As a dog owner, you always hope you’ll never have to deal with behavioral issues. Especially when it comes to dog aggression and at the point where you’re concerned with safety. The safety of your family, your other pets, or even other dogs you may run into during your daily walks.
You’re constantly worried when the next aggressive outburst will happen. You’re eager to learn how you can stop aggressive dog behavior. Although it’s a horrible problem to deal with, dog aggression can be corrected.
Common types of aggressive dog behavior
The very first step you need to take to stop aggressive dog behavior is to understand what’s the cause of it. It’s rarely the case when a dog is aggressive without any reason behind it. To help you understand what is the cause of your dog’s aggression, here are the most common types of aggressive dog behavior:
- Fear aggression: when dogs feel threatened and feel the need to protect themselves. This usually because they’re cornered or trapped and have nowhere to escape the threat.
- Territorial aggression: when dogs feel the need to protect their territory. Usually when someone (human or another animal) steps inside what they see as their territory.
- Possessive aggression: when dogs feel the need to protect something they see as theirs. It can be when someone (human or another animal) approaches their food bowl, their owner, or their toys.
- Leash aggression: when dogs are aggressive only when they’re on a leash. Usually directed to other dogs. Happens because they feel restrained and frustrated by the leash.
- Social aggression: when dogs feel the need to protect their social status. Happens because they see themselves as dominant or of a higher status. In this case, they can show aggression toward family members.
- Pain induced aggression: when dogs are aggressive when you approach a part of their body that is injured and causing them pain. This is mostly a defense mechanism.
Signs of aggressive behavior in dogs
Dogs almost never attack without first giving out warning signs. That’s why it’s important to pay close attention to your dog’s body language. That way you can catch your dog’s aggressive behavior and correct it before your dog actually moves in for a bite.
Some of the most common warning signs of dog aggressive behavior include:
- Ears forward (may even spread to the side forming a wide ‘V’ shape)
- Wrinkled nose
- Showing teeth (sometimes even the gums are visible) or closed mouth
- Raised hair along the spine
- Tail up and stiff
- Legs straight and stiff
- Body leaning slightly forward
- Guttural bark or growl
Some of these signs may be more obvious in some dogs than others. But they all give out warning signs so make sure to keep an eye out for them.
How to prevent and stop aggressive dog behavior
To stop aggressive dog behavior you need to start with good and consistent training (link to post about how to train your dog at home). Good training and socialization are essential for raising a well-behaved and balanced dog. Having an obedient dog can also make it easier for you to redirect your dog’s attention as soon as you see any of the aggression signs mentioned above.
Before moving on to thinking about fixing the problem, take your dog to the vet. Rule out any medical condition as the cause of your dog’s aggressive behavior. This is the case when a dog has never shown signs of aggression before.
If the vet doesn’t find any medical cause for this behavior, pay close attention to your dog. Try to identify the exact situation in which your dog shows any of the early signs of aggression.
Whenever possible, don’t try to stop aggressive dog behavior by yourself. It’s important that you work with a certified dog trainer that has experience handling this issue. You don’t want to risk any injuries to you, your dog, or anyone else or even make the problem worse.
The training plan should use positive reinforcement. The goal is to turn the situation that is causing your dog’s aggressive behavior into a positive experience. Remember to never punish your dog. Punishment won’t stop aggressive dog behavior and can even make it worse.
Making sense of it all
When it comes to dog aggression, no dog owner is completely out of the woods as it can happen with any dog breed. Unlike what some people think, there’s no relationship between aggressive behavior and dog breeds. The most important factor is the dog’s past life experience.
Try to work with your vet to rule out any medical conditions and with a certified dog trainer. They’ll be able to help you create an appropriate training plan for your particular case.
Dog aggression doesn’t have a quick fix but there’s nothing that a lot of patience, love, and time won’t do for your dog.