Aggressive dog: training tips
There are dogs that growl, bark, bare their teeth and even bite. An aggressive dog can put the coexistence between dog and humans to a hard test. But why do some dogs become aggressive and others not? And what can be done to prevent aggressive behavior?
Are some dog breeds more dangerous than others?
One thing is certain: no dog is born aggressive. Although some dog breeds have a higher protective instinct from birth and others have a lower stimulus threshold, hardly any of them bite for no reason. Dog experts now agree that every dog – regardless of breed – can learn to behave appropriately to the situation.
Pit bulls, Rottweilers or Dobermans are therefore not per se more dangerous than, for example, a golden retriever or Labrador. In fact, these breeds are characterized by a rather high threshold of irritation and a friendly nature. Thus, the causes of aggressive behavior are not so much to be found in genetic makeup, but rather in the people who raise these dogs.
The behavior of your dog is your responsibility
So it is not the dog who is responsible for his behavior, but the owner. He must teach his dog, taking into account his temperament, what he expects from him and how to behave in coexistence with other animals and people. Sometimes using the right training collar can help you with training. Check this post to find out more.
However, this does not mean that you should lose yourself in self-reproach if your dog reacts aggressively. Most dog owners do not act with malicious intent, but rather out of insecurity, ignorance, or misunderstood love of animals.
Sometimes your dog’s aggressive behavior is not due to you at all, but to previous traumatic experiences. This can be the case, for example, if you have rescued your dog from the shelter only at an adult age.
Aggressive dog: Do I need help?
It is important that you recognize the problem and try to reduce your dog’s aggression. At the latest when your dog dangerously threatens or even bites other animals or people, you need to act!
There are many experts who can help you on this path: Dog trainers, dog psychologists or problem dog therapists. Don’t be afraid to seek this help. Getting help is not a failure or a sign of weakness, but rather an indication of your courage and strength to face the responsibility for your dog.
First step: Identify causes
There is something comforting in the realization that an aggressive dog’s behavior is influenced by humans: just as faulty parenting encourages aggressive behavior, you can use the right parenting to ensure that an aggressive dog discards unwanted behavior and becomes an agreeable partner.
But what should be done differently in the future? To turn your bully into an obedient family dog, you should explore the causes of his aggression. The better you know the reasons for his aggressive behavior, the better you can avoid them. As a result, you will have to adjust the way you deal with your dog.
Why do dogs become aggressive?
Dogs do not suddenly become aggressive overnight on some whim. Aggression is always caused by persistent or repetitive negative emotions, usually anger or fear. But pain from an illness can also wear down a dog and lead to aggressive behavior.
So dogs do not become biting beasts because, say, they are belligerent or take pleasure in intimidating and hurting other animals or people. An aggressive dog is almost always a dog that is insecure and uncomfortable in a particular situation.
Causes and forms of aggression
Isolated rearing, lack of socialization and education, and inappropriate housing are among the main reasons for dog aggression. But it can also be that an aggressive dog has had bad experiences in the past. Also traumatic experiences or chronic pain can become the trigger of anger or fear – and thus of aggression.
In reality, unfortunately, the exact causes are not always as easy to pinpoint as they may seem here. It is therefore worthwhile to first look at when a dog reacts aggressively: In what situations does he start growling and baring his teeth? Does he react nervously to the proximity of a conspecific? Does he think he has to defend his charges? Or is he afraid that someone else might steal his personal belongings? Depending on the reason, one distinguishes different forms of aggression in dogs. Thus there are the:
- Self-defense: A dog feels uncomfortable towards a conspecific or restricted in his freedom.
- Protection aggression: Family members must be protected from enemies.
- Competitive aggression: If the dog has a strong attachment to an object, such as a food bowl or toy, it must defend it from others or it wants to separate itself and secure its status in the pack.
Last but not least, the learning experience that the dog has had with its aggressive behavior plays a decisive role. Was he able to vent his anger or was he praised by his owner for it?
Of course, few owners would consciously reward their dog when it growls or even bites. Nevertheless, most owners probably try to restrain their dog by soothing it (“It’s all right, stay calm!”) or petting it to calm it down.
However, dogs usually cannot interpret their owner’s words, only their tone of voice. Therefore, the dog is often left with the perception that his master is paying loving attention to him when he growls and barks.
Second step: Avoid situations
If you have found out which stimuli trigger your dog’s aggressive behavior, you should first avoid them at all costs. Do not under any circumstances take your dog’s aggressive behavior lightly, because depending on the strength and size of the four-legged friend, it can be dangerous for you and those around you.
