typically using them to flush out game. If dogs don’t have a safe environment to do what they’re bred to do, it can lead to behavioral problems, especially if you own a working dog. Try to find a safe space for your dog to be themselves and do what they were born to do.
Dealing with Aggression
Unfortunately, if you have an aggressive dog, you will likely find yourself in situations where your dog is acting out. If left unchecked, your dog may bite someone, damage property, or accidentally hurt you or themself. These and other actions can have serious consequences, so do everything you can get control of your dog.
Make sure your dog is well-trained and obedient. Having a trained dog is of the utmost importance, especially one prone to aggressive behavior. You have to ensure that your dog will listen to your commands, regardless of the circumstances. “No” needs to truly mean “no.” Being able to clearly tell your dog what you expect them to do can help them calm down, stop the situation from escalating, and get their focus off of whatever is distracting them.
Focus and Engagement
In your obedience training, work on your dog’s ability to focus on you. This means facing you when they’re standing, sitting, or laying down; adjusting their position to follow you if you move; and keeping their eyes on you. Your dog won’t be able to get into trouble if they’re engaged with you during walks and playtime. In addition, you will have to be focused on your dog, too. Be attentive to their behavior and body language, as well as the world around you, when out and about.
Get Out of the Situation
Sometimes, training and engagement aren’t enough to keep your dog from barking, lunging at, or getting ahold of property, another person, or other animals. If that’s the case, get your dog out of that situation as quickly as possible. Things will only get worse if you stick around.
While owning an aggressive dog can be difficult, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience for either you or your pooch. In fact, it can help deepen your bond and make you a better, more responsible dog owner. And with proper care and training, you’ll be able to bring out the best in your best friend.