The last thing any dog owner wants is to have an aggressive dog. It can lead to no end of problems and potentially even a court order to have the dog put down. Unfortunately, a very small number of dogs can show signs of aggression. We have decided to publish this article on how to make your dog less aggressive in an attempt to help any of our readers who have aggressive dogs.
These tips and tricks have proven effective for a number of dog owners all over the world with dogs of all breeds. We are confident that given the correct training and plenty of patients, even the most aggressive of dogs can be calmed.
How To Make Your Dog Less Aggressive
Many dog owners will simply fit a muzzle to their dog during periods of displays of aggressive behavior. This is often counteractive to the process and does not address the underlying issue of the aggression.
Other dog owners choose to seek expensive professional help instantly to assist with treating aggression in their dogs, there are actually a number of things you can do yourself first. Not only does this often save you money, it also helps reduce aggression in many cases.
Try To Understand Your Dog’s Aggression And Triggers
When looking at how to stop dog aggression you must first attempt to understand your dog’s triggers. The most common triggers involve territoriality, fear, territoriality, lack of socialization, and dominance. As you probably spend the most time with your dog, try to match possible triggers to your dog’s aggressive behavior.
The body language of your dog can tell you a lot. When your dog has an aggressive tick, pay attention to its body language and how its acting. Look for signs of anxiousness, fear or things in the people in the room such as someone clearing your dog’s bowl of old food. Although the food in the bowl is most probably spoiled and won’t be eaten, the act of clearing the bowl or removing food that your dog perceives as theirs can be a trigger.
Other signs to keep an eye out for is a defensive body posture such as lowering themselves closer to the floor. Lowering or tilting the head into a defensive position, tucking their tail between their legs or what looks like shivering or shaking. This article on Wikipedia has a more in-depth list of dog communication signs and what they mean.
Take Advantage Of Desensitization
If you are confident that you have discovered a possible trigger for your dog. The next step is to move towards desensitization. Essentially, this is the process of exposing your dog to its triggers in a controlled environment to normalize its effects. The process of desensitization takes time but has proven to be hugely successful.
Remember that this is all a process, you may think that you have found your dogs trigger only to find it has no effect in a controlled environment. If this does happen then go back to the drawing board to brainstorm potential triggers.
The controlled environment you will use for the process depends on what you think your dogs trigger maybe. For example, if you think it is a territorial trigger when people enter your house, you can use your house. The goal is to have as much control as possible with as few distractions or chances to be interpreted as you can.
Once you have decided on a controlled environment, place your dog in it and think of ways to add the presence of the trigger but with a positive twist. Keeping with our example from above. If you think your dog has a territorial trigger for your house, have someone enter your house with a toy for your dog.
Reward positive behavior in your dog with verbal and physical praise as well as your dog’s favorite treats. Desensitization can take many sessions to show large signs of improvement but once the first breakthrough is made, many usually come at once. Always work at your dog’s pace, trying to speed up the process can add undue stress and end up setting you back.
Desensitization For Outdoor Triggers
If you suspect your dog has an outdoor trigger then desensitization can still work. For example, if your dog only acts aggressively when it sees other dogs while out walking it can still be used. The majority of the process will remain largely the same.
One thing to teach your dog early on is a “focus” command. This acts as a signal for your dog to drop the focus of its attention to focus on you in return for one of its treats. Yes, we know, that’s much easier said then done but with hard work and patience, it works extremely well. The signal can be a verbal command, a dog clicker or a dog whistle. The point is that your dog will be able to detect it even if its barking and acting aggressively.
Training The “Focus” Command
The best way to teach your dog a “focus” command is to use somewhere like your house where your dog is comfortable and relaxed with and free from triggers but you do want distractions. Go about your daily routine and leave your dog to keep itself occupied. At random times throughout the day make your “focus” signal and show your dog that you have a treat for it. If your dog comes over and gives you its attention then you give the dog the treat. Some people also train the dog to sit or give them its paw as part of the “focus” command but it is not essential.
Repeat this process over the course of a week or two in an attempt to cement it into your dog. You can start to add in distractions too such as throwing your dog’s favorite toy across the room for it to chance to play with. Just as it starts to play, give your “focus” command to see if your dog comes back to you.
