Sometimes in life there are no easy answers. Unfortunately, this is the case when it comes to dealing with an aggressive dog.
A difficult problem
Canine aggression is a difficult (but not impossible) problem to correct, but it requires immense patience and dedication on the part of the owner. It is also essential to understand the type of aggression you are facing in order to correct it.
The types of aggression most likely to improve are
- Fear-induced aggression
- Food-related aggression
- Pain or health
- Lifestyle related
- A dog with a dedicated owner who uses the right methods of correction
The least likely to remodel are :
- Genetic aggression
- Any form of aggression when consistent corrective measures are NOT applied Any form of aggression when consistent corrective measures are NOT applied
- A quick solution is needed
The importance of motivation
Aggression is difficult to control because the trigger may be different for each dog, and aggressive behaviour brings its own reward.
The motivation behind the aggression is the key you use to unlock this problematic behaviour. The instinct of many people trying to correct aggressive behaviour is to exercise authority over the dog. However, in some circumstances, this is exactly the wrong thing to do and leads to a dangerous escalation of hostility.
Why is this?
Many dogs are deeply misunderstood and aggressive because they are fearful. A dog that is afraid of, say, bearded men, learns that by growling and growling, the bearded man keeps his distance – so the dog feels safer. If, however, that same bearded man starts hitting the dog to show who’s boss, the anxiety and fear of the dog sets in…
Aggression brings its own reward
Another difficulty in dealing with aggression is the question of reward. We know that rewarded behaviour is more likely to be repeated, which is the basis of modern dog training. However, aggression brings its own reward (remember the bearded man backed off?) that reinforces the behavior.
However, I do NOT advocate confronting an aggressive dog to show that his behaviour is not working. Again, this only makes the problem worse because the dog will increase its threat level and someone could get hurt. But this is a good example of what you are facing in a conversion.
Dealing with Aggression: Short-term
Warning Signs: Pay attention to the dog’s warning signs and obey them. Most dogs give a warning before they bite, for example, by growling, growling, flattened ears or raising their claws. Don’t ignore these warnings. If you see them, try to defuse the situation and don’t defy the dog.
Muzzle the dog: If the dog is unpredictable and does not give warning signs, if you have children at home or if the dog is not trustworthy, keep him muzzled at all times. There are many excellent muzzles that are comfortable to wear and allow the dog to drink, pant and bark (e.g. the Baskerville muzzle).
Keep a long line on the dog: In case of a conflict with a piece of furniture, for example to get the dog off the sofa, keep a long line attached to its collar so that you can remove it without getting close enough to bite it.
Dealing with aggression: Long term
Determine what motivated the aggression and rehabilitate the dog. The vast majority of dogs require a professional evaluation to establish an effective correction protocol.
Employing a properly trained behaviorist could save your dog’s life! However, check the references of the person you employ. It is essential that the person is trained and recognized by a professional organization that deals with pet behavior.
- a certified professional dog trainer
- Dip ACVBs (Diplomate of the American College of Behavioral Veterinarians)
- CAABs (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists)
- ACAABs (Associate Credited Applied Animal Behaviorists)
Dealing with aggression: covering the basics
Until you consult with a behavioralist, a number of basic points can be covered.
Pain and medical problems: Especially if your dog has recently become aggressive, he may be experiencing pain or health problems. Have him examined by a veterinarian to rule out this possibility or have him treated.
Proper nutrition: Diet can play a role in aggression, and certain foods rich in energy or protein can aggravate a dog’s mood. Consider trying a low energy, high fiber food to see if it can help.
Enough exercise: Dogs with stored energy are more likely to overreact and release that energy inappropriately. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation.
Begin reward-based training: It won’t cure the problem by itself, but using reward-based training will create a bond between you and the dog and teach him to learn. It is also mentally stimulating, which will help solve problems of boredom or frustration.