Dealing with Dog Aggression

We have all encountered dog aggression at some point in our lives. Sometimes its just in their nature to not want to deal with other dogs and people. If you are an owner of one of these kinds of dogs and are wanting you try and encourage your dog to be more friendly this blog is for you.

The first step in getting your dog to become more social or tolerate social occasions is by learning his body language. Many people go through life without fully understanding how their dog communicated with its body. Since dogs can’t talk, they have to rely on other forms of communication and its up to us as care takers of our dogs to learn their language.
A wagging tail, licking lips, staring into the distance, sniffing around, and full body shacking are often not identified by owners as they should. Read this blog to understand more about dog body language.
Many people have dogs that are aggressive towards other dogs and people. This is a major issue if you and should be dealt with accordingly. The cause of this aggression varies from mistreatment and bad interactions to incorrect socialisation and poor communication. Often aggressive dogs have given many other signals that they are uncomfortable, which go unanswered, and as a result have to resort to aggression. People need to understand that when a dog shows first signs of being uncomfortable you need to address this communication correctly. This means not forcing your dog further into a situation. You need to help your dog by either showing it how to deal with the situatio0n correctly with positive reinforcement or removing the dog from the situation until he is comfortable again.

dog looking aggressive

The second step in understand and dealing with a dog’s aggression is by learning what is the trigger that sets your dog off. Is it other dogs, people, children, inanimate objects, when he has a ball or stick, or when he is on the leash. There are countless probable causes for a dog’s aggression which need to be identified before they can be addressed.
Once you have learned your dog’s body language and identified the triggers of his aggression you can start dealing with it. I will say this again and again, you need to get the help of a trained professional. You may think that you know your dog and how to deal with the aggression, but a professional will see things you don’t see and know how to deal with details you think are minor but are actually major.

dog aggression
Aggression or Play?

Let’s say your dog is aggressive towards other dogs on leash. When you are out for a walk he lunges, barks, and acts all scary towards other dogs. However, once you are at the park and he is running around off leash he isn’t aggressive towards other dogs. There may be multiple reasons for this type of aggression. Your dog may be possessive over you, he may have barrier aggression (this is when there is something stopping a dog from getting to what he wants, and he becomes aggressive) or possibly defensive aggression.
We are going to say that your dog is possessive over you, he does not want to let other dogs or even humans near you. This results in him barking and getting aggressive if others approach you. What you don’t notice is all the precursor signals your dog is giving you long before he gets aggressive. He may freeze as he sees people/dogs approaching, his hackles may rise, he may even try and move away from the situation. As the dog’s owner you should be noticing these things and help your dog. Unfortunately, most people don’t notice and force their dog into these situations where the dog gets aggressive.
What can we do to help our dogs in these situations?
At the first sign your dog is uncomfortable stop approaching the situation. If the dog/person is approaching you, move away. Secondly, you can reassure your dog that he doesn’t need to get aggressive because you can handle the situation. This is done by noticing your dog’s discomfort and moving him away from the situation and then calming him down by turning his attention onto something else. Get your dog to listen to you and do some fun things with him, you can even do a little bit of obedience. Once the dog has calmed down and is relaxed again (once again check this blog out for dog body language). You can reward him with a delicious treat or his favourite toy.
This method should slowly make your dog realise that you are in control of all situations and there is no need for him to get defensive over you. Like I said, it’s a slow process and you as the owner need to work on your own emotions too. Many people with aggressive dogs tend to tense up, tighten the leash and start getting anxious when you see a trigger for your dog approaching. This contributes towards your dog’s issues more than you think. So, as well as working on your dog’s issues work on your own control too.

If your dog is showing signs of aggression for any reason it is always a good idea to consult a professional. A dog behaviourist would be your first port of call. Secondly, the behaviourist should recommend you get your dog vet checked. This means ruling out any physical problems like pain that may be causing your dog to be aggressive. If pain is ruled out then the dog behaviourist should be able to work out the cause of the aggression and how to deal with it.

The final step in dealing with your dogs aggression once you have learned dog body language, and identified the triggers, is to develop a plan to prevent the aggression and slowly teach your dog how to handle it and over come the triggers. This plan will be unique to each dog and needs careful and educated planning to be successful. A trained dog professional should be consulted for help.