How to Socialize an Aggressive Dog

When you have a dog that just cannot handle other people or
other dogs, then you might be wondering how to socialize
an aggressive dog
. See, socializing an aggressive dog is kind
of a tricky statement because I don’t think it means what you
think it means.

When people speak of socializing an aggressive dog, they often
mean turning it loose with other dogs, or that is their goal. Many
people tell me that they take their dog aggressive dog to the dog
park so that he can learn to get along with all dogs.

I’d just like to say, “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.” I want my
aggressive dog, or my client’s aggressive dog, to simply learn to
coexist with his trigger in the environment without any aggressive
display. My current Malinois doesn’t like people, and he
doesn’t really like other dogs, but you can’t tell that by
looking at him.

I have taught him “coping mechanisms” around things he
doesn’t like. He doesn’t need to go into an aggressive display.
I recognize when he is uncomfortable, and I relieve his stress by
giving him something to do and think about. He also trusts me not
to stress him out.

For instance, I wouldn’t toss him in a dog park and expect him
to socialize, and I don’t force him to allow people to pet him.
If I did those things, I would have a dog who couldn’t trust me.
Then his only coping mechanism would be aggression and using his
teeth. After all, he can’t talk and tell me, or others, how he is
feeling.

I must get familiar with his
body language
and levels of stress, and work together to
decrease them, not make them worse. So, stop forcing your dog to do
things he doesn’t want to do when it comes to socialization.

If he is growling, snarling, hackling, lunging, and trying to
get away, trust what he is trying to tell you: HE IS
UNCOMFORTABLE.

Dealing with an Aggressive Dog

When your dog regularly growls, snaps, or bites, you have a
serious behavior problem on your hands. Aggression is one of the
top reasons dog owners seek the help of a professional dog trainer
or animal behaviorist. And it’s not just larger dogs and
so-called “dangerous breeds” that are prone to aggression; any
breed is capable of becoming aggressive under the right
circumstances.

Although aggression can’t be cured overnight, there are steps
you can take to curb the aggressive behavior and help your dog
remain calm.

Why is Your Dog Aggressive?

Aggressive
behavior in a dog
refers to any behavior connected with an
attack or an impending attack. This includes becoming still and
rigid, growling, snarling, baring teeth, lunging, and nipping or
biting.

Your first step toward stopping this behavior is to figure out
what is causing your dog’s aggression. Some dogs growl as someone
approaches them while they’re eating or chewing a bone, for
instance. Others react aggressively toward children or
strangers.

The aggression doesn’t have to be directed toward a person
either. Some dogs become aggressive around other animals, only
specific animals (cats but not other dogs), or toward inanimate
objects, such as wheels on vehicles or yard equipment.

The key thing to keep in mind is that you can’t come up with a
plan to modify your dog’s behavior until you know the reason
behind it. 

Types of Aggression in Dogs  Territorial Aggression

Territorial or protective aggression may be exhibited toward
people or other animals that approach the pet’s property.
Generally, people and other animals that are unusual, less familiar
to the dog, or most unlike the members of the household are the
most likely “targets” of
territorial aggression
.

In other words, something different about the sight, sound or
actions of the stimulus is causing an alerting, anxious or
defensive response on the part of the dog.

While most forms of territorial aggression are likely to occur
on the property, some dogs may protect areas where they are
temporarily housed, and may protect family members regardless of
the location. Territorial aggressive displays may range from
growling and barking to lunging, chasing, snapping and biting.

Territorial displays may occur at windows, doors, behind fences
and in the car. Some dogs may quickly claim territory and show
similar behaviors at picnic areas, park benches, etc. Dogs that are
physically prevented by a barricade or leash from gaining access to
the stimulus (i.e., are frustrated) may have their aggression
heightened, or may develop displacement behaviors (e.g., spinning,
circling, self mutilation) or redirected behaviors (e.g., turning
their aggression on the owner who attempts to reach for or grab the
dog).

Many dogs continue their aggression once the person has entered
the territory or home, which could result in biting and severe
injury. In some cases, due to the high arousal level of the dog, an
element of frustration may also be present and can lead to
redirected behavior toward objects or other animals or people.

Defensive Aggression

Defensive aggression, or
reactive aggression
, may be growling, snapping or biting when a
dog is confronted with what he views as a threat and he is unable
to avoid or escape the perceived danger. It is based in a fear
which may or may not be reasonable. 

A machete-wielding masked man rapidly approaching may be a
reasonable fear; a child riding past on a bike is not. It is the
dog’s perception of the threat that is important.

