Aggressive Dog Training Tips: Calm The Beast

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Dog barking (caption: Aggressive dog training tips)Most of the time, when you see an aggressive dog, they were not born that way. An owner of this type of dog may not fully understand how to train their pup. This lack of training often leads to aggressive behavior because the dog responds to situations using its instincts since it has never been taught differently. Learn why it happens and how to get your dog to stop.

Article Overview

Why Are Some Dogs Aggressive?

Dogs become aggressive for several 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 completely out of control dog. 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.

Signs 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.

Body Language

Black dog barking with teeth

Dogs tend to use body language to intimidate. Therefore your dog may try to situate itself so that they are taller than other animals. The dog’s hackles may rise. He 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.

Alpha Dog

Dogs are pack animals. In a pack, there is always a leader or “alpha dog.” If no leader is established, the dog will establish itself as the alpha and 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 results from fear.

These dogs can be particularly vicious because they are often small dogs that the owner leaves unchecked, assuming it is 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.

How To Train An Alpha Dog To Be Less Aggressive

Once you’ve recognized the signs of an aggressive dog, it’s important to understand how you can minimize or eliminate their aggressive behavior.

Leash Training

Pinch CollarTo 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 can 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, but they limit what he can do.


If your dog is the alpha dog, they sleep in the best possible place. In most homes, this means they would sleep on the bed. This is fine once the dog understands it is not the alpha dog, and that you are allowing it 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 their way up. This might mean your dog has to sleep in a crate until they understand the chain of command.

Read more about dogs sleeping in your bed


The alpha dog has the first choice when it comes to mealtimes. Since you are starting your dog at the back of the pack, they will be the last one fed. You may even find that you should crate your dog during meal times. They 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. Put toys away so that when your dog gets one, you are the one to give it to them. When playtime is over, place the toy out of reach. If your dog takes off with a toy and you chase them, you are indicating that they are the one in charge, not you. Instead of chasing the dog, wait for them to bring the toy back, then put it away and never give it to them again. (Please note, this does not mean not to give your dog a toy at all. It just means to get rid of that particular toy.)

Check out our favorite dog toys

Aggression Is Not A Form of Punishment

Many dog owners punish aggressive dogs with threatening behavior back. Rather than the dog learning to behave from this punishment, they learn that aggression is an acceptable response.

Aggressive Dog barking

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 what 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’s beyond your control. Instead, use specific methods to teach your dog what is acceptable and what is not.

Rather than using punishment to establish authority, 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 the 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.

Tools To Help With Dog Aggression

E-Collars, pinch collars, and muzzles can be beneficial when it comes to training your dog. They may seem like harsh forms of punishment at first, but, in some cases, they are more effective than regular collars.

Prong Collars

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.

Learn more about pinch collars


Dog with muzzle on eating out of bowl (caption: Best Dog Muzzles)A muzzle is a great tool to use if you have a dog that snaps or intimidates other animals verbally. This is what often happens with shy dogs who are nervous in a situation. 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 dog’s muzzle on for about an hour before a pleasurable activity such as eating or playtime. Then the dog will come to associate the muzzle with enjoyable activities and will apply this feeling to social situations.

Learn more about muzzles

Treats & Patience Are Critical To Success

When you are training your dog, be sure to reward them for good behavior. You can do this with a toy, a treat, or lavish praise. This lets the dog know it 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 them to people for a short period and while under your control (probably on leash), and reassuring your pup all the while. If you are still having trouble, we recommend seeking professional dog training, there are even specialized courses for dog on dog aggression. And if all else fails, sadly, it might be time to think about rehoming your dog.

What aggressive behaviors are you struggling with most?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories, and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly's natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs. Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child.

In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly’s research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today. One of Kimberly’s favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds, and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

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Jane Smyth
August 26, 2020 3:11 pm

Please please please do not use prong collars on your dog, ever. This will NOT help. All it will do is aggravate the situation more. You can’t use aggressive measures to stop your dog from being aggressive. Fight fire with fire and you get burned as they say. I cannot stress this enough. Please be careful what advice you give or receive unless you are extremely sure of it.

