Stop Dog Aggression with Perth’s #1 Trainers
If your usually even-tempered pup at home suddenly starts displaying aggressive behaviours, such as growling at other dogs or when someone approaches their chew toy, it’s important to understand the context and underlying reasons. Aggression is a symptom that something is going on for your dog, which could be fear or anxiety, and something they’re trying to communicate (if you could understand!). There’s also situations where it is normal and expected for a dog to show aggression – such as when someone is trying to break into your house. So, let’s look at these in more detail so we can understand normal vs abnormal aggression, and when dog aggression training in required.
What does aggression look like?
Dogs will use a variety or visual and audio cues to demonstrate aggression towards a threat, challenge or perceived attack: growling, changes in posture, raised hackles (hair standing up on a dog’s back), barking, biting and lunging. This is an instinctual behaviour that is deeply rooted in your dog’s need for safety.
What causes dog aggression?
Aggression in dogs can be triggered by a variety of underlying causes, including:
- Territorial – most people are aware that dogs are territorial creatures, and will protect the place they reside in from strange people and dogs.
- Fear – lesser known is that dogs may bark, growl, and snarl while backing up in a fearful response. This is the pose when dogs put their tail between their legs and flatten their ears back. They want to run away but may feel that they can’t escape.
- Pain – the dog is trying to stop or get away from the source of the pain, so they may bite to make it stop.
- Predatory – if you see a dog quietly stalking small animals or birds (common signs include tense body, often close to the ground, drooling, and eyes fixated on its ‘target’) this is a predatory behaviour.
- Sibling rivalry – just like people, dogs don’t always get along with others in the same household!
- Frustration – if there is an unmet need or desire for your dog, at some point there will be a tipping point which will cause them to burst out. Eg: a kid teasing your dog by keeping their favourite toy out of reach.
- Sexually-related – this kind of aggression usually happens between sexually intact male dogs, trying to establish dominance.
Once you’ve recognised the cause of your dog’s aggression, you will have a better idea of the situations and triggers which might result in unwanted behaviour.
Simple tricks to try at home if you have an aggressive dog
Once you can understand the context and triggers for your dog’s aggression, you can start focusing on modifying the behaviour and concentrate on the behaviours that you’d like your dog to exhibit instead. Using a ‘positive reinforcement’ technique allows you to reward ‘good’ behaviour, avoid reinforcing the ‘negative’ behaviour, and build a strong bond with your dog.
Generally training your dog out of aggressive behaviours does not involve punishing or becoming aggressive towards your dog as this will likely result in more of the unwanted aggressive behaviour. For example, if your dog’s aggression is rooted in fear, it may feel anxious when on a leash and approaching an unfamiliar dog. In response, it may show aggression as the other dog gets closer, with the leash stopping your dog from running away from the object it fears. If you scold or punish your dog, you are associating unfamiliar dogs with fear and punishment, reinforcing your dog’s feelings of anxiety – resulting in the triggered aggression and making the situation worse. In ‘the moment’ your dog will be in a flight or fight response, and will be unable to listen to your instructions.
If instead, you can reward or distract your dog with treats for remaining calm you can slowly overcome this kind of anxiety-related aggression. This stressful moment requires compassion and guidance, so if your dog is unable to stop their reaction you can also try quickly walking away or allowing your dog more room on the leash to move away themselves. You want to be able to set your dog up for success while working on different ways to change the way it feels about the trigger, and so the training can only happen while your dog is in a calmer state.
Professional dog training in Perth
If your efforts aren’t resulting in the desired behavioural changes, it is critical that you involve a professional trainer to ensure your dog gets the emotional support and guidance it needs.
A sensitive situation like this needs to be looked at carefully. Speak with the Perth dog training team at West Coast Pet Care Centre about your dog’s aggression issues to see how our training can help. Contact us today!