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Understanding Dog Aggression

Types of Dog Aggression

There are several types of dog aggression: Defensive or fear-based aggression, dominance aggression, possessive and territorial aggression, intra-sexual (male-to-male or female-to-female) or parental.  A dog may show more than one type of aggression.

· Dominance aggression.  Your dog may think that she is the alpha dog.  There are dogs that have a greater predisposition for asserting themselves as predators.  Male dogs and certain breeds have a greater tendency toward asserting their dominance over their territory, other dogs and people. The solution for this kind of dog is to get control quickly and establish your leadership through training.

· Fear-based aggression.  Dogs that are physically abused will build fear of that person and may react with defensive aggression one day.  A fear-based aggressive dog will usually display submissive body language but may snap if cornered and will often bite at people who turn and walk away.

· There are at least two normal causes of aggressive behavior and even biting.  One is maternal protection of pups by the mom, and another is sibling rivalry.  Here, the best advice is to properly socialize your dog at a very early age, to people as well as to other dogs.  Sometimes, hormonal medication will effectively treat the aggression in these dogs.

· Territorial and Possessive aggression.  A dog may be territorially aggressive over certain objects such as her bed, her home and her food bowl.  Establishing your leadership and counter-conditioning this dog are essential.  It is important to begin this training at a very early age.

What You Can Do When Your Dog Is Aggressive

When trying to deal with your dog’s aggressive behavior, one of the first steps is to make sure there are no medical problems you are not aware of.  There is a chance that a health problem is responsible for your dog’s aggressive behavior.  So, check with your veterinarian before you rule this one out.

Whatever you do, take precautions.  Keeping everyone safe is your main concern.  Since you are responsible for your dog’s behavior, it would be a good idea to confine her, leash her or restrict your dog’s activities until you have found a way to deal with the problem.  If you feel that you can not control your dog or if you’re afraid that your dog may bite someone then it’s better that she wears a muzzle.  Remember, these are only temporary measures until you can get professional dog training help.

If you can identify the situations that cause most of your dog’s aggressive behavior then you should avoid them at least for the time being.  Exposing your dog to situations where she is more likely to show aggression will work against you.

You can spay or neuter your dog.  Hormones are known to contribute to aggressive tendencies in intact dogs so it’s more likely for them to show some kind of aggressive behavior.

Aggressive Dog Treatment

Get professional help.  An aggression problem will not go away by itself.  Treatment is best handled by a professional dog trainer who has a lot of experience working with aggressive dogs.  You wouldn’t want to hire any dog trainer who is poorly qualified or anyone who uses excessive force and punishment in order to correct an aggressive dog.

Punishment won’t help, in fact, it will make the problem worse.  In most cases, the use of punishment will either challenge your dog’s dominant position or make her more fearful, and therefore more aggressive.  It will help escalate the aggressive behavior and is more likely to result in a bite or a severe attack.

Most aggressive dogs can be retrained under the right circumstances.  However, before you start a program to correct an aggressive dog, you must realize that there is a chance your dog may never be trustworthy around other people or children and may bite if provoked. Consult veterinarians or animal behaviorists for their opinions about whether your dog can be rehabilitated or should be put down. *

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