Jennifer Marshall Rogers
July 27, 2020 8:16 am

I have a 7-month-old Chinese Crested female that first showed resource guarding at 10 weeks. She now gets vicious when I attempt to groom her. My vet says the dog has established herself as alpha. I don’t know what to do. She is crated and put in a playpen, no free run of the house. I need help.

donna southall
June 18, 2020 1:27 pm

Hi, I have a 6-month-old Rottweiler which bites when playing. We have tried all the expert advice and nothing works. The dog has been in residential training so obedience while out for walks is great. It’s in the home that my dog has a problem. She will start off playing but then she gets overexcited and jumps up and tries to bite. How do I stop it?

May 30, 2020 2:11 am

Do you have any tips for helping the dog to realize ALL family members are ahead of him in the pack?

Our dog listens to me but he has been showing aggression to our daughters and my husband. He will not obey their commands. He pulls on the leash when my husband walks him. He will get his ball and shove it at my husband repeatedly. I have done some of these things (not all), but my family hasn’t. He has zero respect for them and it shows!

Apiffany Gaither Billings
May 31, 2020 9:02 pm
Reply to  Jen

I think you make a really good point when you stated that you have tried some of the training but your family has not. Your dog sees you as the leader because you are the one enforcing the rules as well as teaching him the rules. Anytime training is involved, it is best for each person in the family to know what is involved as well as working on the progress.

May 19, 2020 10:58 am

I have a one-year-old german shepherd mix. he bites all the time, that’s how he plays. When he gets wound up, he gets more aggressive and won’t listen. we use a spray bottle with vinegar and it works sometimes. The worse part is he will just sometimes growl and leap a person to bite them. it’s usually my husband, but can be anyone. one minute you’re petting him the next he is growling and biting. Please help.

June 10, 2020 4:48 pm
Reply to  renee

Same situation we faced with my dog he is 3 years old and always bites us and growls .he bites us very dangerly my kids always faces this situation .icant afford trainer and doctor also my hus want to leave him but i dont he is my family but he always bites us he is delmision mix breed give me a suggestion or help me as soon as possible

Apiffany Gaither Billings
May 20, 2020 10:35 pm
Reply to  renee

I would first recommend contacting a trainer for an evaluation or speaking to your vet to see if there is an underlying issue that may be causing the aggressive behaviors such as anxiety or pain.

May 8, 2020 8:55 pm

Hi! I have a 2 year old yorkie bichon 15 lbs, Leo, and he is a very good dog to me in my apartment. The minute we step outside and meet someone new he gnarls, barks, or attempts to “air bite”. I had a previous trainer who helped leash walking and set up a prong collar. I am not sure if I should enforce the behavior of pulling on the leash as soon as that behavior in him begins or instead switch to rewarding him as a dog approaches. I would appreciate if anyone can help with this.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
May 10, 2020 10:30 am
Reply to  Chris

Our trainer recommends immediacy when walking our dog and she wants to walk or pull toward something we have no given her permission. We will often walk zig zag or in the opposite direction so she is unable to meet a dog she does not know. Introducing dogs to each other takes time and works if done properly. It could be that Leo is showing some fear when meeting a new dog and it’s not helpful to enforce that behavior because he may think that is fearful behavior will always result in praise.

March 27, 2020 10:35 am

I have a 2 year old pit/boxer mix. We also have 2 chihuahuas. In the past year, Maggie has bit my wife twice, the gardener next door twice, attacked another dog passing by our house and just this week attacked one of the chihuahuas. I am at my wits end because I do not know what to do. She has never shown any aggressive behavior around the grandkids nor any of the adults. She appears to behaving nicely and then just bites or attacks. She knows when she has done something bad as she leaves the area with her tail tucked. It is the unpredictability in her behavior that has me worried.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
March 30, 2020 8:59 am
Reply to  V W

Sorry to hear that you’re going through that. I would recommend getting her assessed by a trainer and your vet to see if something else is going on. I had a basset hound in college who would become aggressive toward my other dog when she was not feeling well. She had epilepsy.

