Aggressive Dog Training
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Dealing with the Aggressive Dog

by Ed Frawley

"There are no problem dogs, only problem owners."

A couple years ago, the show 20/20 did a segment on aggressive dogs and bites that resulted from such aggression. Someone emailed me to complain to the writers of the show for putting dogs in such a bad light, but I found the segment very-well done and accurate. The only criticism I had was their lack of depth in the subject. It would've been great if they gave information on how to manage aggressive dogs. Unfortunately, they didn't so I'm writing this article to address it.

In this small segment, 20/20 stated the following facts:

Dogs aren't monsters by birth. Bad behavior slowly develops as they grow. Without proper training or proper pack structure, the dog will start displaying aggressive behaviors to establish his/her rank in the pack. It may be difficult to find the early warning signs of aggressive dogs so we'll go through them in this article.

Let me first explain the four different types of aggression.

Types of Aggression
Dominant Aggression

A young pup who growls and snaps at fingers when you get too close to food bowls or toys is showing signs of dominance. It will be aggressive to not only just strangers but to family members as well. It will attempt to take over the house as the pack leader, especially if it will grow into a big dog.

This isn't to say that small dogs aren't a problem. The 20/20 segment stated that more dog bites from from small dogs than they do from big dogs. The University of California found that dogs 16 pounds and under are more likely to snap at people. Dog owners of small dogs have no reason to think their dog is dangerous because of their size so they fail to address any aggression issues. This causes these dogs to be less controllable and more dangerous than owners with large dogs. Owners with large dogs take more action to control any aggression problems.

One thing dog owners need to understand is that DOGS ARE PACK ANIMALS. It is in their nature to be a part of a pack structure. Neglecting that need causes behavioral issues in your dog as they will take initiative to take up that leadership role when no one is willing to step up.

When it comes to pack order, you need to place your dog at the very bottom of the list. It might sound cruel to rank them last but dogs will hurt and snap at others they don't see a higher rank than them. While you might be its leader, it might not know that it's NOT OKAY to act aggressive towards other people or animals.

To really establish your role as the leader, you need to control EVERY part of your dog's life. You control where they sleep, when they eat, which of YOUR toys do they get to play with. Here are a few aggressive dog training tips -- actually, more like MUST-DO's if you have a dominant dog:

If you are training a protection dog, you know that playing tug is something you'll need to do for your puppy. Be sure to take away the tug at the end of the session. Letting your dog run off with the tug will promote possessive behavior so we advise against that, especially if you are aiming to train this puppy as a protection dog.

To sum it up, dogs are simply happier not having to be the leader. They live a calmer, relaxed, and much happier lifestyle. Someone is in stable control of their life.

If you notice your puppy showing signs of aggression, it is a good idea to neuter him at 6 months of age. However, neutering dogs older than 18 months will have little effect on an already maturing dog with aggression problems.

Territorial-Based Aggression

Territorial aggression is a form of dominance. Your dog will start defending what he considers his property from strangers whether it is your yard, your house, your car, or even you.

Here's the classic example: The mailman comes to the house and the dog growls at him. He drops in the mail and then leaves. He hasn't done anything to harm the dog, however, the dog sees it much differently. He thinks that his barking has caused the mailman to leave. Because this happens repeatedly, the dog seems to believe this is the only way to force the mailman to leave. They also learn that if they bark more aggressively, people will leave faster too.

Guard dogs will need to have territorial aggression. They will bark or even bite strangers that enter the house in the middle of the night. However, there's a downside since it may bite everyone who comes in, simply as a dinner guest or just a visitor. That's where you need to step in as the pack leader to control this territorial aggression.

In the world, the pack leader will be sure to establish the lines of their territory. With you as the pack leader, you need to let your dog know that the backyard isn't his backyard.

If people want a dog to become a protection dog they must train their dog both in obedience and protection work. The dog must learn that there are rules of engagement that are established by the pack leader. A good personal protection dog is actually a dog with good nerves and sound temperament. My police dog is the perfect example. He is very approachable. He can go into school rooms with small children. He is no threat to the UPS men and women that come into the office every day or to any visitor that comes to the kennels. But this same dog has bitten a good many bad guys while working as a police dog. I would not want to be the person that tries to come into my office where he is left at night. Through training he knows that the office at night is a "free fire zone" and anyone that tries to get in at night is fair game.

Fear-Based Aggression

Fear biters have bad nerves. They've learned that growling and biting strangers will force them to leagve it alone. Eventually, this kind of behavior will start to evolve. The dog will start biting people from behind as it is less of a frontal attack.

Many people have the belief that these dogs were previously abused. While this may be the case, it is more common that the dogs were born this way. Their shyness causes fear-based aggression.

Dogs will have bad temperaments because of poor environments. Poor environments would mean poor socializing. Its handler has failed to put it in new environments to understand that different places are okay to be at. Sometimes, the temperament can be very bad which means the dog should be put down or sent to the shelter. Here are a few other options you can consider before putting your dog down:

Some dogs won't ever get over their fears. Their dangerous tendencies are too much of a risk and they should be put to sleep. It is crucial that you make an effort to pick a puppy from good parents the next time you get a dog.

Prey or Predatorial Aggression

Dog breeds will range in prey aggression. Herding breeds will have a lot of prey drive and by instict, will chase anything that moves. This can be very dangerous, especially if it's an untrained dog that decides to chase a running child.

Build control with your dog during play exercises. Make it lay down before it is allowed to chase a thrown ball. If necessary, use a long line or an electric collar. You can also teach your dog the t-ball game where one toy is tossed and once the dog is halfway, call him back and send him after a second ball that is tossed as soon as he returns. This is very easily trained with low-level remote collar training. You can down your dog, throw a toy, and get it yourself to toss it a second time before he's allowed to get it. It works towards establishing you as the pack leader and builds control in the dog.

Dogs can be trained to prevent dog bites but children also need a few things to learn when dealing with dogs. Here are basic rules that your kids should understand when interacting with dogs:

Conclusion

Handler aggression towards the dog is not going to eliminate dog aggression in general. It never works and actually makes the dog more aggressive.

Dogs who are well-socialized and have gone through basic obedience lessons will have less problems with dominant and aggressive dogs. It all depends on the handler and how they train their dogs in preventing dangerous behaviors.