The defensively aggressive dog may exhibit a mixture of fearful
and offensive postures. He will often go through several behaviors
to tell another dog or person he wants to avoid a conflict.

This breaks my heart. Defensive dogs are begging to be left
alone because they’re terrified. Before preventing or managing
defensive dog aggression, learn how to identify and understand the
cause of defensive dog aggression.

Defensive means to defend oneself. Aggression means “hostile
or violent behavior toward something.” When combined, defensive
aggression means defending oneself by using aggression. 

Every living being has an automatic defensive response when
encountering a perceived threat; we flee, fight or freeze. This
reaction is hardwired into our brains. It’s a defense mechanism.
We flee if this is an option. If not, we freeze or fight.

Defensive aggression encompasses all three reactions: fight,
flee and freeze. If your dog displays any one of these three
reactions, he’s scared. Remove him from the situation
immediately. 

When polling pet parents during my group classes, most label
“fight” as defensive aggression, as this is the most
problematic of the three. Usually, pet parents ignore “flee”
and “freeze” because they’re unaware these components are,
indeed, a part of defensive aggression.

During safe puppy play, puppies practice these behaviors if
they’re unsure they will “flee” or “freeze.” Other
puppies learn what these behaviors mean and ignore the scared
puppy. If the other playing puppies ignore “flee” or
“freeze” behavior, the scared puppy is most likely to
“fight.” 

While pet parents think, “Good. This puppy is teaching my
bully puppy a lesson,” the scared puppy is actually learning
offensive aggression, meaning if I attack when scared, it works.
Yikes! This is the perfect recipe for dog aggression behavior.
That’s why puppies should only play during safe play sessions
organized by either proactive and responsible dog owners or
professional dog trainers.

Social Aggression

Social aggression stems from the behavior of dogs’ wild
relatives. Wolf packs have a social hierarchy in which their family
packs all have a designated position. The alphas of the pack are
highest, followed by lower-ranking adults and then juveniles. 

Contrary to popular belief, these social statuses are not often
defined by fighting or aggression, although both sometimes occur
when a challenge for dominance arises. Domestic dogs still have the
instinct to form this hierarchy, and dominance is a status many
dogs want to achieve. 

The dog with the higher status will oftentimes eat first, play
first, receive attention first and be the decider on many
activities. Not all domestic dogs show the need to be the dominant
member. According to the ASPCA, male dogs show this behavior more
than females, while purebreds are more prone to social aggression
than mixed breeds.

Fights don’t always begin  during displays of dominance. Some
common behaviors in dogs asserting dominant behavior include
putting their head or a front paw on the back of the lower-status
dog, stiffening or low growls. In social aggression, the body
posture is typically a stiff, upright position leaning forward with
the tail out, not tucked.

Social aggression most often is the synonym for dominance
aggression, although other types of aggression fall into the social
realm. Territorial, possessive, defensive and fear aggressions can
all be a part of the dog’s life with other dogs — and humans.
Territorial aggression ensues when a dog or a stranger comes into
the dog’s territory. 

Possessive aggression is protecting valuables such as food
dishes or toys. Defensive aggression is feeling the need to defend
himself against a bigger dog or human, while fear aggression is
somewhat similar to defensive and comes on when the dog encounters
a bigger dog whom it is afraid of.

Trust is Critical

I can’t tell you how often people will say “he lunges and
barks at people or dogs on leash but once he meets them…”

 I’m thinking, “EGADS!!” Why is he meeting them if those
are the behaviors you are describing? This is how people and other
dogs get bitten. Just because he hasn’t attacked a person or
another dog yet, doesn’t mean that he won’t!

I only allow a dog who is happily wagging his tail at about mid
body (not too high, because that is a dominant wag, and not too
low, because that is a frightened wag) to openly socialize with
another dog or person. Find out more about tail wags
here!

He needs to trust you not to expose him or force him into bad
situations. Without trust, you won’t have successful training,
because he feels like he has to defend himself and take care of
himself.

I mean, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish a task if you were
in a situation and you were afraid something bad would happen to
you, and you didn’t trust the person you were with to take care
of you. 

In other words, I am going to drive you to the bad part of town
and give you a math test to take. My brother is a police officer so
I wouldn’t have any trouble doing this task if he was with me. I
wouldn’t, however, be able to do this if I was with the coworker
that doesn’t like me.

It is crucial that your dog trusts you. If you want him to
ignore the “danger” he perceives, and perform obedience tasks,
he has to trust that you can take care of him and you! 

