Aggressive Dog Behavior
Dealing with a Potentially Dangerous Problem
“Although dog-dog aggression is not pleasant to witness,
dog-human aggression is even more serious.”
Aggressive dog behavior can be one of the most serious dog behavior problems. There are basically two kinds of aggressive behavior: dog-dog aggression and dog-human aggression.
As you can guess, dog-human aggression is considered far more serious than dog-dog aggression. We’ll begin by discussing dog-dog aggression.
Dog-dog aggression occurs for many reasons. Some of the reasons can be seemingly very trivial, while others are more serious. But all of the reasons can lead to a serious fight in your home if you have more than one dog.
Dogs can guard food or toys; a dog can be jealous of their owner; dogs can fight over a female dog in season; dogs can fight to establish their status in the home or their rank; dogs can fight over territory ? a favorite place to sleep or a spot on the sofa.
Reasons for Dog-Dog Aggression
Most of these reasons for aggressive dog behavior are related to resources ? food or objects, sex or affection, territory, and so on. You, as the dog’s owner, are also a resource, and many dogs will fight over their owner, either directly or indirectly. If you pay more attention to one dog than another it can make a dog jealous, for example.
In some cases, the easiest way to deal with aggressive dog behavior is to remove whatever is causing the jealousy or aggression. If your dogs repeatedly have fights over a favorite toy, get rid of that toy. If you have a dog who guards his food or who tries to take away food from other dogs, make him eat by himself so he can’t hoard the food. Consider feeding all of your dogs separately to remove the problem. This can prevent a lot of fights since many dogs are tense at feeding time.
If you have a dog or dogs who have issues over a girl in season, you may want to consider spaying the female dog if you don’t intend to breed her. If you do intend to breed her, you will need to work on ways to contain her and remove the boys when she is in season. Many people who have intact dogs rely on friends to keep either the male or female dogs when they have a girl in season to reduce the possibility of a fight. You can also crate the boys or girls to limit their interaction.
Dogs will Fight to Establish their Rank in the Home
This often occurs when you bring a new puppy into the home, or if you have an elderly dog who is no longer able to be the “top dog.” There will be a certain amount of jostling for position. Some of this struggle is normal if you have a multi-dog household. Your dogs have to work out who among them is in charge.
Most dogs in a multi-dog household will have an occasional tussle or exchange growls from time to time. This doesn’t mean you have aggressive dogs. It means your dogs are having a disagreement or a heated exchange. However, if your dogs disagree to the point where someone is getting hurt, then you have a problem.
Aggressive Dog Behavior – Dealing with Dog Fights
If you have dogs which are having a genuine dog fight in your home it’s best if you have someone around to help you. Otherwise, you could get hurt. First and foremost, do not put yourself in danger! When dogs are fighting they often can’t see what they’re doing. They are worked up. They simply bite. So get help.
You can break up a dog fight by getting a couple of long leashes or ropes. You and another person can each loop an end of the leash around the flanks of one of the dogs, as best you can. Then each of you can pull from your side to separate the dogs.
Keep your distance because the dogs may still be trying to bite. Ideally you and your assistant should try to drag each dog into a separate room and close the door until the dogs have had a chance to calm down, which may take a while.
If you don”t have anyone around to help you, you can try throwing a bucket of cold water on the dogs, or turning the hose on them. This sometimes works to make the dogs stop fighting for a moment. Again, do not put yourself in danger.
If you have two dogs who continue to get into fights and show aggressive dog behavior you may need to think about re-homing one of them. In some cases these bad feelings simply escalate. The dogs would be happier if one of them had a new home. This occurs most often in male-male or female-female situations. You should always consider carefully before bringing a new puppy or dog into your home since it’s possible the new dog may not be welcomed by your present dogs.
Although dog-dog aggression is not pleasant to witness, dog-human aggression is even more serious. There is a huge difference between a dog that gets into a fight with another dog and a dog who will attack a human. Most dogs can have a disagreement with another dog at some time. However, a dog has to cross a major psychological barrier to attack a human. It isn’t in the nature of most dogs to attack a human. Everything a dog knows and learns throughout his life tells him that he’s never supposed to attack a human.
If you have a dog in your home who is showing aggressive dog behavior toward you or your family members, you need to take it very seriously. If the dog is growling at you, snapping at you, or if he won’t let you take food or toys away from him, you have a dog who is showing signs of aggression toward you.
You Should be able to Take Food and Toys from a Dog at Any Time
You should be able to move a dog from a chair or sofa at any time without growls or snapping. You should be able to put a dog in a bathtub without growls and snapping. If your dog is showing you this kind of threatening behavior he doesn’t respect you. Most likely he believes that he’s in charge in the house and it’s probably only a matter of time before he bites someone.
If your dog growls or snaps when you remove his food bowl, you can work on this problem by taking the bowl away completely. Feed your dog by hand for a few days, one bite of kibble at a time. This is slow, but it reminds your dog that the food comes from you and, if he wants to eat, he has to take the food nicely from your fingers.
When he finally gets his bowl back, you should make a practice of dropping a small piece of chicken or steak into the bowl while he eats. Most dogs don’t object to someone coming near their bowl when they are putting good things in it. The idea here is that you are reminding your dog that all good things come from you ? and he’s not in charge.
Final Thoughts on Aggressive Dog Behavior
You should practice this same approach with other things in your dog’s life. Teach him to sit at the door and wait before you let him go outside. Enroll your dog in basic dog obedience training classes. Obedience classes will help teach your dog to look to you for instructions. It will also encourage your dog to enjoy praise and rewards. Your dog’s attitude should change and the aggression should diminish.
If you are still having problems with your dog and aggressive dog behavior you should consult a dog behavior therapist. Dog-human aggression is a serious issue and you should not take any risks with it.