Living with a savage beast of a dog is never fun -- and it could even be dangerous for you, your family, other household pets and strangers. According to the Humane Society, you are liable for your dog’s actions, and ignoring aggressive or inappropriate canine behavior will not make it go away -- it could, in fact, make it worse. For your sake and your pup’s sake, get to the root of the problem and find ways to turn your beast into a beauty.
Why Dogs Are Aggressive
Some dog breeds are known for being more aggressive than others, so when you choose a dog to add to your family, make sure the breed is one you’ll be comfortable handling. If you get a dog from a rescue or a shelter, you may be getting a pup that’s had a hard life due to abuse or abandonment. These conditions can make a dog wary, mistrustful and even aggressive. Learn as much as you can about the dog’s background so you can understand his life circumstances and get an idea of what makes him fearful or mean.
Sometimes even the most gentle and well-behaved dog can become savage, but there’s usually a trigger behind it. For example, a pup may be picked on by other animals in the house or feel frightened by stimuli outside the home. If he’s possessive of toys or food or even people, anyone or anything coming in contact with what’s “his” can trigger anger. He may also become aggressive if he feels like he’s protecting something, like his yard or his house. Combat this by limiting access to triggers, making sure he has his own “things” he doesn’t have to share, and quickly remove him from situations in which he starts to act out.
Some forms of aggression have an underlying medical cause. Consult your vet about your pup’s aggression issues with as much specific information as you can provide. For example, your dog may be hurting from some type of unseen injury or disorder and acting out from pain. He may also have severe separation anxiety that manifests itself in fear or acting out. Your vet should be able to help you narrow down potential causes of the behavior and treat any underlying medical conditions that present themselves. Spaying or neutering your pet may also be recommended to held reduce aggression.
Treatment and Training Options
If you’ve ruled out a health condition as the root of your dog’s aggressive behavior, consult a professional who specializes in dog behavioral issues and obedience training. This kind of professional can help you analyze your dog’s anger triggers and help you train him into a calm, well-behaved animal. You’ll learn how to establish a dominant role over your pup so he recognizes you as the leader of the pack. Strict adherence to obedience commands will be essential to getting and keeping your dog under control. Reinforce positive behaviors through food rewards and verbal praise and avoid physical punishments, which will only make your dog more aggressive.
Protect yourself and others while you’re helping your aggressive dog learn positive behaviors. The Humane Society recommends temporary use of a cage-style muzzle for aggressive dogs when they are in public or around stimuli that trigger aggression. Keep aggressive dogs away from children and other household pets and maintain leash control at all times until you are sure their behavior modification has become effective.