Aggressive behavior is a common but highly problematic behavior in canines. Attacks causing injury can put you at risk financially and leave your dog's life on the line. Addressing the cause of these behaviors is incredibly essential to ensuring your dog's general well being. There are some scary outcomes, and you have heard the stories. It's important to prevent aggressive behaviors. Unfortunately, the cause of this kind of behavior can vary greatly, some easily addressed while others take more time and energy. Discovering what is causing the aggressive behavior is the key to success. This is what you need to know to discover the root cause and correct the aggressive behavior.
The Root of the Behavior
Indications that your dog is about to act aggressively can typically be seen in the body language. They will growl, bark, and snarl from deep in their throat, creating a low reverberation. They may stiffen and show their teeth. These signs indicate violent actions are imminent. Where these reactions come from is full of variables. Trauma or a violent history often leads to violence or aggression in the future. Sometimes it is out of fear, other times they think they are protecting you. They may be highly stressed or high strung or a million other factors. Try to be wary of when they are acting aggressively. Is it toward humans that approach them? Is he or she aggressive toward other dogs at the park?
Aggressive behavior can be caused by elevated stress and anxiety. Introducing new people or animals to their environment can often cause things to clash. Try and give them a safe place to retreat to. Many pet owners use their kennel for this, combined with a toy they enjoy and their favorite blanket. Playing calming music in this area can reduce their anxiety as well. This being said, your levels of anxiety can be a huge factor in theirs, so if you are stressed out or upset while you are walking, they may perceive this as anger you are feeling toward a passerby. The same can be said of other animals in your home. If you are afraid they are going to attack each other, that fear will pass on to them without the knowledge of what they are fearing. This leads to animals lashing out. From anecdotal experience introducing new animals using a baby gate as a barrier separating your home into a place for each dog. This gives both dogs a way to retreat away from confrontation and prevent them from injuring each other while still allowing them to approach the gate and familiarize themselves with the other. Eventually, the aggression will subside and you can remove the barrier.
Encouraging the Behavior
Playing with your dog aggressively, such as wrestling or tug of war, can reinforce aggressive behaviors by supplying them with positive reinforcement. Possessive dogs can often become aggressive and your best path is to simply remove whatever the point of contention is. Try to prevent any kind of restraint on your dogs motor functions. Hugging or grabbing around them can often cause them to react with violence because you have removed their ability to run away and they are afraid.
Giving your dog a treat to distract them or stop their aggressive behavior, although it may work for the moment, will amplify your problem. They will feel rewarded for attacking their target, rewarded for protecting you, and in effect you will be training them to act with aggression in the future. In the same way, negative reinforcement or punishing a scared dog is going to hurt your cause. They will not understand why you are upset and they will feel backed into a corner. Contact a behavioral specialist to assist you in determining why your dog is acting aggressively if you cannot address it yourself. Violent pets are serious business and contacting a professional is important if you cannot change the behavior yourself.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Underlying medical conditions, especially those causing chronic pain, can cause aggressive behaviors in your dog. In this case they are acting aggressively more out of pain and stress then actual anger or territorial behaviors. These issues need to be addressed by your veterinarian as they are typically serious medical issues. As those medical issues get worse, your dogs aggressive behaviors are likely to follow. Touching or aggravating any wound would likely cause the dog to lounge or snap at you reactively in an attempt to protect themselves. A dog trainer could be contacted to assign commands to keep your dog calm and passive to other dogs or people. They are not complicated and should not require many visits, but addressing the root cause of the behavior should be done whenever possible.