The Reward

And, the reward for successfully functioning around his trigger
must be greater than the distraction itself!

I will also want a hungry dog! If I am going to work on
something as important as changing aggressive feelings, I am going
to want to ensure that my dog is hungry. A hungry dog is a
motivated dog! Then the rewards that I use are more meaningful.

If I took you to the buffet and let you eat till you were full,
offering you a candy bar to pick up a snake or to let a spider
crawl on you probably wouldn’t be effective. If you were hungry
and had missed a meal or two, you would probably be more
motivated!

Now it is your job to teach your dog how to function around his
trigger. He doesn’t have to be “petted” by people if he
doesn’t like people. He merely has to be able to be around them
without an aggressive display. He doesn’t have to “play” at
the dog park or with other dogs. He merely has to be able to walk
past other dogs without losing his cool.

Once you know what your dog needs, being able to trust you and
being motivated to listen to you, you will be able to work on his
aggression and socialization! 

Managing Defensive Aggression

Listen to your dog. Be his voice.

If your dog is stressed when another dog approaches, turn around
and walk the other way.

When a strange person tries to pet your dog and she moves away,
support her decision. Never force your dog to meet or accept
petting.

During play, never allow your dog or puppy to be bullied. When
in doubt, end the play session.

Use yummy treats at the vet’s office. Practice body handling
and restraint at home. Several times a week, pop in for fun vet
visits, such as standing on the scale, reception folks giving out
treats and so forth. Trust me, your vet wants dogs to have positive
experiences. It’s no fun restraining frightened dogs. 

Stopping Social Aggression

Make a note of when your dog becomes aggressive and the
circumstances surrounding the behavior. This will play an important
part in determining your next step. It is essential to deal with
the underlying cause of the aggression. 

The behavior is just a symptom of an underlying problem. 

There are a number of ways you can manage the hostility and help
your dog remain calm. It will take time, consistency, and possibly
the help of a professional.

Visit Your Veterinarian

Dogs that aren’t normally aggressive but suddenly develop
aggressive behaviors might have an underlying medical problem.
Health problems that may cause aggression include hypothyroidism,
painful injuries, and neurological problems such as encephalitis,
epilepsy, and brain tumors.

Talk to your veterinarian to determine whether this is the case
with your dog. Treatment or medication may make big improvements in
your dog’s behavior. 

Call in a Behaviorist

If your vet has ruled out a medical problem, it’s time to call
in a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist. Because
aggression is such a serious problem, you shouldn’t attempt to
fix it on your own. A professional can help you figure out what’s
causing your dog’s aggression and create a plan to manage it.

To find a professional veterinary behaviorist, contact your
veterinarian for a referral. 

Set Up a Plan

A behaviorist or trainer can help you figure out the best
approach for managing your dog’s aggression. In most cases,
you’ll use positive reinforcement to teach your dog new
behaviors.

For example, if your dog is aggressive toward strangers, start
off by standing far away from someone your dog doesn’t know. You
should be far enough away so that your dog doesn’t start to growl
or snap. Then, reward with lots of treats and praise as you
gradually decrease the distance between your dog and the stranger,
continuing to use positive reinforcement.

Ideally, your dog will begin to learn that strangers equal
treats and you’ll see a reduction in its aggression. This same
procedure can work for getting your dog used to a variety of other
situations. 

Train Your Dog

the first step in specifically dealing with the dog’s
aggression might merely be rewarding the dog for any behavior that
does not involve fighting or aggression. His behavior is then
modified through a planned program of:

–          shaping (reinforcing each small action the dog
makes toward the desired goal);

–          desensitization (presenting other dogs at a
sufficient distance, so that an aggressive reaction is not
elicited, then gradually decreasing the distance);

–          counter-conditioning (pairing the presence of
other dogs with pleasant things);

–          training the dog to offer behaviors
incompatible with aggression on cue.

All four of these steps are extremely important to the
socialization process. If you skip any of these four, you
will find that it will be impossible to socialize your dog. 

Avoid Negative Reinforcement

Punishing your dog for aggressive behavior usually backfires and
can
escalate the aggression
. If you respond to a growling dog by
hitting, yelling or using some other aversive method, the dog may
feel the need to defend itself by biting you.

Punishment may also lead to your dog biting someone else without
warning. For example, a dog that growls at children is letting you
know that he is uncomfortable around them. If you punish a dog for
growling, he may not warn you the next time he gets uncomfortable,
but may simply
bite
.

