Aggression dog training can be misunderstood my many clients. Aggression can be just as stressful for dogs as it is for dog owners! Since dogs have the same goal as humans- to get through each day with as little stress as possible- we owe it to them and to ourselves to help them resolve these issues. Aggression is not a natural state of mind for a dog, but rather the result of negative experiences, frustration, fear, or lack of socialization. Most commonly it is a combination of these things, creating an even more complex issue. In all cases of aggression, we begin by assessing “why” your dog is behaving aggressively, which is often a blanket term used to describe a variety of behaviors. Aggression dog training is something we are passionate about and love educating clients on. Watch this video on giving an aggressive dog a treat.
Below we have outlined several types of aggression that we deal with regularly and can work towards resolving. In all aggression cases, we require that the owners actively commit to following our guidelines and instructions and adhering to our training program. There are some forms of aggression, “predatory aggression” for example, that you cannot “solve” because it is directly linked to instincts. You can however, be very successful in managing these instincts by teaching your dog impulse control and allowing appropriate outlets to use their prey drive.
Types of Aggression in Dogs
The most common forms of aggression we deal with are Fear Aggression (includes People and Children Aggression), Dog Aggression, and Predatory Aggression. Owners often misinterpret aggression and use incorrect labels when explaining it like, “my dog hates children” or “my dog hates other dogs”. Dogs do not react because they “hate” so much as they are responding from fear, possessiveness, or territorial instincts. In these situations it is important that we effectively reassign the leadership role to the humans (instead of the dog) so that the dog does not carry the burden of making such stressful decisions, it’s often too much pressure for them. It is amazing how significantly strong leadership can alter a dog’s need to be reactive in stressful situations. When a dog understands that its human is advocating for him and will manage high stress situations, we begin to see the dog making better choices and feeling calmer all on his own.
Dog Aggression Is Common
Dog aggression is a very common behavioral issue that owners seek help for. A lot of dogs will react toward a dog that has seemingly posed zero threat. This does not necessarily mean your dog is “dog aggressive”. In most cases the dog does not have social skills, which is a lot easier to work through than a truly dominant aggressive dog.. Since aggression is not a natural state of mind for a dog, nor are dogs born aggressive, something else has caused this behavior. It’s almost always related to either a lack of socialization or poor socialization which resulted in a dog making a “generalization” or an “overall negative association” with something due to one or two bad experiences.
An example of this type of aggression would be a puppy that was attacked by an adult dog at an early age (say 12 weeks) and this just happened to be the third dog it had met. Because of this “scary attack” the owners started “sheltering the puppy” keeping it away from other dogs for fear that he would be attacked again, creating a negative feedback loop. So, what happened was the puppy had only met three dogs in his life and one attacked him. The puppy grows up thinking: “there is a very good chance when I meet another dog I could be attacked”. This puppy has a very high probability of being dog aggressive when he is older, but this will not show until he is about a year and a half old. Through no fault of their own the owner has unknowingly created fear aggression by simply trying to be a responsible dog owner. What we should actually do is go overboard finding as many friendly dogs as possible to introduce to their puppy to “outweigh” that one negative experience with the dog that attacked. If this puppy met 100 friendly dogs after that one bad experience, he would likely have forgotten about that negative one long ago and not develop an “anxiety” around other dogs.
Many dog owners don’t realize that social skills are something most dogs need to continue practicing throughout their life, they are indeed perishable. You really can never stop socializing your dog in order to keep their skills sharp. We hear a lot of owners say their dog used to get along great with other dogs, and for some reason they hate other dogs now, this is typically a case of a dog whose social skills have not stayed “current” or “fresh”. For some dogs, social skills have to be practiced very frequently in order to be good with other dogs. Keep in mind that, social skills are necessary to communicate with “strange” dogs, not dogs they know or see all the time. If you are simply getting your dog around the same dogs all the time, that is not practicing effective social skills.
Because of lack of or poor social skills, most aggression is fear based (even though it can look like the exact opposite). Even if your dog is the “initiator”, it’s likely that he is still reacting out of fear or uncertainty. A great deal of aggressive dogs go on offense before they have to be defensive, and because it works for them, they continue reacting this way to solve the problem of “feeling uncomfortable”. What we must do is find a different way to solve your dog’s perceived problem and make them more comfortable in the situation from the start. No dog wants to feel this way – they are looking for a way out – and we can offer them one.