Stop Dog Aggression
Dog aggression is the number one problem people come to me, or any other professional dog trainer with, I expect. Dog aggression is serious and usually people let it get out of control before they seek help. Most people ignore the warning signs and don’t deal with the problem to stop dog aggression early when it would be easier to nip in the bud. They wait until things are out of control and they are contemplating getting rid of the animal.
Things to Consider
Re-homing an animal that has previously shown aggression is a huge liability! Even if you warn the new prospective owner, the legal ramifications of placing a dog known to have aggressive tendencies can follow you throughout the lifetime of the dog. We live in a “sue happy” world!
It is documented that intact males are more likely to exhibit aggression, especially dominance aggression than neutered dogs. Dominance aggression is usually first seen in dogs between 18 and 24 months, and gets worse with punishment.
This is typically characterized by shy and tentative dogs that normally avoid eye contact, they sometimes tuck their tails, hold their ears back, and lick their lips. These dogs can snap or strike out in fear at any time, especially if they are forced to be petted or touched when they are nervous. As with dominance aggression, fear aggression gets significantly worse with punishment.
How To Stop Dog Aggression
When working on how to stop dog aggression, positive reinforcement is the key! I remember learning an old training adage when I started training almost 20 years ago, “Aggression incites aggression” and I can tell you assuredly this is most often the case.
Most people do not have the knowledge or skill to use aggressive or physical control tactics, and even if they could, how would that help them with friends and family who are physically weaker? Pinning dogs down, rolling dogs, hitting or using painful collars makes the problems worse and teaches the dog that anyone weaker or unwilling to use barbaric tactics could then be bitten and controlled.
I have also worked with big cats in my career, and I can’t imagine having to be physically stronger or using a prong collar and then living to tell the tale! I use my mind to get what I want from any animal.
Working with aggression is all about psychology and using your understanding of positive reinforcement and how the doggy mind works to your benefit.
Each case and type of aggression needs a different training program, but essentially we are convincing the dog that by doing what we want, it is actually what HE wants! He thinks he is control, while the whole time we are in control of the behaviors that are rewarded and the behaviors that are changed.
To stop fear aggression we will calmly and quietly build the dog’s confidence while ensuring his safety and the safety of others. Building his trust that nothing bad will happen and his confidence is key!
To stop dominance aggression we will teach the dog that following the rules, and listening to the owner is what he wants to do to get reinforced. He will learn to perform obedience for all the things he wants while enjoying the obedience process.
Aggression can be helped and often prevented if the owner understands how to position himself as the pack leader and also how to control the environment to his benefit. It is not too late, with consistent training most dogs will quickly learn to enjoy the training and you will be able to stop dog aggression once and for all!