Moving It Into The Real World
Once you are confident in your dog to give you its attention when the “focus” command is given, its time to go outside. Sticking with the example of other dogs on your walk being the trigger, take your dog for a walk.
When your dog sights another dog and behind to act aggressively use the “focus” command. It is unlikely that your dog will give you its attention on the first attempt but if it does, reward it with a treat and plenty of verbal and physical praise and count yourself lucky. If you are like the majority of people and your dog ignores you, be sure to scold it.
You can take the scolding one step further by taking a water sprayer with you and spraying your dog in the face with water when it displays unwanted behavior. Some dog owners also use training collars to assist with the process and report positive results.
The main point to take away from this section is that your first attempt is highly likely to fail. You have to be patient and consistent and keep moving forward. You can try a “rehab” session if you like where you take your dog back to a controlled space and reaffirm the “focus’ command.
Consistency is key, don’t let standards slip if your dog gives you it’s attention reward it, if it doesn’t, scold it. If it gives you its attention just for the treat only to bark and act aggressively again, instantly scold it. Over time, your dog will learn the process.
Don’t Let Other Less Aggressive Behavioral Issues Go Uncorrected
It is important that you keep other less aggressive behavior issues in check. If your dog randomly becomes aggressive, starts to show signs of aggression or starts paying particular interest in its old triggers. Use the “focus” command to draw your dog’s attention away from it.
Some dogs will try to test the water every now and then even once the initial bout of aggression has been treat. If you give your dog leeway then it’s old ways can easily come back so be sure to keep on top of training.
My Female Dog Is Suddenly Aggressive
Female dog aggression during heat is actually a very common occurrence. This may manifest as female dog aggressive towards male dogs or towards humans and other pets. This is usually due to the hormone imbalances occurring in your dog and her protective instincts during this period. This Wikipedia article goes into more depth on canine reproduction and common side effects.
Early signs of this type of aggressive female dog behavior can be nervousness, irritability, and cramps during ovulation. Keep in mind that many dogs will go into heat for a few weeks twice per year. That said there are still steps you can take to try and keep your dog calm.
Using a “focus” command as explained earlier in the article can help but often requires refresher training each time your dog comes into heat. Wild female dogs will fight each other for the right to a males attention in the wild so owning multiple female dogs can become a nightmare. Often, the best treatment is to try and keep the dogs separated when possible.
If your dog shows signs of aggression to people interacting with her pups then minimize pup interaction. It is common for female dogs to reduce their aggression to their owners over their pups over the course of a few days or weeks as they begin to understand that you post no threat to them.
An unspayed female dogs aggression levels tend to be much lower and sometimes non-existent. If you have no intentions of breeding your dog then spaying may be the best route to go. If you are going to spay your dog it is best to do it as early as possible. This prevents her from learning unwanted behaviors during her cycle that she may display in the future.
How To Deal With Dog Aggression Towards Random People
If your dog is aggressive towards strangers then we recommend two courses of action. Try to teach your dog the “focus” command as explained earlier in the article and do your best to socialize your dog with people. Socializing your dog with other humans that it’s not used to will help it understand that they do not pose a threat.
How To Socialize A Dog With Humans
Thankfully, in this day and age, we have a wealth of information available at our fingertips. Social media is an excellent tool that can help us find local socializing groups for our dogs. A quick Facebook search for my local area and areas within a 30-minute drive of me returned 13 potential groups. Some of these groups are designed more along the lines of dog walking groups rather than socializing groups but it still presents you with people to talk to about the possibility of a meetup.
There is also a specific meet up twice per month at once of the local churches for both dog and human socialization. It is a free meetup ran by a local dog trainer as a way for her to presell her services but it has excellent reviews and feedback from its members.
Remember to use the same tactics as the desensitization explained earlier in the article. Start in a controlled space that is free from distractions and work slowly. Reward desired behavior with plenty of physical and verbal praise as well as your dog’s favorite treats. Scold unwanted behavior taking advantage of a water squirter or a training collar.
The below video is an excellent example of how dog socialization can help with your dogs aggression.