Think about the situations that lead to aggressive behavior.
Think about how your dog is likely scared and uncomfortable –
possibly even untrusting – in these types of situations. Do you
really think hitting your dog or punishing it is the best
way to get it to overcome its trepidation? NO, of course not.

In these situations, punishment may only make your dog more
confused, more wary, and more scared. It’ll likely grow
frustrated, leading to worse outbursts and lashing out in
aggression. Your pup might lose trust in you. At the very least,
it’s likely to associate the punishment with the new dog or
stranger, leading it to become even more aggressive towards them in
the future. 

Medication

In some instances, training alone is not enough. Dogs that are
aggressive because of fear may need medication to help manage the
problem. It’s important to understand that a dog experiencing
fear, stress, or anxiety is incapable of learning new things. 

Think of medication as a tool to help your dog overcome this
fear. Many dogs will only need medication temporarily. Talk to your
veterinarian about your options.

Unavoidable Situations

Finally, you need to consider whether your lifestyle allows you
to stick with a plan. For instance, if you have a dog that acts
aggressive towards children and you have kids, it’s nearly
impossible to avoid the situation that brings out the aggression.
In this case, the best option for you and your dog may be finding
it a new home with adults only. 

Respect Your Dog

Dogs are some of the best animals in the world, and they’re
unconditionally loving. However, even though they are some of the
most affectionate pets, they can still exhibit aggressive
behaviors. You need to respect your dog and avoid abuse as well as
forcing your dog into bad or uncomfortable situations.

Train and teach your dog so that it will be able to handle other
dogs or strangers entering your house or passing by on the
sidewalk. You don’t need to force it to let someone that it
doesn’t like pet it, or force it to play with a dog that it
really doesn’t like.

With time, training, and socialization, you can help your dog to
be able to overcome its
aggression
, but remember to respect your dog. It’ll make the
process much easier.

===================== teaching an aggressive dog to socialize, socializing dogs, dog aggression, dog training, puppy training “Teaching an Aggressive
Dog to Socialize.”

That is kind of a tricky statement because I don’t think it
means what you think it means.

When people speak of socializing an aggressive
dog
, they often mean turning it loose with other dogs, or that
is their goal.

Many people tell me that they take their dog aggressive dog to
the dog park so that he can learn to get along with all dogs.

I’d just like to say, “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.”

I want my aggressive dog, or my client’s aggressive dog, to
simply learn to coexist with his trigger in the environment without
any aggressive display.

My current Malinois doesn’t like people, and he doesn’t
really like other dogs, but you can’t that tell by looking at
him.

I have taught him “coping mechanisms” around things he
doesn’t like.

He doesn’t need to go into an aggressive display.

I recognize when he is uncomfortable, and I relieve his stress
by giving him something to do and think about.

He also trusts me not to stress him out.

For instance, I wouldn’t toss him in a dog park and expect him
to socialize, and I don’t force him to allow people to pet
him.

If I did those things, I would have a dog who couldn’t trust
me.

Then his only coping mechanism would be aggression and using his
teeth.

After all, he can’t talk and tell me, or others, how he is
feeling.

I must get familiar with his body
language
and levels
of stress
, and work together to decrease them, not make them
worse.

So, stop forcing your dog to do things he doesn’t want to do
when it comes to socialization.

If he is growling, snarling, hackling, lunging, and trying to
get away, trust what he is trying to tell you; HE IS
UNCOMFORTABLE!

teaching an aggressive dog to socialize, socializing dogs, dog aggression, dog training, puppy training

I can’t tell you how often people will say “he lunges and
barks at people or dogs on leash” but once he meets them…

I’m thinking, “EGADS!!” Why is he meeting them if those
are the behaviors you are describing?

This is how people and other dogs get bitten.

Just because he hasn’t attacked a person or another dog yet,
doesn’t mean that he won’t!

I only allow a dog who is happily wagging his tail at about mid
body (not too high, because that is a dominant wag, and not too
low, because that is a scared wag) to openly socialize with another
dog or person. Find out more about tail wags here https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/tail-tells-tale/

He needs to trust you not to expose him or force him into bad
situations.

Without trust, you won’t have successful training, because he
feels like he has to defend himself and take care of himself.

I mean, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish a task if you were
in a situation and you were afraid something bad would happen to
you, and you didn’t trust the person you were with to take care
of you.

In other..

Source: FS – TheDogTrainingSecret
How to Socialize an Aggressive Dog