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In this article, we are using the term "dog aggression" to mean a dog that shows intolerance to other dogs. Many dogs suffer from dog aggression. There are countless and sometimes unexplainable reasons why dogs are or can become, dog aggressive towards other dogs. Usually, dogs are not naturally dog aggressive, normally dogs are just afraid, have been scarred, or not properly socialized, therefore they are actually afraid of other dogs. Instead of behaving as if they are afraid, they like to assert themselves to scare the other dog away before it does something to them.
Dogs are very social and pack animals and thrive off of each other and their people. But, lack of proper socialization as a puppy is a big reason many dogs are dog aggressive. This can happen because some dogs are strays as puppies or in shelters or rescue situations, thus when they get older, they did not have many positive dog experiences, making them afraid or reactive to other dogs. Sometimes puppies end up in the hands of people who do not know how important it is to socialize a young puppy to other dogs, thus creating a reactive or dog aggressive dog.
In other situations, dogs have been attacked by another dog, making them extremely fearful of other dogs, so they like to assert themselves to show other dogs, “don’t mess with me!” Other times, people get rescue dogs who do not know their history and have adult dogs who are dog aggressive.
ALL of these scenarios can be corrected with proper and professional training and counter conditioning and desensitizing. After very careful and slow adult dog socialization, that fearful dog, or dog who has not been around other dogs, slowly realizes that other dogs are NOT a threat and there is no reason to be afraid or reactive, with barking, snarling, or lunging.
It is very important that you do not “flood” a fearful dog. Flooding is a form of throwing a dog into a situation where its fear is everywhere and there is no escape, for example, throwing a fearful dog into a dog park. By flooding that dog with its fear you will get one of two results. 1. A More aggressive and reactive dog that will take much longer to correct and counter condition 2. A dog who learns “learned helplessness” where they completely give up. Some might think learned helplessness is a good thing, but nothing could be further from the truth. Learned helplessness is extremely damaging to a fearful dog, and sometimes they will show no warning and just explode. Two things that we do not want. That is why if you think your dog is dog aggressive or dog reactive you contact a professional and work with them slowly and correctly, so it is humane to the dog and you do not cause the problem to get worse.
Dog aggression is 9 times out of 10 a fear-based behavior, so it is important to realize there will be a lot of confidence-building exercises in training and the encouragement of a “curious dog” who wants to explore the world and other dogs. If you think you have a dog aggressive or reactive dog, contact us today to get started on rehabilitating your dog.
Videos of dog aggression problems.