How Do You Calm An Aggressive Dog?
The first step to calm an aggressive dog is understanding what triggers the aggression. It could be anything from pain to frustration or fear to redirected aggression. Just like some humans are more aggressive than others, the same is true for dogs—but one thing is true for all: No matter the size of the dog or the level of aggression, you must find effective ways to stop the behavior in order to protect your dog and the people and animals around him. While you work on finding a solution, keep your dog physically separated from any aggression triggers, other pets, children, and people until the issue can be addressed.
Reasons Dogs Are Aggressive
In the wild, aggression is necessary for dogs' survival. An aggressive dog isn't bad, but that behavior does need to be modified. If you can figure out the reason for your dog's aggression, you'll be better able to find a resolution. Some of the reasons for dog aggression include:
- Protecting Himself or His Pack - Some dogs are extremely protective of the other animals and humans in their pack. While this is good in some circumstances, some dogs become aggressive if anyone even approaches their humans.
- Protecting His Den - Does your dog run along the fence line barking at passerby in a menacing way? Does the barking stop once the person is past your fence? That is your dog protecting his den. He's not interested at all in the person—as long as that person moves along.
- Protecting His Food or Toys - Food aggression is common in dogs who didn't get enough to eat at some point in their lives. A food-aggressive dog who is normally docile will turn into Cujo if anyone approaches him when he's eating. This same type of possession aggression can also apply to favorite toys or beds.
- Redirected Aggression - If a dog can't reach the target of his aggression, for example a strange dog being walked on a leash, he may turn on whatever dog or human he can reach. This type of aggression often comes as a shock as the dog may attack a dog he has lived with peacefully for years. Other reasons for redirected aggression include fear, predatory reasons, and sexual frustration. Another thing to keep in mind is that a normally docile dog who suddenly becomes aggressive could be in pain due to an undetected medical condition, so get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
Once you figure out the reason for the aggression, you can begin to work with your vet or an animal behaviorist. It is important to note that if your dog displays low levels of aggression, like growling for example, correcting the behavior may lead to more aggressive behavior next time. This is because your dog realized he was punished for growling and could escalate to a more aggressive behavior in the future. Training can still be very helpful to work on mild aggression, but punishment may not be the solution.
Aggression is one of the top reasons pet owners rehome their dogs, but with the right intervention, you can put a stop to this behavior and keep your pet in your home.
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