Today’s domesticated dogs have a lot of wild behaviors that go far back in their bloodlines. After all, their ancestors were required to be aggressive to survive, to look for food and shelter, and to mate. A lot of selective breeding has occurred over the centuries which has tamed a lot of the aggression in dogs; however, the ability to attack and inflict harm is just as prevalent now as it was back then. It’s a dogs’ instinct to be aggressive, and nothing people have been able to do has completely restrained this behavior. Therefore, it’s up to us as caring dog owners to learn to help our aggressive dogs deal with a trait that comes naturally to them.
As humans, we take a lot of control over the aggression in our dogs. Even if your dog does start developing some aggression, you can take steps to understand what’s taking place and defuse it without much trouble. With dogs, there are a number of types of aggression. Two of the most commonly found types are dog aggression shown to strangers and that shown to family members. Who cares who the dog’s aggression is targeted at? Why would we need to use our time to define two kinds of aggression? Essentially, it’s because although both of these types are aggression, they take place for different reasons and need to be handled differently.
Obviously, aggression in the vicinity of strangers is easy to see. You know your dog well, so you can tell when he gets extremely upset by watching him pace around the room, bark, whine, and notice the smallest of sounds. Or, also, if he becomes very tense, staying in one place and never taking his eyes off the person he doesn’t know, be it the mailman, a friend, or someone walking down the street. Some dogs just don’t adjust quickly to people they don’t know. They prefer to be with people they know and who they feel comfortable with. Most times this happens because they haven’t been spent time in a lot of social situations so that they can adjust to the idea of strangers. If you keep your dog confined at home all of the time, how is he ever going to become used to the idea of strangers and unknown situations?
You can help your dog become friendlier by helping him get used to being with both strange animals and people. You may have never thought about it prior to this, but this is a major need for you to think about when training your dog. Beginning at a very young age, shortly after he’s had all of his vaccinations, he should be exposed to a big variety of different people, environments, animals, and experiences. By doing this, you’re training your dog early on that meeting new people and trying new experiences is both safe and enjoyable. You want to make sure you slowly introduce him to many unique people: the toddler next door, a skater wearing a helmet, senior citizens, both men and women, a person carrying a cane, teens, and a lot of others. He will learn to be at ease around strangers, and they won’t seem to be a threat to his world any longer. Waiting until he’s grown up and then trying to ease his fears by petting him and telling him it’s all right just isn’t going to validate it.
How can you accomplish socializing your puppy so that he will not grow up with an aversion to strangers? For starters, you can take him to a puppy preschool. This consists of going to puppy classes, such as those held at veterinary clinics. A group of around ten dog owners and their puppies will get together with at least one qualified trainer who will start training the puppies the necessary obedience commands, such as sit and stay. You’ll like the fact that your puppy is learning to mind, but there’s an even bigger plus to taking part in these classes. Not only will your puppy develop joyful thoughts about a trip to the vet’s office, but he’ll also enjoy play sessions during the classes in which he’ll be allowed to be off-leash and play with the other puppies.
Talk about learning great social skills right from the start! He’ll be able to learn how to get along with a lot of strange dogs while being introduced to a lot of people he doesn’t know. Since a trainer will always be there, the environment will be safe, secure, and in control. Don’t think that puppy preschool is the lifelong solution to aggressive behavior, however. Socialization is an on-going process that you will need to work on all of your dogs’ life. No matter what his age, he will always benefit from being introduced to new places and being in the vicinity of new people. The key is never to give him more than he can handle. Start slowly, with or without puppy preschool, and gently increase the stimulus he’s exposed to.
There are two common reasons that dogs demonstrate aggression towards those living in your household. One is that he’s taking care of something that he perceives to be his. This may be a plaything, his bed, his food dish, or something else he has come to feel is his. It doesn’t appear to be a huge problem, does it because you realize you aren’t opting to take away his things, but there are additional underlying problems that you need to be aware of. The reason that he’s behaving so possessively about his things is because he’s uncomfortable with the way you and other family members are treating or handling him.
At this point, your dog is showing a trait that is not unusual amongst dogs and which is called resource guarding. This situation may include being overly-protective of his things, growling at you if you come close to him while he’s eating, and giving you cold, hard stares if you start to take a toy away from him. Dogs are a lot like people in that they all feel possessive at times, even if what they’re being possessive of doesn’t seem too important to anyone else. You may find your dog acting possessively about a chunk of garbage, wadded up tissues, worn out socks, and other trash items. Other times you can understand his possessiveness more fully when it’s over food or toys.
Why would a dog that has seemed playful and at ease suddenly get all tense over the ownership of a possession? In order to find an answer for this question, we once again need to look at the start of dog behavior. Originally, dogs were members of a pack which is a very hierarchical community. Within this group, each animal has its own rank within the power structure as compared to every other animal in the pack. Each dog comprehends exactly where he and each other dog fits into the chain of command, and, therefore, knows whether he should stay out of or become the aggressor in any given situation.
