The most serious behavior issue that pet owners must work with in dogs is aggression. It can usually be prevented if the owner has learned the growth periods of canines and what factors influence the development of their aggressive behavior. Health authorities state that over one million people are bitten every year by a dog and this number more than likely represents only half of the bites that actually occur; the rest are not reported. Even though most bites are minor, nearly one percent of all emergency room visits are because of bites and almost half of those bitten are children under 10 years old.
Baring teeth, growling, snapping, snarling and biting are aggressive behaviors commonly seen in dogs. These may be used as communication tools that dogs have available to them, but are usually unacceptable to humans. Hereditary and genetic factors play a huge role in their aggression. Protective breeds, like Rottweilers, Dobermans and Akitas, are expected to be more aggressive than Labrador and Golden Retrievers. The inbreeding of dogs can cause unstable temperaments and hormones can cause aggressiveness in intact males, females in heat and nursing females. A dog’s living conditions, excessive punishment, lack of socialization, being frightened or attacked, being spoiled, being isolated or being teased can also very likely cause aggression.
There are many types of aggression: pain, punishment, defensive, dominant, territorial, possessive, intra-sexual, parental or predatory and a dog may show more than just one type. It is very important to socialize a dog so that he or she can be taken out in public without causing any kind of problems. It is also essential to be able to get a dog’s attention while in the presence of all other distractions. This is the very first step in educating a dog as well as establishing yourself as a leader the dog is going to be able to trust. The ultimate goal is to have the dog look at his owner for guidance and not take any type of action on his or her own.
Ways to stop dog aggression
- Talk to the veterinarian. Dogs that show signs of aggression suddenly may have a medical problem. Many conditions and diseases can cause aggressive behavior and treatment or medication may improve the aggression.
- Determine what causes the aggression. Some dogs will growl when someone gets near them while eating and other dogs react aggressively when children or strangers approach. A plan for the dog cannot be started until the reason behind the aggression is known.
- Avoid situations that cause aggression. Once it is clear what causes the aggression, it can be avoided. It may now be better to feed the dog in a crate or away from everyone. If the dog growls and strangers, it may be better to keep him or her confined to the yard.
- Be positive, consistent and patient. Pushing a dog usually does not work. Hitting or yelling at a dog may cause a dog to bite. Punishment may also lead to a dog biting without warning.
- Create a plan. Every dog needs a plan that is suited best for his or her type of aggression based on the cause and the degree. Once a plan has been created, it is important to stay consistent.