Owning an aggressive dog is challenging, especially if the aggressive behavior is left unmanaged and unaddressed. It can be stressful, and costly, particularly if your dog bites another dog or a human. And that’s not to mention the trauma of having your dog hurt a child. No one wants to live with that. And no one wants a child to be injured or worse.
Whether your dog is dog aggressive, human aggressive, or both, it can be chaotic and exasperating trying to manage to keep the dog away from other dogs and humans. And there’s always the chance someone will accidentally let the dog out, or the dog will break out, without warning. That’s when many bites or attacks occur. We see it over and over again.
It’s important to know that a dog doesn’t want to bite. Dogs typically do what they can to try to avoid this. It’s why they do things like bark, deepen their bark (so as to make themselves sound more threatening), growl, show teeth, lunge, raise their hackles to make themselves appear bigger, etc.
The first thing we need to understand is what causes dog aggression. Aggression in dogs comes from a few main places. Here are some of the causes:
- Fear: The dog tries to avoid people, dogs, or situations that it is afraid of. But this dog has a mindset of, “I’m going to get you before you get me.” So this dog will bite if it feels a threat is imminent. This is the most common form of aggression we see, and unfortunately, is the most difficult to rehab.
- Dominance: The dominant dog can be aggressive to test where it falls in the pack (with dogs or humans). Even eight-week-old puppies in a new home will try to discern where they stand on the totem pole. This is why we often hear that the dog listens to the dad (bigger, deeper voice), less to the mom, and even less to the children. The dog has learned who he/she needs to listen to, and who it can ignore.
- Territorial: This is where the dog, which may typically be friendly and loving, defends its territory from anyone it deems as an intruder. An example would be a dog that charges the fence when someone walks by your yard. The dog may be sweet, away from its yard, but act aggressively if someone comes into the yard or sticks a hand over the fence.
- Resource Guarding: The dog guards, or protects its food, toys, or anything else of value that he/she believes is its own. This can come in the form of snarling, growling, showing teeth, lunging, or even biting.
- Protective: The best example of a protective dog is a mother dog who is protecting her litter. These can be sweet dogs who normally wouldn’t be considered aggressive but may become hostile toward anyone who goes near her puppies.
- Redirection: The dog might not be aggressive in the way we think of a dog that typically bites, but will become aggressive in certain cause-and-effect situations, with the cause bringing out the aggression (effect). For example, a loud noise or uncomfortable feeling, that can be accidental or startling, can cause a dog to redirect and bite someone.
- Prey Drive: Many dogs and breeds have a natural inclination to chase. That’s why we see dogs chase rabbits or squirrels. It’s also why we can see dogs chase people, especially children who are playing a game with the dog. But sometimes this drive can cause problems, especially if it encourages the dog to bite while chasing.
- Frustration/Reactivity: Some dogs behave differently when they are restricted by a leash or in a fenced yard. The dog can become frustrated, or stimulated by being held back, and simply may not know how to act. And so they can sometimes become aggressive and react in the wrong ways because of this frustration.
So how do you manage an aggressive dog? The first step is to turn it over to professionals who know how to help. We always start by booking a free in-home consultation. One reason is to go over our program and the cost of it.
Another reason is to evaluate your dog. There have been times we have met “aggressive” dogs, only to find they weren’t aggressive. So it’s good for us to evaluate the dog and the situation, so we can best determine how we can help moving forward.
Second, hire that dog trainer! John Maxwell said, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” If you want help with your aggressive dog, you need to make the commitment to get him/her trained by a certified professional, with a proven track record of training aggressive dogs.
But understand, we don’t teach that aggression will fully go away, especially if it’s fear-based. Training isn’t a cure for aggression, it’s a management system. This is what you need, and it’s critical you don’t ignore the behavior or try to manage it alone. Many dog owners believe their dog aggression problems will get better on their own. They won’t. They’ll likely get worse.
Third, with your trainer’s help, discover where your dog’s aggression is coming from. For example, fear aggression has to be approached differently than dominance aggression. So this needs to be understood.
Fourth, be patient. Your dog didn’t get this way overnight, and he/she won’t get better overnight. It’s a process. If you or I need a therapist, we don’t expect a session or two to make things all better. Your dog’s reformation is the same way. It will take time.
Find the right trainer and commit to having your dog trained (fortunately, we know one you can call). This is the best course of action for anyone with an aggressive dog.
In the meantime, continue to do your best to manage things by keeping your dog away from whatever stimulates your dog, or brings out aggression (people, dogs, certain situations, etc.). Just be careful. It’s hard to do this for very long, and there will come a time that a mistake is made, and someone (or some animal) may get bit.
We’re here for you.
If you need help with your aggressive dog, or if you know someone who does, we are here for you. No one in Northwest Indiana trains more aggressive dogs than Crimson K9. There are a couple of reasons why:
- Most dog trainers want nothing to do with aggressive dogs. We hear from people all the time who tell us they contacted many dog trainers, only to get hung up on, or to hear that the trainer doesn’t do aggressive dogs.
- We have a long track record of rehabilitating aggressive and fearful dogs. It’s not easy, but we’re committed to doing this, and want to see all dogs have the chance to be transformed.