Nothing causes dog owners more confusion, frustration, fear, or heartbreak than dog aggression. Being faced with a choice between rehoming or even euthanizing a beloved pet and living with a dangerous dog is a terrible thing to face. Fortunately, most aggression results from fear or confusion in otherwise wonderful dogs and can be corrected with the assistance of a qualified professional.
Myths and confusion about aggressive behavior abound, and standard obedience training methods often make aggression worse. That makes it extremely important to work with a certified behavior professional who has the experience and education necessary to understand and address your dog’s specific problem. Our aggression expert, Jeff Silverman, has successfully rehabilitated hundreds aggressive dogs over the last 17 years. He has written about aggressive dogs for national professional magazines, lectured on the topic for local veterinary associations, and trained veterinary and animal shelter staff on safety with aggressive dogs. Contact us today to schedule a consult.
- Early intervention is key: Dogs don’t “outgrow” aggression problems. Practice makes perfect. If your dog has behaved aggressively, have him evaluated both by your veterinarian and by a behavior professional. The sooner you start, the easier the problem will be to fix.
- Don’t try this at home: Some of our most difficult cases involve highly experienced dog owners and even trainers whose attempts to solve an aggression problem with inappropriate traditional obedience training techniques backfired.
- Safety First: Until you see a professional, do whatever it takes to keep people safe and prevent your dog from practicing aggressive behavior. Keep your dog securely confined or leashed and avoid cicrumstances that trigger aggression.
- Consult Your Veterinarian: Medical factors often play a role in aggression. If your vet didn’t refer you to us, please consult them.
Every aggression case in unique, and should be thoroughly evaluated by a professional, but there are a few distinct types:
Some dogs guard food, bones, toys, sleeping spots, or a favorite person. Resource guarders can also be touchy about being lifted, restrained, or groomed. When aimed at humans, resource guarding is the easiest type of aggression to address. Our success rate in homes with no children under 8 is pretty close to 100%. Homes with young children are trickier.
Many dogs are afraid of strangers in general. Others only fear certain people. Common fear aggression triggers include gender, age, body language, and race. Some dogs display fear aggression towards family members, but this is less common. The amount of training required to overcome fear aggression varies greatly from one dog to another.
Many otherwise friendly dogs become aggressive on leash, behind a fence, or in their crates. This type of aggression can usually be addressed quite easily with early intervention. Allowed to continue, however, the aggression can generalize to multiple situations and become a serious project to address.
Aggression aimed at other dogs can fall into any of the above categories, but requires a different approach than human-directed aggression. Humans working with aggressive dogs can follow very specific instructions about how to act, which makes training easier. Other dogs don’t tend to be so cooperative. For that reason, we prefer to work with dog aggressive dogs in a special group class just after your initial consult.
Most aggression that we see falls into one of the above categories, but there are also a wide variety of medical conditions that can lead to aggressive behavior. For that reason, we strongly recommend consulting both your veterinarian and a behavior professional if your dog is behaving aggressively.