There are dogs that growl, bark, bar their teeth and even bite. An aggressive dog can put dog-human coexistence to the test. But why do some dogs become aggressive and others not? And what can you do to prevent aggressive behavior?
Are Some Breeds Of Dogs More Dangerous Than Others?
One thing is certain: no dog is born aggressive. True, some Dog breeds have a higher protective instinct from birth and others have a lower stimulus threshold, but hardly any of them bite for no reason. Dog experts now agree that every dog - regardless of breed – can learn to behave appropriately to the situation.
Pitbulls, Rottweilers or Dobermans are therefore no more dangerous per se than, for example, Golden Retriever or Labrador. In fact, these breeds are characterized by a fairly high stimulus threshold and a friendly nature. The causes of aggressive behavior are therefore less to be found in the genetic make-up than in the people who raise these dogs.
Your Dog’s Behavior Is Your Responsibility
So it is not the dog who is responsible for its behavior, but the owner. He has to teach his dog what he expects from him and how he has to behave in coexistence with other animals and people, taking into account his mind.
But that doesn’t mean that if your dog reacts aggressively, you should get lost in self-blame. Most dog owners do not act with bad intent, but rather out of uncertainty, ignorance or a misunderstood love of animals.
Sometimes the aggressive behavior of your dog is not due to you but to previous traumatic experiences. This can be the case, for example, if you only rescued your dog from the animal shelter as an adult.
Aggressive Dog: Do I Need Help?
It is important that you recognize the problem and try to reduce your dog’s aggression. At the latest when your dog threatens other animals or people dangerously or even bites, you have to act!
There are many experts who will support you on this path: dog trainers, Canine psychologists or problem dog therapists. Do not be afraid to take this help. Getting help is not a failure or a sign of weakness, but rather an indication of your courage and strength to take responsibility for your dog.
First step: Identify The Causes
There is also something comforting in the knowledge that an aggressive dog is influenced in its behavior by humans: Just as faulty upbringing promotes aggressive behavior, with the right upbringing you can ensure that an aggressive dog abandons undesirable behavior and becomes a sociable Partner.
But what should be done differently in the future? To turn your bully into an obedient family dog, you should research the causes of his aggression. The better you know the reasons for his aggressive behavior, the better you can avoid them. You will then need to adjust how you treat your dog.
Why Do Dogs Become Aggressive?
Dogs don’t suddenly become aggressive overnight on some whim. Aggressiveness is always caused by persistent or repetitive negative feelings, usually anger or fear. But the pain from an illness can also make the dog weary and lead to aggressive behavior.
Dogs do not become biting beasts because they are belligerent or enjoy intimidating and hurting other animals or people. An aggressive dog is almost always one that is insecure and uncomfortable in a particular situation.
Causes and Forms of Aggression
Isolated rearing, lack of socialization and upbringing as well as inappropriate keeping are among the main reasons for dog aggression. However, it is also possible that an aggressive dog has had bad experiences in the past. Traumatic experiences or chronic pain can also trigger anger or fear – and thus aggression.
In reality, the exact causes are unfortunately not always as easy to name as it appears here. It is therefore worthwhile first to see when a dog reacts aggressively: In which situations does it start to growl and bar its teeth? Does he react nervously to the proximity of a conspecific? Does he think he has to defend his protégés? Or is he afraid that someone else might dispute his personal belongings? Depending on the reason, a distinction is made between different forms of aggression in dogs. So there are:
- Self-defense: A dog feels uncomfortable with another conspecific or is restricted in its freedom.
- Protective aggression: Family members need to be protected from enemies.
- Competitive aggression: If there is a strong bond with an object, for example Food bowl or Toy, the dog has to defend him from others or he wants to use it to differentiate himself and secure his status in the pack.
Dogs are not born aggressive. It is therefore important to find out the real causes.
Last but not least, the learning experience that the dog has had with his aggressive behavior plays a decisive role. Was he able to vent his anger or was he praised for it by his owner?
Of course, very few owners would consciously reward their dog if it growls or even bites. Nevertheless, most owners probably try to hold their dogs back by telling them soothingly (“Everything is fine, stay calm!”) Or by petting them to calm them down.