For example, if your dog gets terribly excited in the presence of another dog or in a certain environment, try to avoid these situations if possible. First, you must teach your dog the most important obedience rules and rely on him to obey your hearing and sight signals. Only then should you begin to desensitize him to these aggression-triggering stimuli as part of a targeted training program.
When should a muzzle be put on?
If your dog already shows very pronounced aggressive behavior and you are anxious or unsure whether your dog will obey your commands, you should put a muzzle on him. Don’t worry, this is initially just for safety and by no means does it have to be forever. If you have successfully re-trained your rowdy four-legged friend, you can confidently do without it.
So that putting on the muzzle does not become a torture, you should first get your dog used to it gently within your own four walls. For example, place treats in the muzzle so that your dog can only reach it when he puts his mouth in the basket. After a few minutes, take the muzzle off again and praise your dog for it – with words and another treat.
Repeat this procedure again and again, always leaving the muzzle on a little longer. After a while you can leave the treat in the muzzle and go for a first walk outside with the muzzle on. Do not be bothered by the looks of other people, but deal with the situation confidently and calmly. After all, you are making sure that your dog cannot hurt anyone.
Aggressive dog: The body language
Composure and self-confidence are qualities that you should adopt when dealing with your dog and your environment in general. Dogs have an amazing sense of their humans’ moods.
If your dog senses that you are insecure and nervous, this feeling will transfer to him. He will be unsettled and put on “alert” in the appropriate situations. The result of this insecurity is often that your dog believes he has to defend you. For the affect-driven animal, attack sometimes means the best defense.
So handle your dog with confidence. Be sure to try to put aside or, if necessary, overplay your nervousness in situations where your dog might become aggressive. Gradually, your dog will regain confidence in your competence and learn that he can rely on your judgment.
Third step: Re-education in the dog school
With steps one and two, you have taken the “first aid measures” in dealing with your aggressive dog. You have clarified where the causes of his behavior lie. You have also made sure that your dog is no longer a danger.
The next and final step is to get down to the nitty-gritty. After all, you will not always be able to avoid critical situations. Your insecure and aggressive dog must be re-educated. At this point, at the latest, it is advisable to seek professional help. Visit the dog school with your dog or a targeted coaching with an anti-aggression trainer.
Obedience exercises and behavior control
In a training session, you first practice the most important behaviors with your dog. With obedience exercises, he learns the basic auditory and visual cues. These include approaching when called, “sit,” “down,” “heel,” and “leave that” (“off”/”stop”).
Only when he reliably obeys these signs can you begin to desensitize your dog to irritable situations. To do this, your dog trainer will artificially create situations in which your dog will react aggressively and practice alternative behaviors with you and your dog.
One tool used to treat aggression problems in this process is positive reinforcement. With recurring rewards, you can target your dog’s behavior and steer it in a desired direction.
Take the lead!
Attending a dog training school or anti-aggression training will not only have a positive impact on your dog’s behavior, but also on your relationship with each other.
You will get to know your dog better and learn how you should behave in critical situations with him. Last but not least, this will lead to more self-confidence on your side. This will allow you to confidently deal with your rowdy dog.
Show your dog clearly who is in charge from now on – without exaggerated strictness or even violence, but with self-confidence, consistency and positive charisma. In this way, your dog will learn to follow your rules, which in turn will not only make your everyday life together much easier, but will also ensure more satisfaction for your dog. Because every dog longs for control and orientation by his “pack leader”.
With that, we wish you and your dog much success on the road together!
Welcome to Mid Sussex Dog Training School
Welcome to the website of Mid Sussex Dog Training School (also known as MGB Training), thank you for your interest in our puppy and dog training classes.
The aim of our classes is to show you how to train your dog using only reward based methods. We also aim to show you that training can and should be fun for both you and your dog, the result of which could be a dog that is pleasure to own and a joy to live with.
Whether you want to simply train your puppy to be a well-behaved member of the family or whether you want to progress your dog training towards competition work (Obedience, Showing, Agility, Gundog, Working Trials, Heelwork to Music, or whatever) we can gear the training to your individual needs.
The classes are run by Madeleine Burr, who has over 30 years experience of working with dogs. Madeleine only endorses the use of kind, reward based training methods.
Our courses are 6 weeks in duration, with each session lasting one hour. Our puppy class is held at 7pm, with Improvers and Advanced classes following afterwards. We meet at Hapstead Hall, Ardingly, West Sussex on a Monday evening. More information can be found on our Class Details page.
In addition to the normal training programme, the classes also include handy hints and tips on all sorts of canine matters. We are also able to offer the chance to participate in the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme.
Please use the menu options on the left to find out more about Mid Sussex Dog Training School!