Canines have their reasons for choosing to show aggression. People often do not understand it is a natural occurrence, and there are 7 commonly accepted reasons for aggressive dog behavior. Once you understand which behavior your big dog is exhibiting, you’ll be better prepared with the proper response.
What to do
Start socializing your dog early. All that playing that puppies do teaches them a lot about how to interact with the world. If you have a young puppy, it is important you fill that role, play, and set proper boundaries. Taking a class is extremely useful for inexperienced dog lovers. This is often enough to train the aggression out of a dog, even breeds that are prone to aggression.
In the case of an adult dog, it can be harder correct the problem. First, diagnose the reason for the aggression. This article will help explain aggressive dog behavior. (link) In the case of pain aggression, for example, the answer may be as simple as a trip to the vet and correcting the medical problem.
In other cases, breaking the association with a trigger and the aggression will be necessary. For example, we have taught our dog the command, “Go to bed.” So when someone comes to the door and she begins to growl, we give her a stern “No growling,” and send her to her dog bed. When she reaches the bed, we praise her for following the command, thus breaking the connection she has with a knock on the door and growling. The result: when she’s on her dog bed (link) the growling has stopped. We’ve used the same technique to train her to be less possessive.
For some kinds of aggressive behavior, spaying or neutering your dog eases the behavior. But when all else fails, be sure to avoid putting your dog in situations that will trigger the behavior and consider consulting a professional.
When to call in a professional
Please note, we are not professional dog trainers, and there are times when you need to engage one to help break a behavior. Here are some warning signs:
• Growling at you or a family member (not playfully)
• Snapping at any time (except as a pain response)
• Mounting you or a family member
• Exhibiting dominant herding behavior, such a bumping or nudging legs while walking
• Jumping on people
• Refusing to move or get down upon command
It needs to be said that aggressive behavior should never be encouraged. This includes games of pulling, growling while playing, or riling up a dog when company rings the doorbell. It may be cute when your dog is a puppy, but you will regret it when your dog is 150 pounds. We had to learn that the hard way.
Lastly, do not respond to aggression with aggression. Hitting a dog who is aggressive may put them in a fear state and prompt an equal response. It is especially important that children understand these rules as well. You must stop aggressive dog behavior with a consistent message by the whole family.
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Photo credit: jdanvers