John .y.
February 23, 2020 9:27 pm

I have a 1 year old chow chow) Joe who shows aggressive behaviour with me my husband and son we got him from a shelter when he was only 3 months old. He bit my son’s left arm which caused a sore that was almost infected but luckily it went away. Joe is very temperamental and is very grumpy he hates strangers and he hates other dogs and he need to learn to like other dogs and people because I run this company which I sale and make t-shirts and I also babysit my brothers son who is 3 years old..i have fear of selling hime because I fear he would bite someone and get put down I tried medicine I tried a trainer but nothing works and I want him to have a happy life and me to have a happy life but me and him both can’t because hes either biting someone or im either worrying that he’s gonna bite someone does anyone have any ideas?

Apiffany Gaither Billings
February 25, 2020 4:13 pm
Reply to  John .y.

We are sorry to hear you are going through this. Our article about rehoming an aggressive dog may be helpful to you.

Victoria Addington
February 18, 2020 11:42 am

It’s great to know from your article that aggression is not a form of punishment in dogs. I remember when my brother Steve usually punishes his Pitbull, and now he finds it hard to control his dog’s aggressive behavior. I’ve learned from this helpful piece that instead of using punishment to establish control, I must limit the dog’s abilities. Since my German Shepherd is two months old, I am already preparing myself for dog training so that it would be easier to teach him.

Connie Tewksbury
January 8, 2020 9:59 am

We love our 6 mos. old pit/lab mix, we got her at 8 wks and have shown her nothing but love, but I thing we have played too aggressively with her or something, because she has actually snarled, growled and bit my husband, not a play bite either, my husband says she is a bad seed and we should consider putting her down! I don’t know what to do.

February 1, 2020 9:56 am

How old is she now. I had bite scars all over my hand from rover as a puppy. But when he grew up. He wasn’t aggressive at all. Have some patience. Why put her down?

Liz Picone
February 16, 2020 11:26 am
Reply to  shehan

I have a 3 year old shin tzu I got her from another home the they gave her away because they were never home with her and he also said that she niped but she bites instead of nips she bit my hands and my husband hands drew blood on both of us I would like to keep her but can not afford a trannier and I don’t want to touch her in fear she will bite me I don’t know what to do we have her about almost two months any suggestions

I love my
January 4, 2020 7:22 pm

I solved my problem with my Pomeranian I had a professional trainer come in and teach him how to act nicely with my neighbors and I put him in doggy day care through out the weeks so we can limit hes time around my neighbors and now we can live a happy healthy life!!

I love my
December 30, 2019 11:45 am

I have a 2 yr old Pomeranian and he hates my neighbors I can’t even invite them inside for some tea or to watch football games because he hates them they have a 6 yr old 8 yr old and a 2 year old. Hes not aggresive with me and my husband but he just don’t like any body outside of our house and since I live an a housing complex he makes it hard bit I had him through a really rough time and I would be heartbroken to give him away I love him and he’s such a good boy but he don’t even get along good with my moms dog which is a cocker spaniel he is constantly trying to attack it and barks and snaps at her when she walks around it I live in Savannah Georgia and he loves to go down to the ocean but I can’t take him because he acts like a idiot….

Amy S.
December 27, 2019 11:45 am

Hi… we have an almost 2yo Goldendoodle. She is very well trained as far as chewing and going outside. She is although aggressive when she has a bone or toy in her mouth. She will growl at you first if you go near her mouth but the other night she bit my daughter in the mouth when she went to hug her and didn’t notice something in her mouth. She has bitten myself, husband and my other daughter before but never this bad. We really need help training her. My husband is at the point of giving her away. Please help!

I love my
December 30, 2019 11:53 am
Reply to  Amy S.

Um have u tried doggy day care that might help you because it’s giving her some time away from you and from her normal environment and she might feel happy to be home when doggy daycare is over and show respect to you and your other family in the house.

