I think it’s very important to start by explaining that it is very, very, rare for a dog to be a “bad” dog. If you truly believe that your dog, or any dog, is behaving aggressively because it’s a bad dog you are setting yourself up for failure. It can be hard to come to terms with, especially when the aggression is seemingly out of control. But if you come into this whole ordeal open to learning a little bit more about why dogs act aggressively, you will be much better equipped to resolve the situation. There is always hope – so long as you have the perseverance to explore all of your options. This article should give you everything you need to know to help you better understand your dog and its aggressive traits.
Signs of aggression in dogs:
There are some very clear signs of aggression that dogs will display to us that most people will be able to identify. The easiest one is barking. It’s important to distinguish between barking to alert you, or out of excitement, and genuine aggression. The deeper the bark the more aggressive it tends to be. Squeaky yapping is generally more playful, but not always. It’s important to use your gut instinct and assess the context of the barking. Another clear sign is and low body position, combined with snarling and growling, when a dog is lowering itself it is giving itself the spring and force needed to move quickly. Almost like how a cat pounces. Snarling can also be seen as playful, again, context is everything. Some lesser-known signs of aggression are as follows:
- Standing dead still.
- Muzzle punching (head butting almost).
- Baring teeth.
If you want to read a bit more about signs of aggression the ASPCA has a great article that you can find here.
How to handle aggression in dogs:
There are a few ways to handle aggression in dogs. The first blanket suggestion that I think applies to everyone is that it’s fine to seek help. You don’t have to do it on your own, it’s almost always better to defer to the experts in situations like this. They know better, they can save you a lot of headaches, and you remove the risk of just aggravating the problem. Related post: Are dachshunds aggressive?
Visit your veterinarian:
As mentioned above, sometimes aggression is caused by injury or illness. That’s normally the reason that a dog who is otherwise perfectly behaved suddenly starts acting out. If you specify to your vet that you have noticed a sudden uptick in aggressive behavior so you are worried that there might be some kind of illness or injury that might be going on that you don’t know about. They can point you in the right direction with some good advice or a referral to a good trainer or behavior expert in the area too.
Work with a professional behavioral expert:
Sometimes it’s a good idea to seek an expert’s help. They can usually work out the reasons for aggression problems very quickly. They’ve seen it all before, so trust me, it’s better to ask for their help rather than trying to play doggy psychiatrist yourself. Sometimes the reasons are very nuanced and require a deep dive into your dog’s personality, background, and behavior. It’s your choice whether the reason has been identified whether you choose to pay for a trainer’s help or you try to resolve the issue yourself with a little bit of direction. Related post: Why Dachshunds Bark So Much?
Tips for training an aggressive dog:
You don’t have to pay for a trainer, you can take many steps yourself to help correct your dog’s aggressive behavior. Here are a few simple ideas that you can use a combination of to help you on your journey to a perfectly behaved pup:
Practice positive reinforcement:
Positive reinforcement is the best way to correct behavior. Positive reinforcement means you are rewarding good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior. A good example is when your dog is barking, you should reward them with a treat for stopping, rather than yelling at them for barking in the first place.
Engage in daily obedience exercises:
Daily obedience exercises are a good way to improve your relationship and trust with your dog. If you try to practice even small commands, sit, stay, fetch, etc you will find that your dog is far more likely to respond to other commands. Namely, stop. Teaching your dog to stop when you tell it to can save its life, or the life of someone else in extreme cases.
Take your dog for daily walks:
A lot of aggression from dogs can come with frustration and pent-up energy. A good way to rectify this is by walking your dog daily. Twice daily is even better. For a few reasons, healthier dogs are happier and more likely to behave correctly. Additionally, a tired dog from lots of walks doesn’t have the energy to cause mischief!
Act calm and collected:
Dogs tend to mirror the behavior and energy of those around them. Dogs tend to end up like their owner in a lot of ways. If you love running and are a real get up and go, type person, your dog will probably mirror you in that way. If you love lounging around on the couch your dog will do so too. Now, if you are a calm and collected person your dog will match their energy to yours. If you are stressed, loud, and visibly frustrated your dog will feed off that energy, and their behavior will start slipping.
Introduce your dog to new people or pets in a neutral location:
It’s a very good idea to introduce your dog to as many people and pets as possible at a young age. It’s much more beneficial as a puppy or young dog, but there is always merit to the idea. By teaching your dog to meet new people and animals you are teaching them not to be afraid, which will make them far less likely to lash out. It’s important to do so in a neutral location because that removes the territorial aspect from the situation. Your dog no longer feels the need to protect its territory and is far more likely to behave friendly and calmly. Related post: How To Relax A Dog
Keep an eye on the way your pup reacts:
Always keep a watchful eye on your dog. It’s very important to watch how they react to new situations to ensure you can reassure them, and intervene if necessary. If your doorbell rings, watch to see how your dog reacts. Does your dog ignore the doorbell? Reward it. Does it bark? Wait for it to stop and then give a reward. If it gets scared and panics, offer reassurance. You need to watch over your dog as closely as you would a small child.
Use a muzzle:
This one is more of a safety measure than any of the others. A muzzle is not cruel, it’s perfectly fine to muzzle your dog when taking them out in public. This protects other people from your dog’s aggressive behavior just as much as it protects your dog from the repercussions of it biting someone. Lastly, it means you don’t end up getting sued if your dog nips at someone. Even a gentle bite from your dog could cost you tens of thousands of dollars if a lawsuit comes your way. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Use CBD Oil to control aggressive behavior
CBD oil has gained a lot of popularity among veterinarians and dog owners to treat many conditions because of the health benefits this oil provides. CBD Oil helps to reduce anxiety and pain in dogs as well as in humans. So whether the root of the aggressive behavior is physical or physiological, CBD can help reduce the aggressivity levels in your dog. Click here to read more about the health benefits of CBD oil for Dogs
What causes aggression in dogs?
There are a few causes of aggression in dogs that are usually out of your control. If you adopt a dog from the shelter, there is a very real chance that aggression comes from being abused or neglected. This is very sad but very workable. The best cure for a dog that’s suffered from abuse is love. Another cause of aggression can perhaps be either possessiveness or dominance issues. Possessiveness is a major issue for some dogs, they can become possessive over things they feel is theirs. Food, toys, territory, and even you. If someone tries to take that away or is perceived to be going to take it away, the aggressive behavior will start. Dominance issues are more self-explanatory, dogs generally try to be the dominant member of the pack or family, part of that is displays of aggression. This is more common between dogs, not between dogs and people. Lastly, illness and injury are major causes of aggression. Dogs who are injured or sick tend to act aggressively out of fear, this is a very natural instinct in the animal kingdom.
Types of dog aggression:
There are several types of aggression, you can read about them all in detail here. The most important types of aggression are generally territorial and fear as they are the types of aggression you are most likely to encounter frequently. The reason being territorial issues are almost a daily occurrence, when the mailman comes, when guests come to visit, when a cat walks through the yard, you get the picture. This is probably the most problematic as it can start to get on your nerves the longer it goes on. It’s also embarrassing to have guests visiting with a dog who’s trying its darnedest to make them leave! Fear is also a major problem, a dog with anxiety can be hard to exercise around other dogs and people and may become destructive when left at home alone. Chewing on the couch isn’t a good solution to your dog’s anxiety!
Hopefully, you now have a much clearer idea of how best to handle your aggressive dog. Remember, there is no such thing as an inherently bad dog. They are all good boys and girls deep down. They just need a little bit of help to show you, and the world, that they can behave properly. So long as you persevere, don’t give up on your pup, and seek the necessary help – you will be the perfect pup in no time at all. Good luck!