If you shared your house with a wolf – or a pack of wolves – I bet you’d tread lightly. Well, it may surprise you to know that your affectionate Lab, your adorable Lhaso Apso or cute Chihuahua, shares 99.98% of its genetic material with the wolf.
This means that domestic dogs have inherited a lot of the wolf’s behavior patterns. Wolves are territorial, with strong prey instincts, and a social system that is maintained by dominance. Any surprise then that dogs sometimes behave aggressively?
Dog aggression usually comes down to a handful of reasons;
Dominance: The dog wants to claim his place in the pecking order.
Territorial: Dogs are naturally territorial, and will protect their space from strangers. But territorial aggression also extends to defending food, toys and even people they ‘claim’ as their own.
Fear: Often a problem with smaller breeds. The dog feels threatened, so he strikes out.
Prey instinct: Some breeds, like Huskies and Akitas, have a strong prey instinct. They may direct this at small animals, or even children. Aggressive dog training is always advisable for these breeds.
Pain: Approach a dog that has been hurt very carefully. It is likely to lash out in its pain.
Punishment: If a dog is subjected to regular physical punishment it will eventually strike out. This aggression will often be directed at strangers, rather than at their tormentor.
Redirected Aggression: You see this with dogs barking at a gate. If they can’t get to the object they are barking at, they’ll often attack each other.
If you have a dog that has any of these aggressive traits, then aggressive dog training is strongly advised.
Aggressive Dog Training: Why Prevention is Better than Cure
If your dog displays aggressive behavior you need to take action immediately. Don’t wait until the dog actually bites someone. By then it will be too late.
Here are a few tips for aggressive dog training;
Start training early: Puppies are receptive to training from as early as 6 weeks (although they should not be taken away from the litter until at least 8 weeks).
Socialization: By the time your pup reaches 14 weeks it should be fully socialized. Allow it to interact with other dogs and with all sorts of people – kids, older folk, cyclists, the mailman. This way it will be confident in many different situations.
Establish pack leadership: There can only be one pack leader, one Alpha Dog. If you don’t establish yourself in that position your dog will assume he is the leader, and act accordingly.
Training: All dogs should be taught some basic obedience commands, like sit, stay, and down. But a dog with aggression issues should also receive aggressive dog training, preferably from a dog training professional.
Don’t reward aggressive behavior: This is often a problem with small dogs, where dominant behavior is regarded as ‘cute’. Allow dominance and you will end up with an aggressive dog.
Exercise your dog: All dogs need to be exercised for at least an hour a day – longer for more active breeds. Under-exercised dogs often channel their energy into destructive and aggressive behavior.
Muzzling: Always muzzle an aggressive dog if he is likely to come into contact with people or other dogs.
Keep to regular walking and feeding times: These are likely to be your dog’s favorite things. By maintaining control over when he eats and when he walks, you establish dominance.
Groom your dog regularly: A 10 minute brush down daily works wonders for establishing bonds.
Avoid harsh punishments: Want to know the two things that will guarantee that you end up with an aggressive dog? Chaining and physical punishment. The best way to ‘punish’ a dog is to simply ignore him. Praise and reward good behavior, ignore bad behavior.
Dogs are smart and eager to please. They’ll quickly realize what it takes to get into your good graces.
Neutering: Male dogs are in general more aggressive than female dogs. Un-neutered males are most aggressive. Unless you intend breeding you should have your dog neutered.
Aggressive Dog Training: What to Do If Your Dog is Aggressive
Sometimes, despite your best efforts your dog still shows aggressive behavior. There could be a number of reasons for this, not least breed. Some breeds, by nature, are just more aggressive than others.
But if you followed all the steps listed above and your dog is still acting aggressively, it may be a good idea to call in a trainer who specializes in aggressive dog training.
Don’t take chances with your dog’s well-being or the safety of people he comes into contact with.
Most Aggressive Breeds
According to a recent poll, these are the dog breeds most likely to bite. Some of the names on the list might surprise you.
Chow Chow, Papillon, Lhaso Apso, Rottweiler, Chihuahua, Toy Poodle, Dachshund, Jack Russell, Giant Schnauzer, Cocker Spaniel, Miniature Pinscher.
Dogs that get a bad rap; Boxer, Doberman, Bulldog.
These breeds are often thought of as aggressive, probably because of the way they look. However, they are generally affectionate, placid dogs.
Even so, you should always apply caution when dealing with such powerful dogs.
Remember that prevention is better than cure. If in doubt consult a professional trainer about aggressive dog training.