How to Train Your Dog to Stop Attacking

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Attacking
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-8 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

You’re out on a walk with your canine pal, the sun is out and you’re enjoying a welcome hour of peace and quiet from your busy life. Then, all of a sudden, you are pulled to the side as your dog lunges and attacks another dog. You eventually manage to pull him away without anyone getting hurt, but this wasn’t the first time and you fear it won’t be the last.

If your dog attacks others, you have a serious problem on your hands. First, there is the damage and injury he could cause to another pet or person. Then, there is the risk of serious injury to himself and the hefty vet bills that come too. On top of that, there is also the risk a court will order your dog to be put down if he keeps attacking.

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Defining Tasks

Training of this sort is never straightforward because you have to tackle the underlying cause of the dog’s aggressive behavior, which is usually fear. You will need to use strict obedience commands to assert yourself as the pack leader and take control. You will also need to take a number of steps to manage your dog’s environment, in turn reducing the chances of attacks.

If your dog is a young puppy he will probably be receptive and likely to respond to training in just a few weeks. If your dog is older and his attacking habit has been going on for years, then you may need months before you finally squash his aggressive behavior. Getting this training right though is essential, not just for the health of your dog, but also for other pets and humans around. You don’t want to end up with a dog who can’t be allowed near your own children!

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Getting Started

Before the training campaign gets underway there are several things you will need. A secure leash will be required. If your dog is big and strong then a body harness will give you more control and reduce strain on his neck. It's always helpful to have an assistant to monitor progress and give advice. And, if at any time you feel overwhelmed or that your dog needs better instruction, call upon a professional trained in guiding aggressive dogs in the right direction.

Your dog's favorite food and treats will play an essential part in incentivizing and rewarding good behavior, and a friend with a dog may come in handy. Once you have the above, just bring patience and a positive attitude and you’re ready to get to work!

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The Avoidance Method

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1

Head out

Secure your dog on a leash and a harness if required, and head out the door. You are going to avoid potential conflicts and ignore any bad behavior until your dog realizes he will get nothing out of it.

2

Avoid triggers

If you see another dog or person, quickly pull him away. If you linger he may feel trapped and scared, leading to signs of aggression. If you move quickly out of the situation he will feel no need to get aggressive.

3

Be the protector

Create space and use barriers. If you are in a situation where you cannot avoid close proximity with another person or dog, create a barrier. Dogs attack because they are scared. If you stand between both dogs, or walk on the side that separates him and a passerby, he will think you are the pack leader and that it’s your job to protect, not his. Walking the other side of a car is another easy way to create a quick barrier.

4

Ignore, don't punish

Don’t punish your dog when he is aggressive. Dogs never respond well to punishment and training through fear. Instead simply ignore the behavior. By ignoring his aggression you are not giving him any attention, response or justification.

5

Reinforce and reward

As he improves, praise him when he is calm and well behaved. If you are successful with the above steps, your dog will rarely get an opportunity to get aggressive. Over time, he will stop attacking because it will no longer be a habit. You will have successfully broken the cycle of behavior. When this happens be sure to reinforce his calm behavior with treats and verbal praise. After many weeks you can then reduce the frequency of treats until they are no longer needed.

The Desensitization Method

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Go for a stroll

Place your dog on a secure leash and head out on a normal walk. You will also need a pocket full of treats, plus a friend with a dog. You are going to slowly desensitize him to situations he currently feels scared in, which leads him to attack.

2

Approach

Slowly walk towards the other dog, holding him firmly at your side. Give him a treat and praise him as you get closer. You are showing him the behavior you want to see and the promise of food will gradually reinforce that. As long as he is calm, be sure to shower him with praise.

3

Pull away

As soon as he gets aggressive, pull him firmly in the opposite direction. It is important you pull him away the moment he starts to attack. This quick jolt will signal to him if he behaves in this way, he won’t get any say in where he walks.

4

Close in

Use both the positive reinforcement and the firm pull every day and slowly decrease the distance between you and the other dog. Every few days you will see process and within a few weeks you will be able to walk your dog right up to the other dog.

5

Add variables

Slowly introduce him to other testing situations and use the same steps as above. Keep a firm hold on your dog. Stay calm; your dog can sense your feelings and will react on them.

6

Follow through

The key to this training is the combination of the positive and negative reinforcement. He will quickly learn that if he wants food, that he needs to stay calm and before he knows it he will realize he doesn’t need to be scared anymore because all his experiences with other people and dogs have been peaceful!

The Come Away Method

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Find a good spot

Find a good spot to practice the method. Secure your dog to a leash and take him to a quiet field or park, away from distractions. You’re going to teach your dog to ‘come away’ whenever you instruct him to. This way you can control him in a dangerous situation and call him away before an attack takes place.

2

Get some distance

Let your dog roam around the field to himself to start with. Keep an eye on him though, you don’t want him to wander so far he won’t be able to hear you.

3

Call to you

Firmly say ‘come away’ and call his name. To start with, he will need his name to be called until he understands the ‘come away’ cue on its own. You may also need to hold out a treat at this point to entice him over.

4

Move back

As he runs over to you, take a couple of steps away to encourage him to come even closer. Once he reaches you, give him a treat and shower him with praise. It is important he gets the treat as soon as he reaches you so he associates the command with the treat.

5

Practice

Practice this every day for 10 minutes. As he gets the hang of it, just say ‘come away’ and stop using his name. Also slowly reduce the frequency of treats as the weeks pass. It is also important that when you feel confident you practice in environments with more distractions such as parks and other public places. Keep up the training religiously and soon enough you will be able to call him away from any dangerous situation before an attack can take place.

By Amy Caldwell

Published: 11/08/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Max

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Mixed

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2 Months

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Question

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Whenever my puppy Max is tired, excited, or playing, or randomly he attacks. He recently bit my daughter, as he bites everything, but this seems to be a little more aggressive. I'd like some advice as to how to break this habit of his now before he gets bigger. He has so much potential and really is a sweet boy.

June 23, 2022

Max's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emily, Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if he makes a good choice. If he disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told him not to. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also work on teaching the Out command, and then use the section from the article on How to Use Out to Deal with Pushiness, to enforce it when pup doesn't listen, especially around other animals or kids. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help him calm down and rest. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 24, 2022

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Jancy

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French Bulldog

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2 Years

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Only attack one particular dog that is a Labrador. How to make them live harmoniously under one roof?

Nov. 17, 2021

Jancy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jancy, First, pup needs to be evaluated to determine why the dogs are fighting/being attacked. Is pup possessive of you, resource guarding objects, are they intimidating each other with pushiness, stares, posturing, or other body language signals, is there a dominance/competing dynamic, ect...? How you address this will depend a lot on what type of aggression and what's triggering it. In general, desensitizing any dog engaging in a fight to a basket muzzle, working on building respect for you through obedience command practice, consistently being the one who makes and enforces rules calmly, instead of the dogs doing it for each other, not tolerating things like pushiness with you, blocking another dog's access to something, intimidating stares, or other general bullying/pushy behavior at home. Working on commands that help with boundaries, like Place, Leave It, Off, Out, and Crate Training, and likely desensitizing or counter conditioning pup to the presence of the other dog in some way. I recommend hiring a professional trainer or training group that specializes in behavior issues like aggression, who will come to your home to evaluate the dogs in person and work in that environment where there is probably the most tension between them, and can help teach you how to train and work with them too. Look for someone who comes well recommended by their previous clients for their work with aggression and things like resource guarding. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 17, 2021


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