How can I control my aggressive dog?

Dog aggression can be a serious issue for dog owners, with aggressive behaviour usually stemming from a dog’s frustration and confusion over dominance. A dog can be frustrated when they are not getting enough exercise, or lack an assertive leader to let them know their place in the pack. Dog aggression is often contributed towards certain breed types. But in actuality, this is not always true, but rather that a larger breed such as a pit bull terrier will cause more damage if it becomes aggressive than a smaller breed like a toy poodle will be able to.

Here are some tips to overcome aggression in dogs:

Exercise

Every dog, big or small, needs daily exercise to burn their energy, both physical and mental. If a dog does not get enough exercise they will naturally feel more anxious than they should, as they haven’t had a chance to burn off this excess energy. Just as exercise is good for mental health in people, it is also good for dogs. A calm dog will not get aggressive.

Be calm

Dogs are very sensitive to the feelings of their owner, and even if a human isn’t aware that they are feeling nervous or anxious, they might be displaying nerves that a dog will pick up on and react towards. If an owner tenses up at the sight of another dog, the dog will also feel tense and react towards this by possibly displaying aggressive behaviour. It’s important with your dog to establish that you are the leader, this then stops your dog feeling as though they must challenge other dogs for the leadership of the pack, making them calmer as they know their place.

While meeting with another dog they start to show signs of aggression, however, you can overcome this by keeping your dog on a leash, without putting constant tension on the leash, keep calm and lead them to your side, and walk past the other dog.

Teach your dog to ignore other dogs

When you see another dog, avoid and ignore them including the owner. Your dog will learn from you to ignore other dogs, to avoid and not confront them. This will teach your dog not to obsess over other dogs and help them to feel less stressed when another dog is within a close proximity to them. If they come close to another dog, move away from them by moving yourself, rather than standing still and pulling on the lead. When your dog handles a situation calmly, reward them with positive reinforcement to build their confidence and to associate calm good behaviour with positive reactions from you.

Create space

To avoid dog aggression between yours and another dog, create space between them. You can do this by crossing the street or moving your dog behind a car or barrier or even putting your own body in front of your dog to stop the two dogs coming into contact with each other. By moving your dog and creating space, this will limit the amount of space and time your dog has to obsess over the other dog and so avoiding a head on head confrontation.

By doing this each time you see another dog, and creating calm uneventful experiences, your dog will recognise meeting other dogs as a non-event, and will stop becoming agitated when in the company of other dogs.

If your dog becomes aggressive, take them home

If you are out on a walk and your dog becomes aggressive towards another dog, it’s time to end the outing and take them out of the situation. Once in a heightened state of anxiety, your dog will no longer be able to learn any new acceptable behaviour, but will just reinforce their aggressive tendencies.

Introduce them to other dogs

Socialising your dog with other dogs from when they are puppies is crucial to their development of comfort with other dogs, and creates a calm feeling around other dogs from a young age. If you have a dog that is slightly anxious, let it spend some time with another older dog that is calm, this may be a friend or a neighbour’s dog; let them spend time together in a neutral setting. The calmness of the other dog will influence your dog’s behaviour and they will eventually mimic the calm dog when they realise that they are not getting a reaction from them.

It’s possible to overcome aggression in dogs of all breeds, but it takes some patience and time to train them. The crucial ingredient in the training is you and your dedication to giving them the exercise, attention and the training they need.

These articles are provided as reference material to allow more informed decision making, but are not intended as being a complete source of information on any topic. All readers should make their own independent analysis on the topic to make sure they have considered the aspects that are important to them.