Aggression is common in dogs, and it can be difficult to know how to handle the situation. Generally, aggression starts with warning signs, but if left unchecked it could lead to an attack. That’s why training an aggressive dog is key.
The Warning Signs
Aggression in dogs can take many forms and it’s important to recognise the signs of aggression so you can intervene before a situation escalates.
Warning signs may include:
- Lunging toward people or other animals
- Showing their teeth
- Becoming easily excited when playing with others
- Barking excessively
- Not responding to commands
Why Do Get Dogs Get Aggressive?
Virtually all wild animals are aggressive when guarding their territories, defending their offspring and protecting themselves. Species that live in groups, including people and dogs, also use aggression and the threat of aggression to keep the peace and to negotiate social interactions.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states that aggression in dogs can be summed up into these categories:
- Territorial: Guarding resources such as food, toys, area etc.
- Protective: On behalf of family members or themselves
- Possessive: Guarding their own possession
- Fear / defensive: Reacting in fear-based aggression
- Social: perceiving itself as higher in status among others
- Frustration: when a dog is too easily aroused or excited and gets weary, will response with aggression instead
- Pain related: responding due to pain
- Predatory: Some dogs engage in traditional predatory behaviours, such as chasing down and grabbing smaller animals
It is important to identify and understand the underlying cause before attempting to treat the aggression.
Training an Aggressive Dog
1. Identify Who Is Your Dog Normally Aggressive Toward
The first step to training an aggressive dog is to identify who he is aggressive toward. Does your dog show signs of aggression to a particular family member or friend, strangers, or other animals? Also, as mentioned above, it’s important to find out what in his environment is making him angry.
Some aggressive dogs behave the way they do because of a medical condition or complication. Before you start any training, check with your vet to make sure your dog is healthy.
2. Never Punish Your Dog Physically. Use Reward-based Training Instead
Lastly, never punish your dog for aggression. Dogs don’t understand punishment and thus are more likely to act out or act more aggressive when punishment is used. Instead, the best way to train away aggressive behaviour is to reward good behaviour. Sometimes your dog may need a little reminder that you are in charge, but ultimately he will respond best to reconditioning through reward-based training.
Anytime your dog behaves in a manner you like, reward him with treats and verbal praise. This will reinforce the behaviour and help your dog understand what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. With consistent training, you will eventually be able to minimise or even eliminate aggressive behaviours in your pet.
3. Implement consistency in your training sessions
Keep the same commands and expectations each time you interact with your pet.
4. Provide enough mental and physical stimulation
Do it for your pet on a daily basis. Boredom can become a source of aggression, so it’s important to provide activities that keep them occupied and prevent destructive behaviours from developing.
5. Incorporate Management Techniques
Management techniques refers to methods and strategies that manage your dog’s aggressive behaviour, rather than relying on behaviour modification. Basically, management techniques are used to prevent your dog’s behaviour from escalating further.
These techniques include: using gates to separate a territorial dog so that it can eat his food in peace, or applying a “do not pet” gear on your dog so as to prevent any outlash.
6. Understand Your Dog’s Body Language
One way to help prevent aggression in your dog is by understanding his body language. Aggressive behaviour often starts with subtle signs, such as the fur on your dog’s back rising or a hard stare at another animal. It is important to be able to identify these warning signals and remove your pet from the situation before it escalates into a full-blown aggressive encounter.
If you see any of the warning signs listed above, take a step back and give your dog some time to calm down.
7. Understand What Is Triggering Your Dog
It is important to identify and understand the triggers that is causing your dog’s aggressive behaviour. Common triggers include fear, pain, possessiveness, territorialism, attention-seeking, and a lack of proper socialization.
By understanding what is triggering your dog’s aggression, you can work on creating a safe environment for him to avoid these triggers.
It is important to understand the difference between reactivity and aggression; while both can be dangerous, they are also different and require different approaches when it comes to managing them. Reactivity is a response to an external stimulus such as noise or excitement, while aggression is a behaviour that your dog has learned over time.
Seek Professional Help
At ActiveK9 Academy, we understand how difficult it can be to deal with an aggressive dog. If you feel like your canine companion’s aggression is getting out of hand, seek professional help from a certified veterinary or animal behaviour specialist.
Our dog trainers in Singapore can help identify and work through the root cause of your pup’s aggression. With the right guidance and support, your pup can learn to develop better, less aggressive behaviour.