Dog On Dog Aggression
Every day, I get calls and e-mails from dog owners in Orange County who are struggling with their dog’s aggression. Their number one concern is whether or not they can overcome this problem.
Although the internet has provided a wealth of information over the years, there are also hundreds of misleading articles online written by unqualified dog trainers that report false training techniques. Because of this, dog aggression is now more misunderstood than ever.
Dog aggression is a behavior problem that he or she learns over time, not something the dog is born with. It is curable no matter how late you start the rehabilitation process, although it is the best to start as early as possible.
The common misunderstanding between dog trainers and dog owners are that aggressive dogs are dominant dogs. Although some aggressive dogs can also be dominant, dominance and aggression are two separate things, and should be handled as such.
In this article, I will break down the common causes of dog-on-dog aggression and explain each factor in complete detail. Please keep in mind that this article does not provide tips on how to fix these problems, but instead explains how things went wrong. One can not solve a problem without finding its root.
Dominant dogs are natural born leaders, they are genetically designed to lead and organize a pack. The desire to lead is very strong in dominant dogs compared to others – It is what they were born to do. But, contrary to popular belief, very few dogs actually possess the dominant trait.
The majority of dogs with aggression issues have been raised with no structure or discipline.
If by chance you own a dominant dog, you must take the leadership role or your dog will naturally take over. You must form a pack structure and enforce rules and boundaries.
Dominant dogs do the best with owners that have strong personalities. Many assume that dominant dogs can not be controlled, but this is just a myth. Many dominant dogs make great working dogs and can be very obedient if they are matched with the right handler.
However, not everyone can handle a dominant dog. They need strong handlers who believe in discipline and structure. A dominant dog is too smart to be fooled or bribed with treats. You must let the dog know that you are faster, smarter, and stronger and that you will not tolerate disobedience.
There must always be consequences when your dog breaks a rule, or else the situation can get out of hand. When dealing with a dominant dog, you can not afford to be emotional (meaning angry), frustrated, or over-catering to your dog. Dogs that are raised in the manner will misunderstand your emotions as a sign of weakness and will soon establish him or herself as your superior.
A lack of consistency in enforcing rules is also a sign of weakness. The dog will quickly learn that you are not smart enough catch their bad behavior every time, so they will continue to push the boundaries. The pack leader (you) must always enforce strict, consistent rules.
The Leader Dog
When a dog owner is too lenient and forgets about the pack structure, the dog automatically assumes that he or she is the leader of the pack. Dogs are social animals by nature and instinctually enjoy being a part of a social group. Most dog owners fail to understand that one of the natural desires of their family pet is to be part of a pack. The vast majority of dogs are happy to be followers and prefer not to lead. But, when there is no defined pack leader in their household, their instinct is to take over.
When a dog takes the leader position, they set their own rules. If you or anyone else disobeys these rules, the dog will become aggressive. You might see a dog’s aggression in different forms, including food aggression, bed aggression, dog aggression, people aggression, toy aggression, etc
Dog Was Attacked In The Past
I often hear from my clients that their dog has never shown aggressive behavior in the past. But, on a normal day at the park, their dog was suddenly attacked by another dog in the park, and, since then, he or she has started demonstrating aggressive behavior.
It is very important to understand that your dog is not the problem here. The problem is you and your lack of leadership. Your dog expects you to be their guardian and protect them from harm. When you fail to do so, they quickly realize that they are all alone and the fear of getting hurt again will backlash in the form of aggression next time that they see a dog. Dogs who trust their handlers do not become aggressive with another dog because they feel like they can rely on their owner. They have confidence in their human leader and know that they are protected.
I personally have experienced this kind of aggression. My German Shepherd (Gunner), who you may have seen in my video clips, was attacked by a husky at the dog park when he was just 8 months old. After the fight, he became severely aggressive towards other dogs. After almost killing another dog, I was so desperate to find out why he was behaving in such a cruel manner. He started off so sweet and submissive before the attack but, after the fight, he was a different dog. His aggression was so severe that simple eye contact from another dog would stir him up. He would thrash and spin, sometimes even bite my hand to release the leash so he could run after the other dog.
I called a number of dog trainers in Orange County and they all told me to put him down or lock him up. These so-called dog trainers told me that my precious dog Gunner would never be able to interact with other dogs again. I knew that putting my dog down was not an option. I realized that I was the one who created the problem, so it was my job to fix it.
I spent months training Gunner and practiced to becoming the leader. I soon realized that the reasoning behind his aggressive behavior was because of the little knowledge I had on dog body language. That day at the park, I failed to read the other dog’s body language and missed all the warning signs. I promised myself that the next time a dog is showing aggressive body language, I will be the one who tells the him to back off, not my dog.
I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes while reading this part, but, if you have stumbled upon this article, maybe you are struggling with the same problem. Maybe your emotions are causing your dog’s aggression. From now on, you need to do what is the best for your dog and not what makes you most comfortable.
Today, Gunner is my work partner and a very confident dog, he loves to play with dogs of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments. If ever there is a problem where another dog shows aggression, he comes to me right away and asks me to protect him.
Most people take pride in their big, powerful dogs and would rather have the dogs resolve their behavioral issues on their own. But, if you take this approach, you will soon find out that dog aggression is a real headache to fix.
Always remember to consult a professional dog behavior specialist about your dog’s aggression, your own interpretation of what might have caused the aggression can be different from a professional opinion.