If you do nothing else, you should be doing this: Discontinue doing, or avoid or whatever causes your dog. to come anxious or aggressive. This means controlling the dog’s environment in such a way that your dog is simply not exposed to the circumstances that cause the problem behavior.
There are three critical reasons for this
- Minimize the dog practicing the aggression
- Reduce stress
Stop your dog from becoming even better at being aggressive
The most important thing for all of us to keep mind is that the brain is plastic, meaning the brain adapts and literally changes according to what we brain areas we use or don’t use. The saying, use it or lose it, is critical. The more the dog is exposed to the things that trigger his aggression, the more efficient his brain will become in responding the way he or she typically does and the more entrenched those behaviors will continue to become. But the brain is also economical with its resources. The nerves inside the brain are highly competitive. What is not used will can be eventually be co-opted for other skills we practice instead. Unfortunately, given that the nerve are highly competitive, the skills and habits that has taken a foothold can be difficult to dislodge.
If the dog gets into the garbage, hide the garbage. If the dog is always reactive in the neighborhood, drive him to an empty parking lot. If the dog growls when he is pushed off the couch, work on his recall and stay skills to get him off and keep him off without getting into a conflict. If he is aggressive towards strangers, put him away in a room with a nice big bone and some music while guests come to visit.
For more on how to teach your dog to relax and other tips on how to treat aggression, sign up here to be notified when the K9aggression ebook will be available for purchase.
It goes without saying that safety is our primary concern. But in most cases, it is when the dog has caused harm or caused people to be fearful that people start thinking about euthanizing the dog for aggression. But at a minimum, it is our responsibility to keep our dogs from threatening or hurting other people or animals. At best, the dog’s welfare is usually very important to us along with the social world we live in (think family, friends and neighbours). And of course, our dogs will be a lot happier not to have to be stressed out. Remember, aggression is a coping skill. Dogs are usually battling anxiety and or confusion. In the article on keeping a dog from biting there is a list of signs of anxious behavior to keep your eye on.
Stress is inevitable in our lives, but chronic stress causes a number of changes in our bodies that not only impact our health long term, but actually changes the chemical balances in the brain making it more difficult to cope with additional stress. The older we are, the longer it takes to recover from stress and our body to return to a state of equilibrium. Our aggressive dogs are already finding coping with the world challenging. In order for our dogs to be able to continue with the next steps in an Attitude Intervention or behavior modification program, we need to minimize stress where possible.
Not only avoiding the circumstances that trigger the anxious or aggressive sequence, but also by providing a more stable and predictable environment. Learn some of the signs your dog is becoming anxious in this article about keeping a dog from biting.
Other Environmental considerations:
- Provide stability and predictability in his world.
- Exercise (but not at the expense of stressing him out further). Studies indicate that exercise can help chronic stress
- Change in diet is the vet feels its warranted (i.e. reduce protein, increase Omega fatty acids, etc.)
- Obedience training to reduce the dogs confusion about what the humans expect of the dog