Recipe for Disaster: 7 Ingredients for an Aggressive Dog
As a dog owner you don’t intentionally create an aggressive dog.
But your dog can become aggressive because of lots things you do or don’t do with or to your dog unintentionally. Let’s take a look.
Some of you may create aggression in your dog by:
1. Getting a dog to satisfy your own personal self-interests
2. Failing to provide common-sense leadership and structure
3. Copping out on much needed daily rigorous exercise and training
4. Failing to socialize your dog as a puppy and keep it well-socialized
5. Physically abusing or punishing your dog
6. Not providing enough regular instruction for your children on manners around the family dog with supervised direction and immediate feedback
7. Being unaware about possible health issues affecting your dog’s disposition or attitude.
Most of you do not know how your dog learns. You also do not understand the behavior that could possibly develop by making one or more of the above mistakes. Nor do you expect they can have devastating consequences. Often times you know what you should be doing but choose not to do anything about it.
Having said this, there are many other dog related factors that can increase a dog’s tendency for aggression.
Today I want to talk about owner issues because knowledge can give you, the owner the power to change and prevent dog aggression.
You are the one ingredient in the recipe that I can potentially influence in a positive way.
Learned behavior is what your dog learns by interacting with you and his environment.
Let’s break down the ingredients and see how the effects of learned behavior can lead to aggression in dogs.
Getting dogs to satisfy your own personal self-interest.
If you get a dog to “just to love on” without thinking about how the dog begins to instinctively interpret “your actions.” When you begin to endlessly dote on your dog, the dog starts controlling your relationship by nudging you for affection and you give it. Then what happens is he quickly assumes his idea of his rightful place in your lap.
You are now slowly becoming the provider of good things (constant love and affection.) Your dog may now not want to share this now valuable asset with other family members or sibling dogs. What you can get is growling, snapping or biting to protect this now valuable asset. You have now created an aggressive dog.
Failing to provide common-sense leadership and structure
If you don’t provide your dog with common-sense leadership and structure he can quickly become out of control. If you do not set personal space boundaries, put no expectations of what he is to do or when to do it, your dog begins to simply figure things out on his own. He then begins to take over and now runs the show.
Much of what he does – stealing things, playing keep-away, jumping on your family members and guests, counter surfing and the list goes on – begins to irritate the heck out of you. But, you often times chalks it up to puppy or adolescent behavior. You start thinking and saying: “he’ll grow out of it one day.”
Now you may put your out of control dog out in the back yard. This gives him opportunity to run the fence line or the driveway gate and bark at dogs and people passing by. Sound familiar?
Unbeknownst to you, your dog now has the opportunity all day to rehearse territorial aggression that is repeated inside at the front window and when greeting visitors at the front door.
If not prevented or corrected, you just might create aggression in her dog.
Copping out on much needed daily rigorous exercise and training
You know this old cliché, “A tired dog is a good dog.”
Many dog trainers, including myself, know and teach you about the benefits of daily rigorous exercise. One major benefit is its stress-reducing powers. Stress is a main cause of behavior problems in dogs. In fact, I recently wrote an article on exercise being a very simple remedy for many dog behavior problems.
Most of the troubled dogs I work with “long for a regular walking regimen” as a release. But you as an owner of a troubled dog never walk your dog or if you do, it is not consistent and it’s just for potty breaks. Once that job is done, it back to the house.
Troubled dogs need lots of exercise and obedience training; otherwise, you can add to the problems that are already at work creating aggression in your dog. Lack of exercise and obedience training are usually not the only factor that contributes to the problem.
You would be amazed to see the improvement in your troubled dog’s disposition with proper daily exercise of 2, 30 minute walks and obedience training 3 times each day for just 2 minutes. Fast, repetitive sits and downs can produce mental fatigue. It’s good for you and good for your dog.
Failing to socialize your dog as a puppy and keep it well-socialized
The window of socialization for puppies closes between 3 ½ to 5 months of age. If your puppy is not desensitized and socialized to his world as he will come to know it, he may have issues with “being okay” around kids or noisy things or workers around your house.
Being fearful of adults, kids, yardmen, service contractors because of a lack of socialization around them, can create aggression in a dog. It’s much more difficult to desensitize a dog once he’s accumulated daily fearful experiences around those things that cause him to become reactive.
Physically abusing or punishing their dog
You’re not going to believe this true story. It must have been 4-5 years ago when I got a call from a man that had been bitten by his Doberman Pincher. In fact it sent him to the hospital for about 30+ stitches to close all his wounds.
He was absolutely perplexed as to exactly what caused the dog to bite him. When I asked the man about the incident, he simply said, “When I got home and saw that he had peed all over my carpet, I got my baseball bat and hit him. That’s when he attacked me.”
I simply replied, “I really don’t blame him. You approached in “attack mode” and he merely protected himself. He felt threatened.” This man created an aggressive dog.
The entire incident could have been prevented with proper training on relationship structure and house soiling.
Not providing enough supervised guidance for your children with their dog
Most kids do well with dogs. But once in a while when emotions run high with you, the parents, both kids and dogs react.
Here’s an example. If you get angry at your child and frequently scold or punish your child in front of your dog, he may begin to get nervous when your child approaches. This could result in growling or snapping to your child away.
And, when you punish the dog in front of the kids, the kids could take on the role of the punisher and correct the dog causing the dog to defend himself from the child. Dog aggression is created.
Kids are notorious about screaming and running and we know most dogs usually have a high prey drive and will give chase. When a dog chases and catches up with your child, it grabs and bites with its mouth. You have created aggression in your dog.
Inter-child fighting may cause your family dog to become aggressive and mouthy and over excited. Kids also pull hair, ears, tail and poke fingers in your dog’s ear and/or eyes causing an aggressive reaction. Unruly kids create unruly dogs which can lead to aggression in your dog.
Being unaware of health issues affecting their dog’s disposition or attitude.
Dogs can simply get irritated and sometimes aggressive when dealing with bladder infections, the discomforts of hip dysplasia, when recovering from surgery, etc. Regular appointments with a veterinarian will keep your dog healthy and catch serious issues early to begin the right course of medical treatment.
The bottom line
Please, take the time to understand how your dog learns.
Prevention whenever possible is truly the best cure for whatever ails your dog. The old cliché, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” now seems to make good solid sense.
Once your dog has developed aggression issues, it usually takes much more than a pound of cure to fix it.
We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from. I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinions on this. I’m here to help.
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 9000 clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have, easy step-by-step process to helping your dog. Be the dog owner your dog needs to be a great dog. Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.
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