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Most of the time, when you see an aggressive dog it wasn’t born that way. Owners of dogs just may not fully understand how to train their dog. This lack of training often leads to aggressive behavior in dogs because they are responding to situations using their instincts, and not proper training since they have never been taught differently.
Dogs become aggressive for a number of reasons. Normally, their aggression is born of fear or possessiveness. An owner who fails to see the signs of aggression as they develop will soon find themselves with a dog that is completely out of control. This is the owner’s responsibility, and does not mean that the dog is a “bad dog.” It just means it is time for some aggressive dog training tips to help you make your dog sweeter.
The Steps of Aggressive Behavior
If you pay attention, you will know that your dog is aggressive long before their behavior becomes serious. Here are some tips for looking for aggressive behaviors in your dog and how to end them.
Dogs tend to use body language to intimidate; therefore your dog may try to situate himself so that he is taller than other animals. His hackles may rise, the dog may lock his gaze and display more control over the mouth muscles. Other forms are a tightly closed mouth, or lips stretched over the teeth. Your dog will be tense and will show signs of physical dominance.
Dogs are pack animals. In a pack, there is always a leader or “alpha dog.” If no leader is established then the dog will establish itself as the alpha and will be guided by instincts and how much control he has over people, other dogs, and situations. Even though dogs are pack animals, some dogs are naturally born shy and their aggression is the result of their fear. These dogs can be particularly vicious because they are often small dogs that the owner leaves unchecked, assuming the dog to be harmless because of its size.
In your home, you need to be the one to establish yourself as the alpha dog. You establish physical boundaries as well as behavioral boundaries. To do this, you must first teach the dog that you are the one in control.
Aggression is Not a Form of Punishment
Many dog owners punish aggressive dogs with aggressive behavior themselves. Rather than the dog learning to behave from this form of punishment, they learn that aggression is an accepted response. Remember that some aggression is born of fear. When you beat your dog, you might establish some fear and that may cause the dog to stop doing whatever it was punished for, but you also build a foundation for aggression to be acceptable. Sooner or later that fear you created may come out in aggressive behavior that is beyond your control. Instead, use specific methods to teach your dog what is acceptable and what is not.
Rather than using punishment to establish control, you can limit the dog’s abilities and following the pack order. Keep in mind that the alpha dog gets the best of everything, and first choice to decide what the best of everything is. The alpha dog is followed, not led. When you rely on punishment only, you are responding (following), rather than leading.
In order to establish yourself as the alpha dog in your home, you may have to use a leash inside your home. This is so that you can control where the dog is able to go. For instance, if you do not want your dog on the furniture, simply step on the leash when he goes to get on the couch. Prong collars and harnesses work well for this type of training because they do not choke the dog when he is being guided, but they do limit what he can do.
If your dog is the alpha dog, he sleeps in the best possible place. In most homes, this means he would sleep on the bed. This is fine once the dog understands he is not the alpha dog and that the alpha dog is allowing him to sleep in the bed, but you have to establish the pack relationship first. Your dog has to start at the back of the pack and work his way up. This might mean your dog has to sleep in a crate until he understands the chain of command.
The alpha dog has first choice when it comes to meal times. Since you are starting your dog at the back of the pack, he will be the last one fed. You may even find that you should crate him during meal times. He can progress to eating at the same time as you once boundaries have been established.
Playtime is one of the best times to focus on training your dog. Toys should be kept up so that when your dog gets a toy, you are the one to give it to him. When playtime is over, the toy is put up. If your dog takes off with a toy and you chase him, you are letting him know that he is the one in charge, not you. Instead of chasing the dog, wait for him to bring the toy back, then put it away and never give it to him again. (Please note, this does not mean not to give him a toy at all. It just means to get rid of that particular toy.)
Collars and Muzzles
Collars and muzzles can be very helpful when it comes to training your dog. They may seem like harsh forms of punishment at first, but they work better than regular collars because of the way they are made.
Prong collars are among the best tools a trainer can use. A normal collar will choke your dog if you pull on it. A prong collar will cause superficial discomfort similar to what a pup feels when his mother nips him in the back of the neck, indicating that his behavior is not acceptable. We recommend the Starmark Training Collar as it is a little softer than the traditional metal prong collar and it has great reviews from professional dog trainers.
A muzzle is a great tool to use if you have a dog that snaps or tries to verbally intimidate other animals. This is usually what happens with shy dogs who are nervous in a situation. You must ease your dog into new social situations a little bit at a time. The muzzle can be used in social situations, but to train the dog correctly, put the muzzle on the dog for about an hour before a pleasurable activity such as eating or play time. Then the dog will come to associate the muzzle with pleasant activities and will apply this feeling to social situations.
Aggressive Dog General Training Concepts
When you are training your dog, be sure to reward him or her for good behavior. You can do this with a toy, a treat, or lavish praise. This lets the dog know he has pleased the alpha dog and may be moved from the back of the pack soon.
Have patience and introduce your dog to new ideas and settings a little at a time. If your dog is nervous around people, only expose him or her to people for a short period to begin with, petting him and reassuring him all the while. Your dog feels safer with an alpha dog indicating that all is well.