Aggressive dog- what’s one of them?
Many of my clients contact me because they are worried that their dog is going to be classed as aggressive. The first thing I do is ask them what their dog is doing to make them worried that this could be the case? I ask them to describe aggressive – and normally, their dog is not being aggressive but is reacting to something beyond the control of their dog.
Aggression is a complex word – even for us humans, so it is difficult to be completely in agreement as to what it means. But usually, it is sufficient to say that it can be worrying or even frightening when our precious pup shows a behaviour that we haven’t seen before.
Whether they suddenly start guarding their food, bone (I never give my dogs bones but some owners do) or toy or something they have stolen, it is a scary thing to see your dog bare its teeth at you. This could be called aggression, but breaking it down a bit, it is just your dog guarding something of high value to them. If they were living wild, they would do this, and other dogs would keep away. Maybe this is just a part of your puppy growing up and testing the boundaries. How to help – well let me tell you a secret – don’t try and take it away but add extra to the pile of things they are guarding. In the end there will be so much, that it isn’t worth guarding. It is not as simple as that – but you get the idea. When I had 9 dogs. I had at least 10 of everything 😉
If you are talking aggression on a lead when they see another dog, then this can be for many reasons, but frustration is usually involved. Get yourself some professional help to find out what really is going on and the tools to manage the situation.
Is your dog creating havoc to any visitors? (And isn’t it nice to finally be able to welcome people to our homes.) One way to help is make sure that you dog doesn’t go to the front door to welcome them in but maybe joins everyone on a lead, once they are settled. There are lots of ways to stop this but again check with your trainer for the best way for your dog.
Which is why I like to do the first few sessions on a 121 basis, so we can get to know each other, and you get a chance to ask what to do in the specific circumstances.
If you have a dog that likes to rush over to another dog in the park and “start picking a fight”, then you shouldn’t have your dog off lead. If your dog is the one who is being picked on, then get help today because in the future, they may become the bully – and get in first!
If your dog is fearful of what is going on whether at home or out and about, then it is up to us to support them. Lots of ways to do this, but check its right for you and your dog, because if you do the wrong thing, then you will make it worse.
None of this behaviour is abnormal, it is just what we allow our dogs to become. If you see a pack of wild dogs left to their own devices, they sort things out and the biggest and strongest survive. However, our dog’s don’t live like that – they live with us in a domestic setting, so if your dogs are having a fracas- intervene and stop it before it gets too much. Do not let them sort it out. They will practice their skills on each other and then go out and repeat with other dogs. Teach your dog’s boundaries and manners and you will find that home life will be so much calmer. So will your dog’s walk, as he will respect what you tell him.
It really is that simple – no quick fix, just repetition and clear boundaries which help him to feel safe (or her). Your dog isn’t reactive or aggressive – just doesn’t know what he/she should or can do and it is up to us to teach them.
Now full-on aggression is another thing – if you can’t move for fear of upsetting your dog, you need help quickly. If your dog goes too far down this road, there really is only one outcome, I am afraid but don’t suffer in silence as we are here to support you all the way and there are ways of managing things before it comes to that.
Speak to a professional, check with your Vet that your dog isn’t in pain and work together to resolve the problem. Your dog is struggling, and it is up to you to get the advice and teaching to help. And here is the kicker – if one morning you find it all too much – then don’t take your dog out. One day will not make it worse or better, but I know how hard it can be for some owners of reactive dogs – it is very tiring and there is nothing wrong with playing with them in the garden instead for a while if your strength is below par. Take it easy and play with them and give yourself and them time out. The rest will make all the difference so if you need to, then do it!