How to Train Your Dog to Stop Attacking

Medium
1-8 Weeks
Behavior

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’re 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 then 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.

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!

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. You may also want to invest in a muzzle until his aggressive behavior subsides.

His 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!

The Come Away Method

Effective
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Step
1
Find a good spot
Find a good spot Secure him 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.
Step
2
Get some distance
Let him 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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Desensitization Method

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Step
1
Go for a stroll
Place him 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 lead him to attack.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
5
Add variables
Slowly introduce him to other testing situations and use the same steps as above. It is best to have him in a muzzle to start with, but soon enough he will be so used to getting close to other dogs and people that it won’t be needed.
Step
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!
Recommend training method?

The Avoidance Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Head out
Secure him on a leash and with a muzzle 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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
5
Reinforce and reward
As he improves, praise him when he is calm and well behaved. If you are successful with the above steps, he 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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Lucky
Labrador Retriever
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Lucky
Labrador Retriever
10 Months

I got a harness for Lucky back then, and we never used it because he kept attacking me the first day I got it. I went to put it on him, and I tried catching him, and he kept attacking me aggressively, and when I did manage to catch him, he would start peeing all over the room to try to deter me.

He still does it, and now I have to risk choking him when he misbehaves and when I have to pull him back.

Today I tried again, but with a can of that dog behvior spray, to try to hold him down and put it on, but this time he wasn't affected by the spray.

And in all these cases, it seemed like he didn't show fear.

My dad can only put it on him since for whatever reason Lucky does, he lets my dad put it on him. I just got cut 2 times with big gashes on my arm and another 3 inch scar all from Lucky. Should I use the same method for the nail Clippers or should I consult an actual trainer?

My parents are still putting the workload on me even though they claim that theyvare doing something.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
149 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kien, It sounds like Lucky is very afraid of the harness and now associates putting the harness on with punishment, anxiety, and bad things. The peeing is definitely a fear response, not spite. The aggression also sounds like fear when it first began. He might use it now to try to get his way though. With you dad, the experience was a lot less traumatic because he didn't put up a fight so didn't experience anything negative from your dad, he just didn't like the harness, so there is less fear associated with your dad and the harness now. He also naturally respects your dad more just because he is the alpha male in the house in his view, so even though he doesn't like the harness and likely wants to fight it, he submits and accepts it. I would strongly suggest taking a lot of time to desensitize him to the harness like you are with the nail clippers. That is the way I recommend clients introduce harnesses initially, but few people know to start that way at first so you are not alone there. Because of all the fear associated with the harness, it will likely take a lot longer to warm him up to it. You will need to use high value rewards like real chicken to make the process go quicker. You will also probably be more successful if you switch to a harness or collar that looks different than the current one and start from scratch with a new harness or collar. You should be able to get him used to the current harness, but there is a lot of mistrust and bad experience associated with it, so expect the current harness to take him a lot time to get used to. If you introduce a new harness, use treats to warm him up to it gradually and tempt him to put his head through it. This normally takes a couple of weeks with a new harness, so you will need to use a collar or something that he is already used to for potty trips while getting him used to it, or have your dad leash him up. It certainly never hurts to hire a professional to help you in person. Most trainers will use rewards also to desensitize him to the harness. He will also likely allow a trainer to put it on him more easily than you because he will be more likely to automatically respect them like he does your dad, and because he doesn't have any negative bad experiences with the trainer. His respect for the trainer could help build his trust for you quicker, but be sure to be the one practicing with the harness with Lucky while the trainer is there, instead of just the trainer putting it on him, or it may appear that you are getting results but he still will not do it for you once they leave if you were not the one putting it on him when the trainer was there. For any type of aggression, it is always a good idea to get professional help and to start working on the aggression as soon as possible before the dog gets worse or learns that he can behave that way normally to get what he wants. It sounds like you could use help with Lucky's behavior and response toward you in general, and that the harness is just one area. Having someone there to see what you are doing and actually demonstrate things makes training much easier. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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