A dog is by instinct, an aggressive animal. In the wild, aggression was a necessity to survive. Dogs needed aggression to hunt for food, to defend themselves from other animals, and to guard resources such as food, a place to rest, and it's family.
Selective reproduction over the years has minimized and fine-tuned this trait significantly, but,without doubt, dogs are physically able to inflict serious harm because that is how they've existed and developed.
It is difficult to undermine the power of instinct but that doesn't mean dog lovers and owners are completely helpless when it comes to dealing with our dogs. There is a great deal that we can do to prevent aggression from ruining the relationship we have with our dog.
Even if prevention hasn't been possible, there are still measures that we can take to acknowledge it and handle it efficiently.
There are various different sorts of dog aggression.
The two most common ones are:
Aggression towards strangers and Aggression towards family members .
These two different sorts of dog aggression have their roots in very different causes, and need different types of treatment. Aggression towards strangers is pretty easy to spot. Your dog is edgy and on the alert: either he can't sit still and is perpetually fidgeting, jumping up at the smallest sound, and pacing around barking and whining, or he's very still indeed, sitting rock-steady in one place, staring hard at the object of his suspicions.
There's one main reason why a dog doesn't like strangers, it's because he's never had the opportunity to get used to them. Your dog depends on you to give him different experiences and socialize him.
He needs to be taken out regularly to experience the world around and understand for himself that the unknown, people, other animals and places, doesn't inevitably mean trouble for him.
Otherwise he can't be expected to relax in an unfamiliar situation. The procedure of accustoming your dog to the world, it's sounds and all the strange people and animals that live in it is called socialization. This is an incredibly crucial part of your dog's upbringing.
Socializing your dog entails exposing him from a young age to a wide assortment of new experiences, new people, and new animals.
You may be asking "How does socialization prevent stranger aggression"? The answer is when you socialize your dog, you're getting him to learn through experience that new sights and sounds are fun, not frightening. It's not enough to expose an adult dog to a crowd of unfamiliar people and expect him to be O.K. he has to understand that it's O.K. for himself and he needs to learn this from puppyhood for the lesson to get through.
The more types of people and animals he meets for example babies, toddlers, teenagers, old people, men, women, people wearing uniforms, people wearing motorcycle helmets, people carrying umbrellas, etc, in a fun and relaxed circumstance, the more relaxed and happy and safe around strangers he'll be generally.
How can you socialize your dog so that he doesn't acquire a fear of strangers?
Socializing your dog is quite easy to do, it's more of a case of having patience than a particular training regime. First off, you should take him to puppy training. This is a series of easy group-training classes for puppies and not a serious training program. It often takes place at the vet clinic, which has the extra benefit of teaching your puppy positive connections with the vet.
In a puppy class, about ten or so puppy owners gather with a certified trainer, sometimes there will be at least two trainers present, the additional trainers mean you get more one-on-one time with a professional. They will start teaching the puppies basic obedience commands like sit, stay etc.
This obedience training is very helpful and is a great way to start your puppy on the road to being a trustworthy adult dog, really the best part of puppy preschool, as far as the socialization is concerned, is the play sessions. Numerous times during the class, the puppies are encouraged to run around and play amongst themselves. These are ideal surroundings for them to acquire good social skills. There's a lot of unfamiliar dogs present and this helps to show them how to interact with strange dogs, the same goes for the unfamiliar people present and the environment is safe and controlled as there's always at least one certified trainer present to make certain that matters don't get out of hand.
Remember that socialization doesn't just end with puppy preschool. It's a campaign in progress throughout the life of your puppy and dog. He needs to be taken to a lot of new places and environments. Don't overwhelm him, especially at first, begin slowly, and develop his tolerance step by step.
There are two basic reasons why a dog is aggressive towards members of his owners family. He could be trying to defend something he thinks of as his from a perceived threat, for example his owner. This is known as resource guarding, and though it may sound innocuous, there is really a lot more happening here than your dog merely trying to keep his food to himself. He's not comfortable with the treatment he's getting from you or other members of the family.
Resource guarding is quite usual among dogs. The term pertains to overly-possessive behavior on behalf of your dog. For example, snarling at you if you come near him when he's eating, or staring at you if you reach out to take a toy away from him. All dogs can be possessive from time to time, it's normal.
Sometimes they're possessive over things with no possible value, like inedible garbage, old pieces of paper or tissue, old socks. More often, however, resource-guarding becomes an issue over items with a very real and understandable value like food and toys. Why does this happen? It all relates to the issue of dominance. You must understand that dogs are pack animals. This means that they're used to a very structured environment. In a dog-pack, each individual animal is ranked in a power structure of position in relation to every other animal.
