Interdog Aggression in Dogs
So you want to know “How to Stop Aggression in Dogs” do you? Inter-dog aggression occurs when a dog is overly aggressive towards dogs in the same household or unfamiliar dogs. This behavior is often considered normal, but some dogs can become excessively aggressive due to learning and genetic factors.
Inter-dog aggression occurs much more frequently in non-neutered male dogs. Common signs usually start appearing when the dog reaches puberty (between six and nine months old) or becomes socially mature at 18 to 36 months. Generally, inter-dog aggression is more of a problem between dogs of the same gender.
Symptoms and Types of Aggression in Dogs
The most common symptoms of inter-dog aggression include growling, biting, lip lifting, snapping, and lunging toward another dog. These behaviors may be accompanied by fearful or submissive body postures and expressions such as crouching, tucking the tail under, licking the lips, and backing away. Typically, before a severe inter-dog aggression incident in the same household occurs, more discreet signs of social control will become noticeable. One tactic a dog may use is staring and blocking the other dog’s entrance into a room. A specific condition sometimes triggers the aggression, even though the dogs normally get along well.
Causes of Aggression in Dogs
The causes of this condition vary. A dog may have become overly aggressive because of its past experiences, including abuse and neglect. For example, it may not have socialized with other dogs as a puppy, or it may have had a traumatic encounter with another dog. Dogs rescued from dogfighting operations also tend to exhibit inter-dog aggression more frequently.
An owner’s behavior may also influence a manifestation of the condition (e.g., if an owner shows compassion for a weaker dog by punishing the more dominant dog). Other reasons for aggression are fear, wanting to protect territory and social status, or a painful medical condition.
Diagnosing Aggression in Dogs
There is no official procedure to diagnose inter-dog aggression. Some symptoms are very similar to canine “play” behavior and excited, non-aggressive arousal. Biochemistry, urine analysis, and other laboratory tests usually yield unremarkable results. But if any abnormalities are identified, they may help the veterinarian find an underlying cause for the aggression.
If a neurological condition is suspected, an MRI scan may be necessary to determine whether it is a central nervous system (CNS) disease or to rule out other underlying neurological conditions.
How to Handle Dog Aggression
There is no real cure for inter-dog aggression. Instead, treatment is heavily focused on controlling the problem. Owners must learn how to avoid situations that encourage aggressive behavior in the dog and to break up fights quickly and safely when they occur. In situations where aggressive behavior is more likely to occur (e.g., walks in the park), the dog must be kept away from potential victims and be under constant control. The owner may also want to train the dog to feel comfortable wearing a protective head halter and basket muzzle.
Training for Aggressive Dogs
Behavioral modification also plays a crucial role in the treatment. For example, dogs should be trained to sit and relax on verbal cues, with small food treats as rewards. The owner may also want to condition the dog not to fear other dogs, by gradually exposing it to other dogs in public. Unfortunately, the only way to assuredly prevent your dog from injuring others — especially if your dog has already been involved in an incident or incidents — is to put the dog down (euthanize), cruel as it seems.
There is no licensed medication used to treat inter-dog aggression. If it is largely caused by fear or anxiety, as opposed to a desire to establish dominance, then low dosages of certain Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, Tricyclic Antidepressants, or Benzodiazepines may be prescribed.
Successful treatment of inter-dog aggression is usually measured by the decrease in severity or frequency of incidents. In addition, the treatment recommendations need to be implemented over the entire life of the dog. Even if aggressive incidents are completely eliminated for a period of time, relapses may occur if the owner does not strictly adhere to the recommendations at all times.
The Steps of Aggressive Behavior
If you pay attention, you will know that your dog is aggressive long before their behavior becomes serious. Here are some tips for looking for aggressive behaviors in your dog and how to end them.
Dogs tend to use body language to intimidate; therefore your dog may try to situate himself so that he is taller than other animals. His hackles may rise, the dog may lock his gaze and display more control over the mouth muscles. Other forms are a tightly closed mouth, or lips stretched over the teeth. Your dog will be tense and will show signs of physical dominance.
