You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ (Well not easily anyway)
I’m sure you’ve all heard that when learning something new it’s always best to learn it right the first time and that it takes a lot of work to undo bad habits. Well, dogs are no different and its best to get it right from the start.
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Why Do Dogs Develop Aggressive Tendencies?
One reason that dogs develop aggressive tendencies is that while they are puppies people tend to brush off their bad behavior as playfulness when really it should be dealt with at this early stage. Remember the expression ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ While it may be possible to retrain older dogs its much easier to teach them while they’re young.
Dogs develop aggressive traits for a number of reasons. One common and unfortunate one is that their owners encourage this type of behavior. A lot of people get dogs to protect their property and they praise their dogs when they bark and growl at strangers approaching their homes. Dogs learn bad habits very easily and once made they can be hard to break. Never encourage aggression in your dog even when playing. Always keep your games light and friendly and make sure to give your dog plenty of love and affection.
Punish or Pet?
When talking to dog owners I always say that punishing any sign of aggression towards humans is the best thing you can do and should be done from an early age. Many people worry that if they always punish their dogs for growling or barking, their dogs will become passive and that if one day someone breaks into their house, their dog will be useless and likely try to lick the intruder. But if you train your dog to give one or two short sharp barks every time someone approaches the house, trust me, you will not have a problem with break-ins.
What you should do is react quickly to the first signs of aggressive behavior shown by your dog. This could be a soft growl, barking or a stiffening of the body. Usually, a strong ‘no’ command will do the trick. One mistake a lot of people make is petting their dog to try and sooth them when they display aggressive behavior. All this does is teach your dog that its OK to be aggressive towards humans.
Your dog’s confidence can also be a factor in their behavior. Timid or fearful dogs (much like timid and fearful humans) tend to be more aggressive and confrontational. So build your dog’s confidence with a lot of praise for doing things right and avoid unnecessarily scolding your dog.
Having a well well mannered friendly dog that behaves well around new people makes life easy for dog owners. Having to worry that your dog may bark at or even attack your guests can cause a great deal of stress and take away from the pleasure of owning a dog. (Not to mention scare your guests away.) So raise your dog right and make sure they develop good habits early.
More Sources of Dog Aggression
Aggression in dogs can have many different sources such as food aggression, towards children, towards other dogs, towards strangers. While addressing these issues, make sure you be alert that all dogs are different especially different breeds so make sure you monitor the results and don’t take anything as a given cure
Dogs joust for position in the hierarchy of their pack. This is hardwired behavior that evolved for millions of years in the forest. The leader of the pack or dominant alpha dog got the privilege of eating first and is given mating opportunities. There is a real motivation in canine instincts to joust for this position. It’s important to note that in a pack the members rely on each other for survival and thus they never actually do real harm to one another. They wrestle and the winner mounts the other one as a symbolic gesture that he is mating with him.
If your dog thinks it is the dominant member of your “pack”, it will think on an instinctive level it has the right to eat first and will become aggravated if you step out of line. This is a simple fix! Make the dog sit before you feed it and eventually you can make it sit in front of its bowl and wait for you to give the command that it is okay to eat.
Aggression Towards Children
The big problem here is the dog is automatically going to assume the child is below it in the hierarchy. This is especially true if you bring an older dog into your home with your child. This can be an anxious setting for the dog and it may not know what to do.
Dog Aggression Towards Other Dogs
Your dog is likely trying to protect you from a situation where it may feel you and the pack is in danger. Most people just say no to the dog and try to be logical. You have to address your dog on a canine instinctive level. Take the role of the alpha dog and your dog won’t even bark at other dogs…it will look for you to protect it as it will see you as the safety net in its life.
Remember dogs can sense anxiety and fear so don’t act up when you see another dog. A lot of people pull on the leash harder as soon as they see someone coming and your dog will feel this as a cue that you need help and will react thinking its acting in your best interest.