Every dog is as different from the other, just as humans are. They all have their own little personalities. Some have energetic personalities, while others are calm and docile. Some are funny and quirky, while others have a laid back and chilled attitude.
Others are mischievous and have poor dog behaviors, but they wouldn’t be considered dangerous. There is one type of behavior that is dangerous, and it is by far, the hardest and most difficult to deal with. This behavior is, dog aggression.
There are multiple types of aggression in dogs and it’s important to understand the type your dog has so you can learn to redirect your dog’s aggression and change his behavior.
But the one thing that all aggressive dogs have in common is, they all pose risks to people and other animals. .
Risks of owning an aggressive dog
Owning an aggressive dog poses many problems for the owner. An aggressive dog puts people he comes in contact with, and other animals at risk of injury. Bite injuries are the most common result of an aggressive dog situation, gone wrong.
But there are plenty of other risks associated with an aggressive dog, and they include:
- Medical bills
- Permanent injuries or scars
- Death to other animals, even people
- The development of a fear of dogs, especially in children
You might think this is enough of a list. But these are just a sample of some of the repercussions, and types of risks owning an aggressive dog who’s never been broken of his aggressive behavior, poses
Not all aggression is the same in dogs. Most people probably lump all aggressive dogs together and assume they are aggressive all the time, and for all the same reasons. The easiest solution to stop aggressive behavior in dogs is exercise, tug-of-war and reward method.
This is not the case, however. dogs are aggressive for different reasons, which means they will aim their aggression at different targets depending on what their aggression trigger is, and here are some of the most common ones.
Types of aggression in dogs
1. Possession aggression
Possession aggression is identified as a dog being overly possessive of an item, person, food, even a specific space he claims as his own. Dogs get territorial over things they believe are theirs and do not want to share, not even with a person.
A typical reaction to possession aggression can be growling at a person or an animal when they feel their possession is being intruded on, to actually snapping and biting,
2. Fear aggression
Dogs react out of fear. If a dog doesn’t trust a person or is afraid of a specific situation, the fear may trigger a reaction known as the fight or flight reaction.
Dogs who have experienced trauma in their lives are the most likely to choose the “fight” reaction, which means, Watch out! Because more times than not, snapping and biting are the actions they’ll take.
3. Social aggression
Dogs are creatures that operate in packs. There is a hierarchy to their pack, too, and the leader of the pack will certainly remind those in the lower part of the chain who’s boss.
If you have multiple dogs in your home, one may establish himself as the pack leader and may show aggression to the ones he believes are beneath him. This behavior can create problems in the home and injuries to the other pets if not corrected.
4. Pain-induced aggression
Dogs can’t communicate and express when they’ve been hurt, or what’s hurting them. All they know is they hurt and don’t want to be touched or hurt more. Even though you or a veterinarian is trying to help a hurt dog, he may show aggression.
He may snap and bite, however, although this seems like true aggression, it really is a defensive reaction to the pain, as well as not understanding that you are just trying to help.
5. Leash aggression
You want to take your dog out for a walk and have a nice walk, but as soon as you get out and start walking, you soon encounter a person walking by, or perhaps they’re even walking with their dog.
Suddenly your dog goes crazy; lunging, barking angrily and snapping at the person or another dog. You know this isn’t normally how your dog is when at home, so this behavior will tell you that your dog has “leash aggression.”
Just being on a leash gets him irritated and does not have good leash manners, or know how to behave while on a leash.
Signs/Symptoms of aggression
If you’ve ever watched dogs play and rough house together, then you probably know they can exhibit signs of aggression that may simply be playful antics. On the other hand, simple playtime suddenly takes a turn for the worse and becomes aggressive.
It’s important to know what the signs of true aggression are so that you can act, or react in a quick manner to avoid injury to a person, another animal, or even yourself. Some of the most noticeable signs of aggression in a dog include:
- Raised hackles – If you see the dog’s shoulders become hunched and the hair on their shoulders raise, this is known as raised hackles and is an early sign of aggression in dogs.
- Growling – Dogs can growl for many reasons, but if you notice your dog is growling with teeth gnarled, possibly drooling, and ears pinned back, this means your dog is feeling aggressive and in a reactive mode to snap or bite.
- Lunging – When dogs growl, there’s an instinct that often follows; lunging. Dogs lunge at what’s causing them to growl, be it a person or animal. If your dog begins to lunge, especially while growling, he’s in an aggressive state.
- Snapping and biting – When a dog reaches his breaking point of aggression, his most aggressive action will be to snap or bite whatever is creating the aggression. Though the prior signs may show first, it’s not always the case.
Learning your dog’s behaviors and how he typically responds to situations, people, and events can help you better be prepared to handle outbursts of aggression. The better you know your dog, the better you’ll be able to recognize his signs of aggression.
Is aggressive behavior fixable?
Yes, it is! You want to redirect your dog’s aggression, but in order to that, there are a few important steps you need to take first, to do that. When your dog becomes aggressive, here are the first things you’ll want to do:
Stop, and relax
Getting anxious about it will only excite your dog more, so take a deep breath and gain your composure. Dogs feed off your emotions and will react according to your emotions and reactions. Always make your actions from a calm but assertive stance.
This is a key point for owners of aggressive dogs to keep in mind. Many owners get angry, overly excited over the situation and make things worse and then don’t understand why their dog isn’t responding in the way they want.