Dogs are pack animals. In a pack, there is always a leader or “alpha dog.” If no leader is established then the dog will establish itself as the alpha and will be guided by instincts and how much control he has over people, other dogs, and situations. Even though dogs are pack animals, some dogs are naturally born shy and their aggression is the result of their fear. These dogs can be particularly vicious because they are often small dogs that the owner leaves unchecked, assuming the dog to be harmless because of its size.
In your home, you need to be the one to establish yourself as the alpha dog. You establish physical boundaries as well as behavioral boundaries. To do this, you must first teach the dog that you are the one in control.
Aggression is Not a Form of Punishment
Many dog owners punish aggressive dogs with aggressive behavior themselves. Rather than the dog learning to behave from this form of punishment, they learn that aggression is an acceptable response. Remember that some aggression is born of fear. When you beat your dog, you might establish some fear and that may cause the dog to stop doing whatever it was punished for, but you also build a foundation for aggression to be acceptable. Sooner or later that fear you created may come out in aggressive behavior that is beyond your control. Instead, use specific methods to teach your dog what is acceptable and what is not.
Rather than using punishment to establish control, you can limit the dog’s abilities and following the pack order. Keep in mind that the alpha dog gets the best of everything, and the first choice to decide what the best of everything is. The alpha dog is followed, not led. When you rely on punishment only, you are responding (following), rather than leading.
In order to establish yourself as the alpha dog in your home, you may have to use a leash inside your home. This is so that you can control where the dog is able to go. For instance, if you do not want your dog on the furniture, simply step on the leash when he goes to get on the couch. Prong collars and harnesses work well for this type of training because they do not choke the dog when he is being guided, but they do limit what he can do.
If your dog is the alpha dog, he sleeps in the best possible place. In most homes, this means he would sleep on the bed. This is fine once the dog understands he is not the alpha dog and that the alpha dog is allowing him to sleep in the bed, but you have to establish the pack relationship first. Your dog has to start at the back of the pack and work his way up. This might mean your dog has to sleep in a crate until he understands the chain of command.
The alpha dog has the first choice when it comes to meal times. Since you are starting your dog at the back of the pack, he will be the last one fed. You may even find that you should crate him during meal times. He can progress to eating at the same time as you once boundaries have been established.
Playtime is one of the best times to focus on training your dog. Toys should be kept up so that when your dog gets a toy, you are the one to give it to him. When playtime is over, the toy is put up. If your dog takes off with a toy and you chase him, you are letting him know that he is the one in charge, not you. Instead of chasing the dog, wait for him to bring the toy back, then put it away and never give it to him again. (Please note, this does not mean not to give him a toy at all. It just means to get rid of that particular toy.)
Collars and Muzzles
Collars and muzzles can be very helpful when it comes to training your dog. They may seem like harsh forms of punishment at first, but they work better than regular collars because of the way they are made.
Prong collars are among the best tools a trainer can use. A normal collar will choke your dog if you pull on it. A prong collar will cause superficial discomfort similar to what a pup feels when his mother nips him in the back of the neck, indicating that his behavior is not acceptable. We recommend the Starmark Training Collar as it is a little softer than the traditional metal prong collar and it has great reviews from professional dog trainers.
A muzzle is a great tool to use if you have a dog that snaps or tries to verbally intimidate other animals. This is usually what happens with shy dogs who are nervous in a situation. You must ease your dog into new social situations a little bit at a time. The muzzle can be used in social situations, but to train the dog correctly, put the muzzle on the dog for about an hour before a pleasurable activity such as eating or play time. Then the dog will come to associate the muzzle with pleasant activities and will apply this feeling too social situations.
Aggressive Dog General Training Concepts
When you are training your dog, be sure to reward him or her for good behavior. You can do this with a toy, a treat, or lavish praise. The dog knows he has pleased the alpha dog. They under that they may be moved from the back of the pack soon.
Have patience and introduce your dog to new ideas and settings a little at a time. If your dog is nervous around people, only expose him or her to people for a short period. That’s just the beginning, petting him and reassuring him all the while. Your dog feels safer with an alpha dog indicating that all is well.
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