Dog aggression is difficult for everyone affected—your dog, your family, and all those at whom the aggressive behavior may be directed. Fortunately, there are many strategies that can help you help your dog cope with whatever is behind the aggression. Here are steps to take to stop dog aggression.
Understand the aggression
Dogs may become aggressive out of fear, feelings of territoriality, in social situations with other animals or humans, when the dog’s hierarchical position or prized possessions (food, toys, space, and the like) are threatened, out of frustration, or when in pain. Perhaps your dog may be experiencing one or more of these issues without your realizing it.
Reward good behavior; don’t punish unwanted behavior
Inflicting verbal or physical abuse cannot help motivate your dog to behave the way you’d like. In fact, such actions may increase your dog’s level of aggression. Rewarding good behavior—with favorite food items, toys, play, praise, and petting—can help create lasting change.
Avoid or address triggers of the unwanted behavior
Find out what prompts the aggression—look for body language signs, including posture and vocalizations. For instance, if your dog dislikes grooming or going to the vet, use a muzzle in these circumstances. If new people or pets make your dog feel threatened, find a way to keep your dog confined until she or he no longer feels threatened and aggressive. Do not let these potential threats near your dog’s favorite things.
Do not keep your dog confined for long periods of time
Chaining dogs up or keeping them crated can lead to an increase in aggression and cause other behavior problems as well.
This can help reduce issues with dominance and aggression.
Try to be a leader, not a dominator
Unlike the common misconception, humans cannot and should not attempt to become the dominant “dog in the pack” to our companion’s submissive dog role. If you become more dominant, your dog may, too. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that aggressive pets are likely to belong to aggressive humans who have attempted to become the alpha dogs at home. Work with a trained professional to become the person your dog trusts and follows, not the person your dog feels threatened by or the person who is forcing them into submission.
Seek professional help
In the long run, you may need to get help from a veterinary behaviorist for ideas on how to address your pet’s issues. Remember: so-called behavior problems, like aggression, could be related to underlying medical problems.
More on Dog Aggression
The Causes of Aggression in Dogs
How We Misunderstand Dog Aggression
3 Benefits of Spaying a Dog