Each dog is aware of the rank of every other animal, which implies he knows specifically how to behave in any given situation, whether to withdraw, whether to force the issue, whether to muscle in or not on somebody else's space. To your dog, the family surroundings are no different to the dog-pack environment. Your dog has decided that he knows the rank of each member of the family, and has his own perception of just where he ranks in that environment as well.
Now if your dog perceives himself as higher up on the social ranking table than other family members, he's going to get brash. If he's really got an overinflated sense of his own importance, then this is when he'll start to act aggressively. Why? Because dominance and aggression are the privileges of a superior-ranked animal. No underdog would ever express aggression or act dominantly to a higher-ranked animal the outcome would be horrendous, and he knows it.
Resource guarding is a classic example of dominant behavior. Only a higher-ranked dog would act aggressively in defence of resources. Putting it simply, if it was clear to your dog that he is not, in fact, the leader of the family, he'd never be trying to prevent you from taking his food or toys, because a lower-ranking dog will always accept what the higher-ranking dogs decide.
The best way to handle aggressive behavior is consistent, frequent obedience work, which will emphasize your authority over your dog. Just two fifteen-minute sessions a day will make it utterly clear to your dog that you're the boss, the alpha dog and he must do what you say. You can make him understand this by rewarding him with treats and praise for obeying a command, and isolating him for misbehaviour.
If you're not completely confident of doing this yourself, you may want to think about enlisting the help of a certified dog-trainer. Research your understanding of canine psychology and communication so that you can understand what he's trying to say, then you will be able to stop any dominant behaviors before they take hold, and to convey your own authority more effectively.
Some dogs don't like to be handled. All dogs have different handling thresholds. Some dogs like lots of physical attention, they like being hugged, kissed, and have arms slung over their shoulders - this is the ultimate "I'm the alpha male" gesture to a dog, which is why a lot of them won't tolerate it.
Others, usually the ones not used to a great deal of physical contact from a very young age, aren't comfortable with too much physical contact and will get edgy and agitated if someone insists on trying to hug them. Another basic cause of handling-induced aggression is a bad grooming experience. Nail-clipping and bathing are the two common perpetrators. When you clip a dog's nails, it's quite easy to accidentally cut the blood vessel that runs inside the nail. This is exceedingly painful to a dog, and is a sure way to cause a long-lasting distaste of those clippers.
Being bathed is something that a great many dogs have trouble dealing with. Many owners, when faced with a wild-eyed, half-washed, upset dog, feel that to complete the wash they must forcibly restrain him. This only adds to the dog's sense of terror, and reinforces his belief bathing time is something to be avoided at all costs and if necessary, to defend himself from it by snarling and snapping. If you're wondering if you can retrain your dog to enjoy being handled and groomed, the answer is yes but it's a lot easier if you begin from a young age.
You should handle your puppy a lot, get him used to being touched and rubbed all over. Most puppies usually enjoy being handled, it's only the older ones who haven't had much physical contact during their lives that sometimes find physical affection hard to bear.
Practice lifting each paw in turn and touching them with the clipper. Practice helping him into the bath, and add to the operation throughout with lots of praise and the occasional small treat. For an older dog that may already have had several unpleasant handling or grooming experiences, things can be a little more difficult. You will have to undo the damage already caused by those bad experiences, which is possible by taking matters very slowly with an emphasis on keeping your dog calm.
At the first signs of stress, stop at once and let him relax. Try to make the whole exercise into a game, give him lots of praise, pats, and treats. Take things very slowly. If you get nervous, stop. Dogs show hostility for a reason. They're warning you to back off, or else. If your dog just can't seem to accept being groomed, no matter how much work you put in, it's best to pass the job over to the professionals. Your vet will clip his nails for you but make sure you tell him that he becomes aggressive when the clippers come out, so your vet can take the necessary precautions.
The dog grooming industry is massive and for a relatively small fee, you can get your dog washed, clipped, brushed, and whatever else you need by experienced professionals.
For more information on handling dog aggression, as well as a great deal of detailed information on a host of other common dog behavior problems, check out SitStayFetch. It's a complete owner's guide to owning, rearing, and training your dog, and it deals with all aspects of dog ownership. To get the inside word on preventing and dealing with problem behaviors like aggression and dominance in your dog, SitStayFetch is well worth a look. You can visit the SitStayFetch site by clicking on the link below: