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How to Stop Dog Aggression

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Dog aggression can be one of the most stressful issues for a dog owner. Knowing how to stop dog aggression starts by understanding the underlying cause.

Once you learn the secret of how to stop dog aggression, the rest becomes easy. And it is easier than most dog owners think.

Part of the secret is to convince your dog that YOU are the boss, which we cover in detail in another post ==> How to be the pack leader It’s only when your dog knows that YOU are the boss s/he will look to you and know that there’s no reason to worry.

The other part of stopping dog aggression is explained in detail in the following video. Doggy Dan explains precisely how to stop dog aggression.

Doggy Dan’s Doggy Tips Training Video Course Part 3 – Dog Aggression Towards Other Dogs

To learn how to fully establish yourself as the pack leader visit our previous article ==> How to be the pack leader

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What is the Underlying Cause of Dog Aggression

As we mentioned above, “Knowing how to stop dog aggression starts by understanding the underlying cause.”

Knowing why your dog behaves aggressively is, more often than not, the easy part of the solution. I say easy part of the solution because stopping a dog’s aggressive behavior if you don’t know why the dog is aggressive, can be difficult. If not impossible!

Do you know the reason, or in some cases reasons, for your dog’s aggressive behavior? Is it because;

  • Of a dominance issue between you and your dog – have you established yourself as the pack leader?
  • There is an underlying issue from puppyhood that has not been addressed?
  • Your dog is being bullied by another dog OR cat?

Take time to study your dog’s behavior to learn the cause of your dog’s aggression. Once you know and understand the reason, you can begin the process to correct this behavior as soon as possible.

The longer you take to correct a dog’s aggressive behavior the harder it is to adjust. And the risk of leaving this type of behavior uncorrected can be dangerous, particularly for children and other pets.

The Cause of Dog Aggression

Some people believe certain breeds of dogs are more aggressive than others. However, this is not true.

Any dog can develop aggressive behavior, no matter what the breed.

I have seen a Jack Russell and a Pomeranian exhibit as much determined aggressive behavior as a Bullmastiff or Pit Bull Terriers.

The difference being, a bigger dog, is stronger and more powerful and they are therefore much more difficult to control.

A bigger dog can also be more intimidating and destructive when aggressive.

Once a dog becomes aggressive, they stop paying attention to you – its almost as if they don’t hear you.

The dog will become single focused on protecting itself or its pack against whatever it is that your dog perceives to be a threat. At that moment your dog believes it is doing the right thing.

Therefore, it is crucial that you ‘Know Your Dog.’ Get to know the triggers for aggressive behavior.

Is the Cause of Your Dogs Aggressive Behavior a Health Issue

If your dog is older and starts to show signs of aggression, whereas they have not previously, then it might be a health issue. Lightly feel over every inch of their body or take them to a vet for a checkup.

How well do you know and understand the breed of your dog? Some dogs are protective by nature; others are more assertive. Then there are those that are said to be “Child-Friendly.” What is yours?

Nip It in the Bud

Puppies as young as six weeks old can exhibit signs of aggressive behavior and can be the result of removing the puppy from its mother too early. Ideally, a puppy should stay with is litter until at least eight weeks old.

Therefore, NEVER, remove a puppy from its offspring before eight weeks of age.

How you treat a young puppy can have a direct influence on its behavior as the dog gets older, especially when it comes to aggressive behavior.

Hitting and yelling at a puppy in a raised voice or other types of harsh punishment when a puppy is still very young can breed aggressive behavior in dogs over time.

To avoid aggressive behavior later in life;

  • never harshly discipline a puppy between 8 and ten weeks old
  • make sure the puppy is treated very gently in that time
  • socialized your puppy with people and other dogs between 8 and 14 weeks and beyond

Additionally, as a general rule, dogs that haven’t been neutered or spayed tend to be more aggressive.

Is the Environment the Cause of Your Dogs Aggression

All that said and done, the single most important contributing factor to a dog’s aggressive behavior is its home.

The environment in which the dog lives has an enormous influence on behavior. A dog that is living in poor conditions and is not socialized, or is being bullied by another dog (or cat) is more likely to become aggressive.

Dogs that have not been socialized may show signs of defensive-aggressive behavior and may strike out at a person in fear.

Small children (which the dog may perceive as a direct threat) are particularly vulnerable, so keep them away from any dog that is showing signs of defensive-aggressive behavior.

Every dog needs to know his/her place in the pack. Which is why it is essential that YOU establish yourself as the pack leader – your dog then knows who to respect and follow.

Failure to establish a pecking order in YOUR pack (household) will leave your dog to test for dominance by biting and posturing or other types of aggressive behavior.

Therefore, the sooner you establish yourself as the pack leader, the better – establishing yourself as the pack leader when the dog is young and maintaining that position throughout your dog’s adolescence years will ensure that your dog knows his/her place and won’t try to take control of the pack/household.

How to Stop and Control Dog Aggression

If your dog starts to display signs of aggressive behavior after it has reached sexual maturity, at about 14 months of age, you should take steps to address the problem immediately, especially if it has been neutered or spayed.

Here are some quick and easy steps to control dog aggression;

  • First and foremost, established yourself as the pack leader
  • Don’t reward your dog for aggressive behavior
  • Train your dog to respond and obey all your commands
  • Control when your dog is feeding
  • You set the walking times

You are the boss!

If at any time you defer to the dog, or you allow your dog to take liberties, or to do as s/he pleases around the house, it will begin to exhibit stronger aggression toward others as it tries to take over as boss.

Aggressive behavior in dogs doesn’t have to be a problem for the owners because it can be controlled, even as the dog gets older.

If your dog’s aggressive behavior advances to violence, consider hiring a professional to intervene before someone gets hurt and your dog is held responsible.

Types of Dog Aggression

We use the term “dog aggression” to label a wide variety of unfavorable dog behaviors. Some are dominant actions by a dog trying to exert control over the pack/household while others are out of fear. Then other behaviors lie at some point in between the two.

Some dogs are always aggressive by nature – much like some people, while others will only show signs of aggressive behavior from time to time, due to circumstance.

Dogs that are aggressive all the time are usually not so much of a problem, as you know in advance to take care. It is the dog that randomly reacts to anything in their environment that are the dangerous ones – the ones to watch.

They may react to anything from people to other dogs or even animals. Some will also respond to objects that are foreign to them or sudden noises. And sometimes, for reasons that owners never get to see.

Even though your dog is not the leader of the pack, they will still try to protect the pack and the pack’s territory. And therefore may show signs of aggression towards strangers (intruders) entering the home.

Furthermore, they will try to protect members of the pack, members of the family, especially children or younger dogs and themselves.

Some dogs can get very possessive over their food and belongings, like toys and bedding. Which with some training can be a behavior easily modified.

Some dogs, regardless of age, may experience a health issue that causes pain-related aggression, in which case you’ll need to take your dog to a vet ASAP.

And finally, dogs with a hunting instinct may exhibit Predatory aggression. This behavior is different from other types of dog aggression because it is not emotionally driven. Some dogs find it reinforcing to chase other animals or moving objects as it fulfills an inherent need.

How to Calm an Aggressive Dog

Before you jump straight into behavior modification training try these few things to calm your aggressive dog down;

  • Exercise your dog regularly so that they get to burn off their excess energy
  • Try to stay calm yourself. Your dog can sense your emotions and negative energy. However, if you remain calm, they can detect this and are more likely to do the same
  • Check your dog’s diet and change it if necessary. High protein dog food can fuel your dog’s energy levels. Therefore, you should favor low protein dog food
  • Natural supplements, like chamomile and ginger root, are useful to help calm dogs down.

How to Stop Fear-Based Dog Aggression

Prevention is better than any cure; therefore a well-raised puppy should not have reason to be an aggressive dog.

Ideally, a puppy should stay with its mother and litter until at least eight weeks and then between 8 and 14 weeks the puppy should be socialized – taught how to behave with other dogs and people.

However, training your puppy “Social Skill” does not stop at 14 weeks, you could say it’s a bit like learning how to meditate – you learn the basic skills and then spend the rest of your life practicing that skill.

Therefore, you will find that you will be continuously correcting your dog’s dominant behavior as they grow through adolescence.

Look for signs of dominance and correct this behavior immediately. It is easy to overlook the subtle signs of dominance if you don’t know what’s going on.

He Who Controls The Food is Boss

Growling over the food bowl is one domination sign that dog owners often overlook – it’s just the dog growling right? Wrong!

If you ignore this and let your dog get away with growling over the food bowl, it is likely that one day, in the not too distant future, you or a child will get bitten.

While we recommend feeding your dog at the same time each day, make them sit and wait for their food to be dished out. Your dog will anticipate the signs that they are about to get feed. So make them wait.

Open the cupboard where the dog food is kept, get the dog food out and then do something else for a few minutes. Get them to learn that they will not get feed immediately that the cupboard is open.

The object of this exercise is that your dog learns that there is no association between the door or packet opening, and them being feed. You are in control, of when or if they get feed – make them wait – show them who the is boss.

Keep Your Dog Mentally Active

Keep your dog mentally active by teaching them new tricks and commands. Dogs are happy when they get to exercise their minds so make or buy dog toys made for this purpose.

The market is full of pet toys, and you can check out some of these below, but simple things like a cardboard tube with the ends duck taped closed with some doggy treats inside is always good for a day or two.

In summary, if your dog is

  • stressed, find ways to calm him down
  • fearful, help him conquer that fear
  • growling over the food bowl, show him who is boss

One way to stopping fear-based dog aggression is to find a way to desensitize your dog to whatever it is that’s frightening him and then redirect your dog’s energy into games or exercise.

YOU Might be the Cause of Your Dogs Aggression

Finally, although perhaps it should have been the first thing we covered in detail. We need to consider for a moment that YOU are the cause of your dog’s aggression. Yes, YOU!

How is that possible you are thinking?

Well, if your dog thinks that they are the pack leader they will do anything to protect the pack from anything that they perceive to be a threat.

Therefore, if for whatever reason a dog becomes fearful, they are likely to become aggressive, and attack in an attempt to protect you or themselves – fearful dogs will only become aggressive and attack when they feel that they have nowhere to run.

That is why it is imperative that you establish yourself as the leader of your pack. Whether “your pack” is just you and your dog, or a full household of spouse and children and other pets.

When your dog can see that you are the pack leader they will feel more confident. They will trust and respect you and therefore follow your lead.

However, the benefits of being seen as the pack leader at home are that it carries over into other areas of your daily activity with your dog. When your dog sees you as the pack leader at home s/he will obey your commands when out and about for walks or at the dog park.

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