6 Ways to Handle Aggressive Dog Behavior


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Aggressive dog behavior stems from frustration, due to lack of proper exercise, and from dominance, a lack of calm-assertive leadership from the pet parent. The breed of dog is not the issue but the larger the aggressive dog, the more damage or injury inflicted. When you choose a breed of dog with requirements or demands that do not match your lifestyle, you can expect conflict in your pet-parent relationship, perhaps even within your family or with the neighbors.


There are several classifications of aggressive behavior as described by the ASPCA: territorial, protective, possessive, fearful, defensive, social, frustration-elicited, redirected, pain-elicited, sex-related, and predatory. You may have observed only a few from your pet or you may have observed all of them at one time or another, whether toward you, a friend or family member, a visitor, a stranger, or perhaps another dog. These behaviors are instinctual and rooted in your pet's canine heritage. Careful observation and documentation on your part will help you learn the cause(s) of your dog's behavior and avoid the precipitating circumstances in the future.

Here are six tips for handling aggressive dog behavior.

  • Dogs and their ancestors have traditionally run in packs with a pack leader. Whether there are only the two of you or the two of you plus your family, you need to assume the role of "pack leader" by earning your dog's trust, loyalty and respect. This is accomplished by setting rules, boundaries and limitations. Beware: If you don't assume the role of "pack leader," your dog will and you probably will not be able to handle the dog's aggression.
  • Work with your veterinarian to help determine the cause of your dog's aggression. Sex-related aggression can, for the most part, be eliminated by having your dog spayed or neutered. If your dog is injured, ill, or in pain, he may become aggressive at the slightest touch. Only your vet can make that determination.
  • Make sure that you're exercising your dog as much as is recommended for his breed. Dogs are very active, very social animals and being cooped up while you're away every day without an outdoor romp each evening multiplies into pent-up frustration and anger.
  • Dog's will show possessive behavior by guarding what is most precious to them, whether that is food, a chew toy, your bed, his bed, or a favorite place to rest. In such instances, leave the dog alone while he eats, chews, or rests if such disturbances bring out the worst in him. If you have more than one dog, feed and water them in separate bowls to prevent a fight for dog domination.
  • Even if your dog is afraid, he may choose 'fight over flight.' Retreat in order to avoid being attacked but do not turn your back to the dog. Although his aggression may be toward another dog, he could just as easily redirect that aggression at you or anyone else who intends to interfere.
  • Consult a Professional Behavior Expert for aggressive behaviors that you have, so far, been unable to correct. Sometimes the issue lies with you, the pet-parent, not necessarily the pet.


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