However, dogs can usually not interpret the words, but only the tone of their master’s tone. That is why the dog often realizes that his master pays him loving attention when he growls and barks.
Step Two: Avoid Situations
Once you’ve figured out what stimuli trigger your dog’s aggressive behavior, it’s important to avoid them first. Do not take the aggressive behavior of your dog lightly, because depending on the strength and size of the four-legged friend, it can be dangerous for you and your environment.
For example, if your dog gets extremely upset in the presence of another dog or in a certain environment, try to avoid these situations if possible. First, you need to teach your dog the most important rules of obedience and be confident that he will obey your commands to hear and see. Only then should you begin to desensitize him to these aggressive stimuli as part of targeted training.
When Should a Muzzle be Put on?
If your dog is already showing very aggressive behavior and you are anxious or unsure whether your dog is obeying your commands, you should give him one put on the muzzle. Do not worry, this is initially only for safety and does not have to be forever. If you have successfully reeducated your rowdy four-legged friend, you can safely do without it.
So that putting on the muzzle does not become torture, you should first get your dog used to it carefully within your own four walls. For example, put treats in the muzzle so that your dog can only get hold of them if he sticks his mouth in the basket. After a few minutes, take the muzzle off and praise your dog for it – with words and another treat.
Repeat this procedure over and over and always keep the muzzle pulled on a little longer. After a while, you can leave out the treat in the muzzle and take the first walk outside with the muzzle. Do not be bothered by the looks of other people, but deal with the situation with confidence and calm. After all, you ensure that your dog cannot harm anyone.
Aggressive Dog: The Body Language
Serenity and self-confidence are qualities that you should adopt when dealing with your dog and your environment in general. Dogs have an amazing sense of their people’s moods.
When your dog realizes that you are insecure and nervous, that feeling will spread to him. He will be insecure and put on “alert” in the appropriate situations. The result of this uncertainty is often that your dog thinks it has to defend it. For the affect-driven animal, an attack is sometimes the best defense.
So treat your dog with confidence. Try to get rid of your nervousness in situations in which your dog could become aggressive or, if necessary, to cover it up. Little by little your dog will regain confidence in your competence and learn that he can rely on your judgment.
Third Step: Re-Education In The Dog School
With steps one and two you have taken the “first aid measures” in dealing with your aggressive dog. You have clarified what the causes of his behavior are. You have also made sure that your dog is no longer dangerous.
The next and last step is to get down to business. After all, you will not always be able to avoid critical situations. Your insecure and aggressive dog needs re-education. From this point in time at the latest, it is advisable to seek professional help. Visit the with your dog Dog school or targeted coaching from an anti-aggression trainer.
If certain situations trigger aggression in your dog, you should avoid this first. Later, it is also advisable to go to a special trainer.
Obedience Exercises and Behavior Control
In a training session, you first practice the most important behaviors with your dog. With obedience exercises, he learns the basic auditory and visual signals. These include approaching on call, “sit”, “sit down”, “at your feet” and “leave it” (“off” / “stop”).
Only when he or she follows these signs reliably can you begin to desensitize your dog to irritable situations. Your dog trainer will artificially create situations in which your dog will react aggressively and practice alternative behaviors with you and your dog.
One means of treating aggression problems is positive reinforcement. With recurring rewards, you can control your dog’s behavior in a targeted manner and steer it in the desired direction.
Take The Lead!
Attending a dog school or anti-aggression dog training will not only have a positive effect on your dog’s behavior but also your relationship with one another.
You will get to know your dog better and learn how to behave with him in critical situations. Last but not least, this will lead to more self-confidence on your part. This will allow you to be confident with your rowdy dog.
Show your dog clearly who is in charge from now on – without excessive severity or even violence, but with self-confidence, consistency and positive charisma. In this way, your dog learns to follow your rules, which in turn will not only simplify your everyday life together considerably but will also make your dog more satisfied. Because every dog longs for control and orientation from its “pack leader”.
We wish you and your dog every success on the way together!