If you have an dog that displays aggressive behavior, if you think your dog is potentially aggressive, or even if you are not sure, enlist good help. Having an aggressive dog is nothing to be ashamed of, (or rare) but it is not easy on many levels. You need support, and you need help finding a way to manage your dog’s problem.
Most aggressive behavior does not go away on its own. The longer your dog’s aggression continues; the more intense it gets, the more frequently in occurs: the worse the prognosis is for treatment. Even if you are not sure, get help now. Meanwhile avoid what sets your dog off.
Where do I find help?
First talk to your vet about ruling ouy any medical causes. Then ask your vet to recommend you to a veterinary behaviorist if possible. You may also be able to find one by contacting the nearest veterinary school for a recommendation. Tufts University in the US also has a remote Veterinary Behaviorist consultation that anyone in the world can use called PETFAX.
Applied behaviorists such as Certified Applied Behaviorist are very good choices as well. Often consulations with behaviorists will be one or two meetings, with some follow-up. Some behaviorists will recommend working with a trainer as well, which can be very beneficial.
If you want to learn more about treating dog aggression check out the ebook, The Dog Aggression System Every Dog Owner Needs.
But I found help. Its not working. My dog is still aggressive!
If you have found help and nothing seems to be working, there could be a few of issues holding you back.
- You might be progressing too fast in treatment before your dog can handle it.
- You are not avoiding the circumstances that is causing your dog to become aggressive. Unfortunately each time he or she practices aggression the neural pathways in his brain become more efficient and faster and behaving aggressively. These strong neural pathways compete against alternative behavior. Aggressive dogs that are still acting aggressive, will become better and faster at being aggressive!
- You might not be able to provide the right kind of environment for your dog’s treatment.
- You have found the wrong help. Not every trainer is equipped to treat aggression. Not every method will effective See 5 treatment methods to avoid in dog training.
- Your dog may need some form of pharmaceutical intervention.
- Your dog is beyond help because of a medical condition that cannot be treated.
If you are not providing the right environment but you are committed to helping your dog become less aggressive, speak to a consultant that can help you pin point the problems.
Or else, if you are not sure if the trainer you have found is the right person have a look at the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior – How to Choose a Trainer document.
If your dog needs a pharmacuetical intervention, ask for a referral from your vet for a veterinary behaviorist, or ask the vet consult one. Veterinarian’s cometimes prescribe medications without having a good background in behavior, and often it takes a skilled vet behaviorist to know the right questions to ask about your dog’s aggression to determine the best course of treatment
But don’t give up. You are the only one who can care for your dog.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, all you need to do right now is make sure others are safe from your dog, and your dog does not have the opportunity to behave aggressively under any circumstances. You will not feel overwhelmed forever.
Finding good help and seeing your dog’s behavior start to change will go a long way to feeling like you can be in control of the situation.
Here are some things you can do now:
- Read up on deference and relaxation protocols. These are often the stepping stones towards active behavior modification, and can be good for any dog (see resources).
- Help yourself maintain your commitment to treating your dog and avoid failure
- Familiarize yourself with the legal issues surrounding dog aggression and laws in your area regarding dog bites, attacks, etc.
- Use a “Dog On Premises” sign (don’t use “Beware of Dog” for liability reasons). Amazon carries some “dog crossing” signs which may be a fun way to alert people that there is a dog on the premises.
- Find liability insurance that will cover your dog (this is no longer as easy as it used to be). Consider catastrophic insurance policies.
- Familiarize yourself about dog aggression and treatment through reputable sources.
- Learn about how to keep others around you safe from your dog.
- Create a detailed history of your dog and keep a log of his or her aggression problem.
It may take some effort on your part, but it is possible to manage aggressive behavior in the majority of dogs. Finding a reputable trainer or consultant, and having support is essential.