Newby mom
December 21, 2019 1:19 pm

I just had a baby back in aug. And my dog which is a Jack Russel tries to attack me every time I get her out of her crib I don’t know if he’s trying to protect her. But it still worries me that one time I’m gonna end up dropping her. And he also hates it when I pick her up to give her a hug or something… But when I’m not playing with my daughter or picking her up my dog is perfectly fine I hate the idea of selling him so if any one knows any obedience trainers I live in Houston Texas so please comment any obedience classes or trainers I would appreciate it… I’m tearing up thanking about selling my dog

Animal lover 93
December 2, 2019 8:12 pm

My 10 month old German Shepard shows aggressive behavior with my little sisters which are 4yrs 7yrs and 10yrs He don’t show aggression to me and my boyfriend but he gets uncomfortable when my sister’s are around him. I tried letting them give him a piece of food but it didn’t help. My next step to help my puppy is getting a obidence trainer.

Dog care 32
November 25, 2019 3:06 pm

To not make my dog be aggresive I made him work fir his food like petting himme with out growls he gets a hand full of food and it has brought him a very good way

May 23, 2019 7:30 pm

Pack theory was debunked decades ago. “The debate has its roots in 1940s studies of captive wolves gathered from various places that, when forced to live together, naturally competed for status. Acclaimed animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel dubbed the male and female who won out the alpha pair. As it turns out, this research was based on a faulty premise: wolves in the wild, says L. David Mech, founder of the Minnesota-based International Wolf Center, actually live in nuclear families, not randomly assembled units, in which the mother and father are the pack leaders and their offspring’s status is based on birth order. Mech, who used to ascribe to alpha-wolf theory but has reversed course in recent years, says the pack’s hierarchy does not involve anyone fighting to the top of the group, because just like in a human family, the youngsters naturally follow their parents’ lead.” Source

“The problem is, that’s not normal wolf behavior. As David Mech stated in the introduction to his study of wild wolves (Mech, 2000), “Attempting to apply information about the behavior of assemblages of unrelated captive wolves to the familial structure of natural packs has resulted in considerable confusion. Such an approach is analogous to trying to draw inferences about human family dynamics by studying humans in refugee camps. The concept of the alpha wolf as a ‘top dog’ ruling a group of similar-aged compatriots” Source

“Mech’s researchers were observing a dysfunctional group of wolves that were using threat and deference displays in order to seek safety and survive within their unnatural captive group. This was not a true pack which functions on deference displays rather than violence.” Source

July 22, 2019 2:58 pm
Reply to  Gypsy

What is the best age to train dog to be aggressive

October 2, 2019 4:38 pm
Reply to  Nimrod

why do you want an aggressive dog? mr. name appropriate….

December 3, 2019 11:34 am
Reply to  burf

Worrying that there are dog owners like this.

Bekki Morrison
May 21, 2019 2:09 pm

We have an almost 2 year old Boxer/Pit mix. He is great around the kids in the house, and most of the kids that come to see our kids. The problem is that he is 74# and solid muscle and he is very hard to hold on to. He has already attacked two neighbor dogs, one he has played with, with no problems, but he was on a leash. He has an extremely high prey drive and will go after our cats, neighbor’s cats, squirrels, etc. I am so stressed out every day because of having to be on guard all the tie to keep Zeus out of trouble. We have to go to court for the next two days because of him. He is extremely dog aggressive and if we can’t find something to help him be a good family dog, we will have to either rehome him or out him down. Took him to the vet yesterday and he behaved like a champ. He barks a lot at strangers, but especially at the people across the street and their dog. (That’s who he attacked more than once.) We love him and are starting to Schutzhund train him and he picks up on it really fast. He loves sleeping with our 4 year old, who has Down Syndrome, so I think Zeus knows that he is “different” and feels like he needs him. He is very reactive also, leaves will get his attention but birds don’t. Please give me some advice, as I am going crazy trying to train him out of this so we don’t have to get rid of him. We are already looking into a certified dog behaviorist, but any info or advice would be great.

Shelly Richards
January 8, 2020 12:44 pm
Reply to  Bekki Morrison

Did you ever get any help? Im in the same situation and need advice

July 1, 2019 1:17 am
Reply to  Bekki Morrison

I’ve just gone through a court case with my dog Bruce (Staffy x mastiff) due to him reacting to strangers coming into the yard. He has been branded a ‘dangerous dog’ due to this and now I am having to go through the process of organising an enclosure for his safety and for everyone else’s safety. It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, our beloved pets are animals, and when put into a situation that surprises them, they go back to animal instincts.. i.e barking, biting, whining, intimidating.. I fought for 7 months to prevent Bruce from being put down, and we won… I too have to begin training my dog like crazy because I never want to go through this type of thing again.
I also have a boxer puppy, he trains really well with positive reinforcement, If I yell at him for doing the wrong thing (digging, chewing) he does it 10 times worse. Treats also work for my boxer.

