Aggressive behavior in dogs is a serious matter, whether it's directed at human family members, fellow canines or strangers such as the mailman. If the presence of an unfamiliar face drives your dog to bark, growl, thrust his body forward or bite, then professional intervention is an absolute necessity.
If your pooch is still a puppy, early socialization is key in teaching him not to attack strangers such as mailmen in the future. If you provide your dog with ample opportunities to meet people and animals, you help him become more at ease with them. Puppies are particularly open to new things when they're in the range of 3 to 12 weeks in age, according to the ASPCA. When they're older, they often develop heedful tendencies around unfamiliar people, animals and situations. When you socialize a puppy, the goal is to establish a positive association to each new experience. If you have guests over, help your pet feel good about them by giving him a tasty puppy-friendly treat when they're nearby. The more relaxed your puppy learns to be around people in his tender early days, the less likely he'll be to attack them as an adult.
Professional help is imperative for aggressive canines. If your dog tries to attack the mailman, recruit the talents of a reputable canine behavioral expert and trainer in your region. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions for trainers. Aggression in canines can be extremely dangerous, which is why the assistant of a professional with ample experience is vital. An expert can work closely with your dog to resolve the aggression, whether it stems from apprehension, territorial instincts or other sources. If an expert works closely alongside your pet and comes to the conclusion that it's not safe for him to meet new people in your home, whether mailmen, pizza delivery people or invited guests, respect his assessment.
Your professional canine behavioral trainer can also often offer you guidance in training your pet to never behave aggressively toward "outsiders" such as the mailman. Veterinary behaviorist Nicholas H. Dodman of the Tufts University Animal Behavior Clinic suggests the use of head halters. Head halters, which fit and work similar to a horse's halter, are collars that aim to assist dogs who tend to tug on their owners during walks. These collars allow owners to communicate their leadership over their pets, giving you more control when the dog acts aggressively. The halters don't hurt the dogs, according to the Humane Society of the United States. If you're interested in using a head halter for training your dog to stay calm around new people, consult your veterinarian first.
When dogs are aggressive with mailmen, it's often because they feel that the workers are invading their personal property -- classic canine territorialism. It also doesn't help that when the mailman approaches your home, your dog barks like crazy, and the mailman quickly turns on his heels and leaves. Although the mailman would come and go quickly whether your dog barked or not, a dog's perception is that his aggressive barking successfully chased away a threat. A professional trainer might attempt to manage the situation by training dogs to follow several obedience commands when they see strangers. He also might reinforce positive behavior by giving the dogs yummy treats when they behave calmly around strangers. Some breeds lean more toward territorial actions than others. If your pet is a type bred as guard dogs, then he might innately be more territorial and vigilant.
If your dog is aggressive toward the mailman, don't make any assumptions. Take him to the veterinarian immediately. Dogs sometimes react to the discomfort and pain of medical problems through behaving in uncharacteristic fierce manners. Injuries and wounds can also lead to canine aggression. If your dog isn't sick or injured and has a clean bill of health, speak to the vet about professional training. Never ever ignore any aggressive tendencies in dogs.
Lifestyle tweaks for dogs can sometimes minimize or eliminate aggression and territorial actions. Routine aerobic exercise can often help dogs stay calm and aggression-free. Dietary adjustments can also sometimes help. Diets that are devoid of preservatives often work well, for example. If you're interested in adjusting your pet's diet to keep him serene and well-behaved, speak to your vet.
- Partnership for Animal Welfare: Aggression, Growling, Lunging at Dogs and People Outdoors
- Cesar's Way: Dog Aggression Around Strangers
- Aggression in Dogs; Brenda Aloff
- Bring Me Home! Dogs Make Great Pets; Margaret H. Bonham
- Northgate Pet Clinic: Territorial Aggression Directed Toward Visitors
- The "I Have A Life" Dog Owner's Guide; Kim Campbell Thornton et al.
- Do Over Dogs; Pat Miller
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Aggression Toward Visitors to Your Home
- ASPCA: Socializing Your Puppy
- Animal Humane Society: Socializing the Adult Dog
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