When they don’t, they give up in trying to correct the behavior.
Assess the situation
Analyze what just happened and what caused your dog to become aggressive. Did another dog invade your dog’s territory? Did your dog not like being handled by the groomer or veterinarian?
Did a person try to reach down and pet your dog while on his leash, and perhaps he felt like he was trying to protect you? Knowing what the possible cause was, helps you know what type of aggression you’re dealing with.
Redirecting aggression in your dog
Changing your dog’s behavior doesn’t start overnight. Getting your dog to be able to handle multiple types of situations in his world without becoming aggressive as his way of dealing with them, takes time, patience, dedication, and routine.
It also takes being able to understand dogs; what they need, what they like, and how they think. Dogs, like people, have their own personalities, but there’s something else they have in common.
They thrive on certain things in their life, and when things get out of synch, it can cause unpleasant responses. They thrive on love, acceptance, quality time with their owners, activity, and routine.
It’s important to fulfill all their needs to keep them as relaxed mentally, emotionally, and physically as possible. Here’s how to redirect your dog’s aggression and help manage those aggressive outbursts in different situations.
Keep in mind that positive reinforcement is recommended in any type of training or the managing of your pet. Here are ways to redirect your aggressive dog.
1. Exercise your dog
All dogs need some type of exercise, no matter how big or small, but especially larger breeds. Big dogs expend a lot of energy and they need an outlet for their pent up energy.
Dogs that aren’t properly exercised get bored, anxious, mischievous, frustrated, and in general, are unhappy dogs. Depending on the breed of your dog, he should get quality time outdoors, walking, running, and playing.
Tug-of-war is a highly recommended game for dogs because of the interaction it gives you with your dog. It builds a bond and trust between owner and pet. Ball or Frisbee toss is another game recommended for dogs.
It’s a time for fun, and to teach your dog how to return to you, with the retrieved item – a good, listening and obedience building game.
Daily exercise helps keep your dog happy, healthy, as well as it relieves frustration by allowing them to release pent-up energy that can otherwise be unleashed in unwanted behaviors, such as aggression.
2. Practice tug-of-war with the dog
As mentioned above, dogs love to play tug-of-war. Getting your dog to engage in this game with you at home, in a fun, relaxed environment and situation can really benefit them in other situations that arise away from home and in unfamiliar situations.
While playing tug-of-war at home, keep treats in your pocket to reward your dog during the game. Start with playing the game where there won’t be anything to distract your dog – it’s just the game he has to focus on.
While playing the game, allow your dog to win some games and reward him with treats throughout the game for both playing, and winning.
After several days of getting your dog to develop a love of the game, introduce playing with him in other environments where there might be distractions, for instance, in the yard where birds and squirrels might catch his attention.
While playing, keep your dog’s focus on you and the game. If he spots a squirrel and tries to dart after it, call his name in an excited, but a firm voice to redirect his focus back on you and to the game.
Reward him with a treat for obedience and continue to do this often so that he recognizes that something yummy or good comes from playing this game with you.
Migrate to taking your dog for a walk on a leash, carrying your tug-of-war toy or rope and treats in your pocket.
If your dog starts to show signs of aggression, maybe towards another dog on a leash, a car driving by, or any other situation, immediately call his name in the same excited but stern way and break get him to focus on the toy and get him to engage.
When he does, reward him with a treat. This takes practice and re-iterating over and over. Be prepared to continue working with your dog on redirecting his focus this way; gradually reducing the times you reward him with a treat during this method.
3. Redirect dog with a rewarding method
When dogs become aggressive due to a territorial issue, for instance, a human or furry intruder on their food, toy, maybe even their bed, start by teaching them tolerance by showing you are the pack leader.
As pack leader, you will need to redirect their aggression in these situations if they arise. Start with standing over their items with confidence; their food bowl, their toy, and their bed.
Feed them by using your hands to fill their bowl while they’re made to stand back at a distance. This shows that human hands around their bowl can bring good things.
Don’t allow them to immediately grab a new toy, but they must wait to gain hold of it and have them watch you handle it and play with it before they’re allowed to.
If there’s another dog in the house, have your aggressive dog watch, perhaps while held on a leash, while you place the other dog in the bed and pet the dog while in the bed.
Each time your aggressive dog accepts the lesson without aggressive behavior, praise and reward him with a treat, showing him that his reaction and good behavior are acceptable. He will start to learn his behavior will get him a tasty reward.
If your dog shows possession aggression at any time, redirect him by calling his name excitedly but sternly, and redirect his focus to you. When he drops his focus from the bowl, toy, bed or another item, praise and reward him.
Practice these techniques on a routine basis, gradually removing times of treat reward, but continue to always give praise.
Redirecting a dog’s aggression should always involve getting him to change his focus onto you; the pack leader.
By making sure you and your dog have a good bond so that he knows he can trust you over anyone else, will help build his confidence in you, respect you, and ultimately, want to please you.
Making sure your dog is happy and healthy starts with giving him the physical care he requires and spending quality time playing with him and bonding with him.
Fun games and rewarding training lessons help to enforce the bond and obedience between owner and pet. Researching your type of breed of dog can also help with tips on what works best for their breed-specific behaviors and training regimens.
The more you know about aggression in dogs, the happier, and safer everyone who comes in contact with your dog will be.