Treating Dog Aggression

Treating your dog of dominance aggression is necessary to improve his behavior within the family. There should be no risk of injury to people and the dog, while in this process. And most of all, the treatment should be humane.

Treatment should include:

• Avoiding all those actions that can provoke him to actaggressively
• Using passive behavior modification techniques to make dogs be respectful to their owners and to desist
from rewarding the dog for any unacceptable behavior. Instead, he should be spontaneously praised or rewarded for good behavior.
• Resorting to less aggressive ways of reacting to provocative situations such as desensitization and
counter-conditioning.
• Giving the dog anti-anxiety medication.

Territorial aggression:

If a dog wants to defend his area, owner of a fellow pack member, he will display territorial aggression toward
approaching animals or people outside of the pack. This is an inherent trait among all dogs, with genetics
determining just how defensive a dog will be. This form of aggression is also helpful in controlling his fearfulness, a necessary part of his defensive behavior. While normal dogs have a proper balance of attack and fearful backing off, a slightly fearful dog can become more aggressive than a normal dog by sheer experience or by learning.

Let us take a situation where a normal or a slightly fearful dog sees a person approaching him. Immediately, the dog barks and the person stops in his tracks. From this experience, the dog learns that his barking can help control the situation in his favor. The next time a person approaches, the dog now barks sooner and more aggressively than before and the person backs off yet again. By the person backing away, he reinforces the idea in the dog’s mind that his aggressiveness or barking does work, so now each successive time this situation is enacted, the dog’s barking or aggressive behavior will increase.

By now, the dog has learnt that he can control the situation with his barking, and grow his individual space by just being aggressive. Now, he can also determine what he wants defended and the intensity of the various objects that mark out his exclusive area. For instance, a dog might want to call the family car or his kennel his own defended space, or he might defend his owner when on leash, but not when out running free in the woods.

Treating territorial aggression:

This can be prevented or minimized with early socialization and good control over your dog. Teach your dog to sit and accept a reward every time a new person comes home. You can reduce his fear and anxiety of strangers by seeing that a large number of people come over to see him, while he is still a pup and sociable. Soon, he will alert you by barking every time a stranger comes home.

Now, you can train him to settle down and relax. Gain enough control over him to sit, stay and calm down, and then, give him a reward at the door. Generally a leash and head collar will ensure control the quickest. You can use a desensitization and counter-conditioning program to retrain him with a low level of stimuli (e.g., people arriving home in a car, someone walking past the front door, or a stranger ringing your doorbell).

Soon, he will realize that each time these activities takes place, he will get a reward if he barks to announce their arrival. Once he masters this lesson, take him to a higher plane where you use more intense stimuli. If he barks and you want to disrupt it, use an anti-bark collar, shake can or air horn, so that he can stop barking and perform behavior that can win him a reward.

Treating other forms of Dog’s Aggression

 

When you expose your dog to strangers or if he comes face to face with people or animals he has had an unpleasant experience with—whether people or animals—fear aggression builds up in him. There are some dogs who may retreat when frightened, while others who stand on their own territory and those that are prevented from retreating because they are cornered or restrained, are very likely to fight.

The dog may be more fearful if:

a) the stranger or animal retreats
b) The stranger or animal shows more fear than the dog
c) if the dog is harmed or frightened after being punished in any way
d) if you punish your dog too often
e) any unpleasant experience associated with the owners
f) kennel shy and
g) improper secondary socialization.

Fear aggression could be the result of a combination of some other forms of aggression—e.g. dominance,
maternal, possessive, etc. Your dog will be aggressive and his body language will reflect his fear.

Treating fear-induced aggression:

Behavior therapy combined with drug therapy can be used to treat fear aggression.

Maternal aggression:

This is aimed at anyone approaching the female with puppies or in false pregnancy. When bitches go through pseudo-pregnancy they could turn aggressive and protect their nesting areas when the pups would have been born. After the pups have been weaned and the dog is spayed, theproblem disappears. Meanwhile, you can use a leash or leash and head collar, and teach him to leave the litter. Give him commands and rewards as he learns.

Treating maternal aggression:

If you desensitize and counter condition him, get good control over him and give him highly motivating rewards, you can train your dog to accept anyone approach him.

Redirected aggression:

When a dog expresses his aggression to a particular object or person, he may suddenly redirect his ire or aggression from that source to another, even though that latter person or object did not evoke the aggression. For example, if your dog barks at the door, he may suddenly redirect his aggression onto his owner who is pulling him on the leash toward him. Often, dominant dogs redirect onto subordinates. This usually happens when the dog is aroused and a person
or house pet intervenes or approaches.

Treating redirected aggression:

To remove the dog from this aggressive state, squirt water on him with a water rifle, or use an air horn to distract his attention or even a long leash to pull him away from the scene. If this doesn’t work, lock him in a dark, quiet room, until he settles down and emerges only for food or play. Redirected aggression is the result of certain other forms of aggression, so it is important to identify and treat the root cause of aggression. To prevent the problem, avoid exposing him to the cause of aggression by keeping a leash and head collar or leash and muzzle on your dog whenever that form of exposure is likely.

Play aggression:

Young dogs show their aggressive streak toward people or other pets in the family. They play rough games along with grabbing, nipping or biting people or their clothing. Even if you do consider this normal behavior, it can be injurious and, if mishandled, can lead to more serious forms of aggression as your dog grows.

Possessive aggression:

One dog may direct his aggression on another dog if it has something highly desirable such as a favorite chew toy, food or treat. Food alone doesn’t bring out this behavior in an aggressive dog—it could be a tissue stolen from a garbage can, a toy, scraps of food or a piece of rawhide.

Treating possessive aggression:

First, try to stop any injury to the two dogs. For this, you might have to tie up the aggressive dog so that it doesn’t pick up any items that it might like to protect and fight over. If your dog is possessive about  his food, start giving him less palatable food and feed him in a room away from the family. If he protects his toys or treats, take them away, and give them to him only when he is in his crate or separate room. Keep your dog on a long leash and head collar so that you can supervise his wanderings, if any, and stop him from dipping into the garbage can and picking up what he likes.

Set booby traps all over the place so that your dog doesn’t go near selected objects. Your dog will also have to give up accepting certain objects on command. Maintain good control over the dog and train him well so that he receives a treat or reward that is more appealing than what he covets.

Predatory aggression:

Your dog reacts to anything or anyone that moves and chases and hunts his prey. His prey could range from other species to a car or bike. He will then stalk his prey, chase attack and ingest it.

Treating predatory aggression:

You can stop him from chasing his prey by making him wear a head collar. He should be desensitized and counter-conditioned in the presence of his passing stimuli. He should be left loose to run about in a confined space like a large pen or yard, where his owners control his movements. When out on a walk with him, use a leash and head collar or a leash and muzzle.

Pain-induced aggression:

A person or animal that brings the animal pain causes this form of aggression. It could happen when a person touches a painful area or when the dog is given an injection. Even if your dog does not show he is in pain, he could suffer from certain medical conditions such as endocrine imbalances, organ disease, etc. that may make him irritable and aggressive. This may induce him to feel scared and anxious. Once your dog learns that aggression can remove the stimulus, this form of aggression may recur only in similar situations in the future, even if the pain is absent.

Treating pain-induced aggression:

Treatment first requires that the medical or painful condition is resolved. Next, you will need to identify the types of handling and situations that have led to aggression in the past. If you desensitize and counter-condition him, your dog can slowly accept and enjoy these experiences. The problem can be resolved once he is sure that there is no level of discomfort anymore associated with the handling, but that there could be rewards. Begin retraining with a muzzle or leash and head collar.

Inter-male aggression:

This kind of aggression exists between adult males and is all about territorial or dominance disputes. Inter- female aggression occurs between adult females living in the same household.

Learned aggression:

Dogs intentionally trained to act aggressive on command is what learned aggression is all about, though learning is part of other kinds of aggression too. The moment a dog learns that aggression has successfully removed the stimulus, the dog’s behavior is reinforced. Inadvertently, a pet owner may encourage aggression in his pet by patting or giving verbal reassurances when trying to calm the pet. If you threaten or punish him, he may become more aggressive each time the situation recurs.

Treating learned aggression:

If you desensitize and counter-condition your dog, he will not only learn that the stimulus is safe, but that it is associated with a reward.

Food aggression:

You must understand that food aggression is a form of dominance behavior. The dog feels that how owner needs to be taught not to go near his food. This proves that the pet is not scared of his master. In a pack of dogs, you have perhaps noticed that the Alpha dog always eats first, and then others down the pecking order eat. But, if any of the dogs lower down the line try to get close to the alpha’s food, the latte emits a low growl. If this is ignored, the alpha will emit a bout of aggression, which may be a bite on the muzzle, the neck, the ear or the flank. This action means he is asserting his position in the pack, and his right to eat first.

Treating food aggression:

A good trainer or owner will foresee such conflicts and keep ready certain tools such as a leash, collar, back tie, double handler, etc to be able to win this confrontation in the style of the alpha dog. To teach the dog a lesson not to be aggressive over food, leave a properly sized collar and a six-feet leash on the dog while he eats. If he growls, correct him. This is just what the alpha dog would do remember? Now, whether you correct him gently or harshly is up to you.

 

More reading: 

Dog To Dog Aggression

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Virtual Pet Behaviorist – Aggression in Dogs

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Canine aggression

Aggression in dogs is the most serious behavior problem that pet owners must deal with, and it is largely preventable if the owner understands canine growth periods and the factors that influence the development of aggressive behavior.

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