As far as your dog is concerned, your family unit is just like a dog pack. He has established the hierarchy of power within the family and ranked each member. He also perceives his own place in the rankings. Due to these innate behaviors, living with your dog can get interesting. If he sees himself as superior to other members of the family, he’s going to become very self-satisfied. He’s going to act cocky and start treating everyone with more aggression. When he has decided that he is the top dog in the pack, he’s going to act based on that perception. He perceives that none of the others in the pack have a right to aggression or to try to dominate him as the one highest in rank. As long as he thinks that no one in the family is ranked higher him, he feels he has a right to his aggression, and he’ll never imagine that anyone will aggressively pursue whatever he chooses to have.
So how should you react when your dog starts showing aggressive traits that show he is taking the role of the dominant dog of the pack? The answer is that you need to repetitively work on his obedience training, and do it frequently. These sessions will help him to acknowledge that you, in fact, are the dominant member of the pack. Give him two 15-minute sessions a day, and he’ll soon understand that you’re the boss and that he needs to do what you expect him to do. During these sessions, when he does as you want you should heap on the praise and goodies to reinforce the behavior you’re after. If he doesn’t behave as he should, put him in time out by shutting him outside or in another room.
It always helps to be in the know about any subject you’re involved with, so take a bit of time to learn about dog psychology and ways to communicate with your dog. When you start having sessions with your pooch, keep them short and to the point. As you most likely already know, most dogs aren’t going to give you a chance to be huggy-kissy with them. In their perception, allowing you to cuddle them and put your arms around them means that they are acknowledging that you are the boss. If your dog allows you to cuddle him, you know you’ve won the stature of the superior dog in the pack. If a dog wasn’t allowed to become used to a lot of physical contact as a puppy, he isn’t going to be easy with it now that he’s grown. If someone tries to hug him, he’s going to become agitated and show dog aggression. If your dog’s aggressive behavior is out of control and you don’t feel you’re able to do the training yourself, you need to consider finding a dog trainer to take care of it for you.
A second reason that dogs become aggressive when being handled is that they’ve had at least one bad experience while being groomed. Two of the most prevalent bad experiences dog have in grooming are bathing and nail clipping. Many dogs panic when faced with being held and bathed. Pet owners have problems coping when their perfect pet suddenly becomes all excited and upset in the midst of a bath. They often want to add more restraints which only make the problem worse. More restraint will mean more panic, and the dog will once again reach the conclusion that having a bath is an unpleasant experience to be avoided if at all possible. He may even believe he needs to protect himself by baring his teeth and growling at his owner. Nail clipping can be even more frightening to a dog. When clipping his nails, it’s easy to clip too deep and cut the blood vessel that runs within the claw. When this happens, it means a lot of pain for the dog and makes him even more fearful of those nail clippers.
If your dog is one of these pets that becomes frightened during grooming sessions, you could be wondering if he can be retrained in order to make the sessions more comfortable for everyone involved. Although it’s much simpler to start when your dog is a little puppy, it can be done. If you’re beginning with a puppy, make sure you afford him a lot of touching and rubbing all over his body so that he’ll grow up and enjoy being handled. Older dogs that were never given this type of cuddling as puppies have a tougher time adjusting to being touched. With your older dogs nervousness with clippers, start by taking hold of one of his paws and touching the clippers to it. Show him that clippers don’t usually mean pain. Since he’s probably already had some negative grooming experiences, you need to teach him to keep calm because he doesn’t have to worry that something is going to hurt him.
For the older dog that has an aversion to bathing, you need to practice the bathing process with him making it a pleasurable experience for him. Put him in the warm bathtub if you can. If you need to take him outdoors, don’t do it during cold weather. He won’t learn to like a bath by being sprayed with ice-cold water. While you’re giving him the water bath, give him lots of praise, hugs, and even occasional treats to help him understand that you’re impressed with his behavior. The main factor in these practice sessions is to permit your dog his freedom if he begins to feel uncomfortable and stressed out. Keep the complete process fun and enjoyable for your dog. Don’t force him too far or too rapidly, and if he gets nervous, stop what you’re doing right away.
There’s a reason that dogs exhibit aggression. They’re warning you that you need to stop what you’re doing or face the consequences. If you try practicing the grooming techniques outlined above and your dog still won’t tolerate being groomed, it’s time to get the services of a professional. Your vet will be glad to clip his nails. Make sure you let the vet know that your pooch might be an aggressive dog during clipping times so that your vet will take measures against the possibility of aggressive behavior. Dog grooming services are available where for a price you can have qualified professional groomers to wash, brush, and clip your dog for you. Once again, let them know ahead of time about your dog’s aversion to grooming.