Dealing with Aggressive Behavior in Your Dog

No dog owner should be surprised that their pooch is capable of aggressive behavior. Now domesticated, dogs for centuries were wild animals and that pack mentality still resides deep in their genes. It may come out in an effort to exert dominance in your relationship.  Genetics are not the only cause of misbehavior in dogs. Aggressive behavior might be caused by trauma in the dog’s early weeks or months as a puppy. Neglect is often a factor. Whatever the causes, no good will come from allowing aggression to continue and increase in your canine friend. Take action as soon as you see it developing because it can become dangerous for you, your dog and others.

The Reasons your Dog may be Aggressive

Dog’s are socialized while still with their mother and litter mates. They should remain there until at least eight weeks of age for proper development and socialization. During this time puppies exhibit normal aggressive behavior which often takes the form of play fighting.  They have a need to sort out the issue of dominance because every dog needs to know who is in control. This is a survival instinct. The pack needs to have a leader, and if none exists, they’ll pursue that spot out of necessity. Typically they quickly learn that the mother is in control of the litter and their aggressive behavior is calmed. The first time they nip mom and she responds sharply they get the point.   This period of early socialization lasts until a dog is about 14 weeks of age, so if you bring home a puppy at 8 or 9 weeks a significant part of its early training is up to you.

Once in your home a new challenge for dominance might ensue. Your puppy may nip and posture aggressively. You may be inclined to chuckle, but be sure not to encourage the behavior. Be firm in your response without being aggressive yourself. If you frighten the dog it may continue aggressive behavior because it thinks it has to in order to survive.

It is also possible that your puppy comes from a line of its breed that gave birth to many leaders of the pack. In other words, it is genetically predisposed to be more aggressive, the alpha-dog among its peers. You’ll have a more challenging time socializing and training such a dog, but when done properly these dogs are also outstanding companions. Another factor in aggressive behavior is a dog not being neutered or spayed. If that is something you intend to do then taking care of that alteration will mellow your dog considerably.

In the end, however, the environment that you provide for your dog will most significantly determine whether or not it is prone to aggression. Harsh treatment or neglect, being poorly fed, being intimidated or taunted by a person or another dog or any considerable trauma will produce aggression in a dog just as it will in any animal or person.

Effective Methods for Controlling Aggression in your Dog

No matter what age your dog is, act quickly when aggressive behavior surfaces. This is especially true in mature dogs who have reached sexual maturity – usually around 14 months. It can be a sign of ingrained issues that need to be addressed.

First of all, be sure that you have clearly established yourself as the dog’s leader. If a dog is feeling insecure about who’s in charge it may become aggressive. Be firm but gentle with your pooch. Make sure that it understands basic commands and obeys them whenever you give the word. Take the dog for walks and expect it to go at your pace without pulling or trying to run off. Feed the dog at the same time every day, after you have eaten, and make sure the dog sits obediently before you put down its food. Be a strong, gentle and encouraging leader and your dog will enjoy the kind of security it needs to be responsive to your direction.  Its aggression will no longer be necessary.

Keep in mind that if your dog is moderately aggressive in your home it may be even more aggressive with strangers.  While you are dealing with aggressive behavior limit the dog’s interaction with other dogs and with people, especially children. As your dog learns and exhibits better control of its aggression you can re-assimilate it into a wider sphere of contact.

While aggression is common in many dogs it can be controlled before it becomes a serious problem. Don’t hesitate to pick up some books or videos to help you understand how to handle your dog’s aggressive behavior, or enroll you and your pooch in a training class where you both can learn techniques for controlling aggression, making you and your dog much happier in the process.