How To Stop Dog On Dog Aggression
Dog on dog aggression in the home can be a total nightmare to deal with. It is commonly down to two dogs fighting for dominance without the other wanting to back down. A surprising statistic is that almost 68 percent of dog on dog aggression in the home is either female on female or female on male. Only 32 percent of incidents tracked were male on male dogs fighting.
The “focus” command strategy is weaker in this situation as both dogs would come when called and then possibly fight over the treats too. That said, there is still some dog on dog aggression solutions that you can take advantage of.
Research has suggested that up to 48 percent of dog on dog fights in the home are actually triggered by the dog owner unintentionally. Showing affection to one of your dogs but not the other causes jealousy or the need to assert dominance. This usually ends up in confrontation or fights between the two dogs. A simple trick is to always show affection to both dogs as equally as possible.
Food is another common trigger. When feeding your dogs, fill their dog bowls on a table or bench out of reach of them at the same time. Once full, place both bowls down on the ground at the same time so neither dog feels as if it is lower in the pack.
The final and most difficult to deal with of the common triggers are toys. If one dog picks up the other dogs favorite toy it can start a show of aggression. The last thing any dog owner wants to do is throw away your dog’s favorite toy or prevent your other dog from playing with it. There is no easy fix for this one but always try to get at least two of each toy you give to your dogs.
My Dog Is Suddenly Aggressive To The Other Dog In The House
If one of your dogs is seemingly showing sudden aggression to the other dog in your house then check for the above three problems. If there are no signs of either of those being the trigger could one of your dogs be in heat or pregnant?
Some medical conditions and dog medication can also cause your dog to become aggressive. If you suspect that this is the case then seek advice from your local veterinarian.
My Dog Won’t Stop Barking At Guests In My House
Although not full-blown aggression, barking at guests can sometimes be a stepping stone. It is best to correct the behavior as soon as possible. We recently published this article on how to get your dog not to bark at visitors that may help you.
How To Deal With Dog Aggression Towards The Owner
Aggression towards a dog owner is usually due to dominance or protective triggers. The dog pack mentality can mean your dog sees it higher in the pack over members of the household and give it the need to assert its dominance. If a member of the household is pregnant or very young then your dog’s protective instincts can kick in to guard that member of its pack.
My Dog Is Aggressive Towards Me But Not My Husband
This is a relatively common dominance trigger. Your dog sees your husband as the alpha of the pack and you as a lower member in relation to your dog. This triggers your dog to act aggressively towards you and sometimes even spray you with urine to assert dominance.
Thankfully this behavior can be corrected by quarantining your dog for displaying negative behavior. The below video is an excellent example of this behavior and how to treat it in your dog. It is only a short video and we highly recommend that you watch it as it explains exactly how to deal with this problem.
Why Does My Dog Bark At My Husband But Not Me
Although there are a few reasons for this the most common one is the want for attention from your husband. Your dog barks at your husband in an attempt to get his attention. We suspect that when your dog barks at you, you instantly cave in and give your dog your attention. When your dog barks at your husband he may not cave in so easily.
If you suspect that this may be the trigger then ask your husband to show more attention to your dog before he begins to bark for it. This may help stop your dog from barking at your husband but if the barking does continue, it is important for your husband NOT to give in and provide attention. Your dog has to learn that barking for attention is not a negative behavior and that attention will be given before barking when possible.
Unfortunately, a common reason that rescue dogs will bark and show aggression to male members of the household is due to abuse from previous male owners. With rescue dogs being such a complex animal with many potential triggers and a potential for rational behavior, we recommend you seek assistance from a local professional dog trainer.
Pregnancy Or A New Baby
Your dog’s protective instincts kicking in. If you are pregnant or have just had a baby your dog can assume the responsibility to protect you, even from your husband. Although we never recommend you do this for show demonstrations as this couple does, the below video shows this exact behavior.
What To Do With An Aggressive Dog That Bites
If you have tried our suggestions above and your dog is still acting aggressively and begins to bite people you HAVE to take action. Court orders can be issued ordering the dog to be put down and this is the last thing any dog owner wants.
We highly recommend that you seek professional assistance from a local dog training professional with the issue. Although they may seem expensive, read reviews of their services and how they have performed in the past. Usually, a custom training plan from a professional can stomp out negative behavior in your dog completely.