May 3, 2019 6:02 pm

This is absolute bull. There are people out there that intentionally intimidate dogs because of various reasons. How does one train a dog to not react to intimidation? Normal dog behaviour can be defensive aggression from fear, year, but the elmination of that cause of fear is the problem, not the dog. Moreover, some dog beahviours are misinterpreted. Dog barks and people assume he is aggressive while ignoring he is wagging his tail meaning he wants to play. Dog chases another dog in a chase game, but owner of the dog being chased just sees ‘aggression’ though her precious is enjoying the chase as much as my dog. Should I train my dog to not place a chase game? Should I just put my dog on Prozac and never let him off the leash? Do I still have a dog? Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism, not Bachelor of Science in Animal behaviour

May 26, 2019 9:01 pm
Reply to  Greg

What reason would a person have for “intentionally intimidating” a dog? Everything I’ve read has stated that using positive reinforcement or reward-based training is a FAR better way than discipline-base training or putting fear into them and establishes a stronger bond between the dog and trainer. Yes, behaviors being misinterpreted is a problem but one of the biggest issues is people, like yourself, don’t take the time to learn how dogs communicate with us. For example, “wagging his tail meaning he wants to play.” While some wags are indeed associated with happiness, others can mean fear, insecurity, a social challenge or even a warning that if you approach, you are apt to be bitten.

Understanding their barks and body language would stop behaviors being misinterpreted.

Code Kochan
May 1, 2019 10:49 pm

We have a 7 year old Catahula Hound perfectly nice around people, a little shy around guests. However the moment she’s on a leach she gets very aggressive around dogs, but fine at off-leash parks. She has attacked the same dog twice (they’re fine no harm done) but I’m not sure what to do. Training is expensive and I’m not sure I’d still be comfortable letting her outside even with it. I didn’t want to give up but she’s getting to the last straw. Of anyone knows any low-priced behaviorists, or any helpful information please help me out here.
Thank You

April 6, 2019 2:42 am

I have a 5 year old Pit, we adopted him from a shelter, he does great with people and kids. But once there is another dog around he gets aggressive, he has attacked one dog (thankfully he didn’t do much damage and the other dog is okay) we believe he is dominant aggressive. We want to get him into a training class but they are so expensive. (And I’m worried it won’t be 100% successful) hopefully you have some advice for us. I’m hopeless at this point and I don’t want to give up on him.

May 1, 2019 11:26 am
Reply to  Kaylie

What became of this?

April 1, 2019 4:34 pm

We have a dog who is very sweet– but only once he gets to know people. He’s a shelter dog who was abused and not socialized properly. He shows aggressive behavior towards new guests, and dogs who try to dominate him. Part of his aggression is nervous (he is a big scaredy dog) and part of it is protective. We’ve been working with a trainer and try to eliminate risk factors (telling people on the street not to pat him, only letting him play with dogs who he knows and informing guests of some of him triggers– plus putting him on the leash when new people come)– Mostly I want to know is- if we work with him long enough will he start to become friendly and we won’t have to worry? Or will we always have to take precautions?

March 30, 2019 12:57 am

My mother’s six year old poodle has become aggressive after the loss of my father and moving to a new home. He now wants to spend every moment with me and snaps and tries to bite her or anyone else when they try to get close to him.
I’m seeking advice on how to stop this behavior.

March 16, 2019 3:53 am

My sister has a dog And is a good dog when he wants to be. He’s been aggressive, bites, and barks at people that he does not recognize. We’ve grown attached to him and tried so many things to change him and we really don’t want to put him down for being aggressive. Any advice on how to help my sisters dog not be aggressive anymore? HELP.

Lydia M
March 5, 2019 7:51 pm

I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT, whenever I take him for walks, we have problems. He hates other dogs and other people sometimes even growls at us. My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!