Recognizing and preventing dog aggression

– Recognizing and Preventing Dog Aggression –

There are several different types of canine aggression. The two most common ones are:

1. Aggression towards strangers

When a dog’s nervous around strange people he’s jumpy and on the alert: either he can’t sit still and is constantly fidgeting, leaping at the smallest sound, and pacing around barking and whining; or he’s very still, sitting rock-steady in one place, staring at the stranger. One big reason for this behavior is the lack of exposure to different people and places. Therefore, how can he realistically be expected to relax in an unfamiliar situation?

The process of accustoming your dog to the world and all the strange people (and animals) that it contains is called socialization. This is an important aspect of your dog’s upbringing: in fact, it’s pretty hard to overemphasize just how important it is. Socializing your dog means exposing him from a young age to a wide variety of new experiences, new people, and new animals. When you socialize your dog, you’re getting him to learn through experience that new sights and sounds are fun, not scary. The more types of people and animals he meets in a fun and relaxed context, the more at ease and happy – and safe around strangers – he’ll be in general.

2. Aggression towards family members

It all boils down to the issue of dominance. Dogs are pack animals and this means that they’re used to a very structured environment: in a dog-pack, each individual animal is ranked in a hierarchy of position and power in relation to every other animal. Each animal is aware of the rank of every other animal, which means he knows specifically how to act in any given situation (whether to back down, whether to push the issue, whether to muscle in or not on somebody else’s turf).

The family environment is no different to the dog-pack environment. Your dog has ranked each member of the family, and has his own perception of where he ranks in that environment as well.

Resource guarding (trying to defend his food or toy) is a classic example of dominant behavior: only a higher-ranked dog (a “dominant” dog) would act aggressively in defense of resources.

So, if it is clear to your dog that he is not, in fact, the leader of the family, he will not prevent you from taking his food or toys – because a lower-ranking dog (him) will always go along with what the higher-ranking dogs (you and your family) say.

The best treatment for dominant, aggressive behavior is consistent, frequent obedience work, which will underline your authority over your dog. Just two fifteen-minute sessions a day will make it perfectly clear to your dog that you’re the boss, and that it pays to do what you say.