What does the word ‘Dog’ brings to your mind? A loyal, loving and sweet canine! Nobody likes an aggressive pet dog and it is one of the leading reasons of abandonment. But dog aggression can be prevented, let’s see how.
Aggression is one of the most dangerous and misunderstood of all dog behaviours. It is also the leading reason why so many dogs end up in shelters or euthanised each year. But, aggression can be prevented if you start early socialisation and basic obedience training for your dog. However, aggression can be controlled at a later stage as well.
Watch out for…
If your dog shows aggressive tendencies—usually displayed through growling, bared teeth, biting and lunging—you need to determine the root of the problem.
There are many reasons a dog may become aggressive, and the solutions to each are unique. Therefore, it is important to pay close attention to your dog’s environment when he behaves aggressively so as to determine the most appropriate course of action. A dog may become aggressive for any of the following reasons:
- Dominance: Normally displayed towards other dogs, your pooch might become aggressive towards humans if he views them as part of his pack. He is actually trying to establish himself as the ‘Alpha’ dog or pack leader.
- Territory: Many dogs consider their homes and families their possessions and will defend them vigorously if they feel they are being threatened.
- Fear: Fear will trigger the “fight or flight” response pre-programmed into all living beings. If he cannot flee, he will fight.
- Predatory: Hunters by nature, dogs with a high hunting instinct may view children, cats, and small dogs as prey.
- Redirected: A dog who cannot assert his aggression on the trigger of his fear, protectiveness, or anger may take it out on a nearby dog or human.
- Medical: A female dog’s maternal instinct may trigger aggression when she is nursing, pregnant, or in heat.
- Sudden aggression: Medical causes such as hypothyroidism and brain tumours can trigger sudden aggressive behaviour. If your dog suddenly becomes aggressive, consult your veterinarian immediately.
A training tune-up…
Fear and dominance are the two most common causes of aggression. Consistent positive training will do wonders for dogs in these situations:
- Training the dominant dog: With the dominant dog, you must assert yourself as the ‘Alpha’ in the pack, having control over everything in his life. He must understand the need to ask for permission. Food, treats, walks, toys and affection are all under your careful control. Make your dog sit before being given any of these items, and praise him tremendously when he behaves. He will quickly understand he must mind his manners to get what he wants.
- Training for the fearful dog: If fear is your dog’s trigger, slowly and carefully desensitise him by exposing him to his fear in small increments. Reward him with a treat or toy and give huge praise when his behaviour warrants. Gradually increase his exposure to the stimulus and he will learn not to lash out. Avoid crowded places and always keep your dog on a leash. Don’t let others taunt your dog, and slowly introduce new people to him both at home and in public until he readily learns to accept strangers.
- Feeding alone: At feeding time, ensure your dog has his own bowl and does not feel like he has to compete for food. If necessary, feed him in a separate room.
- Spaying/neutering: Spaying or neutering your dog can eliminate hormonal fluctuations that could trigger aggression.
With patience and training, the aggressive dog can be reprogrammed to make him your loving and well-behaved companion. Since aggression is a serious behaviour issue that is difficult to overcome, enlisting the assistance of a skilled dog trainer is recommended.