Many dogs need dog aggression training to develop the right behaviors before they get out of hand. For this reason I’ve put together a guide to help you prevent dog aggression.
Dog Aggression Training
At the annual meeting of the American Dog Owners’ Association, dog bites were identified as one of the top health concerns in the United States. Additionally, it was reported that nearly 25% of dogs in the United States end up in animal shelters, with behavior problems listed as the most common reason for placement. Most behavior problems, including aggression, can be eliminated or significantly reduced by proper dog aggression training or by putting your puppy on “the right track” early in life.
Putting your puppy on the right track may sound easy, but choosing which dog training advice to follow can be very confusing for a new pet owner. Well-intended advice from friends, family, fellow workers and inexperienced dog trainers can sometimes do more harm than good in the long run.
In the last decade, dog aggression training has evolved and improved dramatically. A primary reason for this improvement is the increasing acceptance of scientific principles, or animal learning theory by professional dog trainers. This evolution in the field of dog training has led to a better understanding of the causes, treatment and prevention of dog aggression. “Preventing” dog aggression means a lot more than holding onto the leash of a growling dog so he can’t bite your neighbor.
Dog Aggression Categories
Dog aggression is usually classified under two main categories- insecurity based aggression and dominance based aggression. There are many subcategories under each classification, but insecurity based aggression is the most common.
Aggression can be inherited or learned. Usually there is some combination of a predisposition (nature) and improper upbringing (nurture). Since fear and stress are common factors in dog aggression, developing confidence in a wide variety of situations is an important step in avoiding aggression problems.
How to Prevent Dog Aggression
Preventing dog aggression starts with choosing a breed with compatible traits to your household, raising your puppy in a gentle and loving manner and teaching your pet to be comfortable in a wide variety of settings. Once your puppy moves in with you, it is time to put your puppy on the right track for a long and wonderful life.
When a new puppy enters a home few owners are thinking about aggression. Actually, experiences during the first 6-8 months of your puppy’s life have a dramatic effect on the rest of his life. Dogs and puppies are neo-phobic, or afraid of new things. During your puppy’s first 6-8 months, he is far more receptive to learning and experiencing new things than later in life. Be careful, though. During puppyhood, stress-inducing events can have a lifelong effect.
Properly socialized, puppies learn to feel safe and secure under a wide variety of circumstances including being around veterinarians and other strangers, cars and loud trucks, other dogs and pets, vacuum cleaners, power tools and everything else they’ll see later in life. A well-socialized adult dog that has experienced plenty of positive varied experiences throughout puppyhood is better prepared for the unexpected- the real world. Adult dogs without proper socialization during puppyhood can become aggressive when faced with stressful new situations.
Nurturing a sound temperament begins the day you welcome your new puppy into your home. The prime period for early socialization is 6 weeks to 12 weeks old. Socialization during this period should be very controlled, because puppies are easily overwhelmed. You can begin introducing your puppy to calm, friendly and gentle people one or two at a time. Using your dog’s own kibble as a reward for positive interaction is a great way to ensure a positive puppy experience. More palatable treats may be useful for cautious puppies.
Your Puppies should get used to allowing your friends to touch every part of their body, and to a small degree to accept rough handing. This way, your puppy will be less likely to become nervous or anxious when being handled by kids and strangers.
Once your puppy has acclimated to a variety of your friends, puppy parties (where your friends come to visit, and pup is the main attraction, aside from the BBQ) can help your puppy to be at ease in crowds. Teach your puppy to look forward to having all kinds of different people near the dog food bowl and toys by having them trade “better” kibble, treats or toys. This approach helps to avoid competition for resources and encourages cooperation.
By your puppy’s 12th week, he should have 50 or more human friends. By 16 weeks old, your puppy should have at least 100 human friends with different looks, body types and mannerisms.
A similar treat strategy can be employed as you introduce your puppy to different elements of your household- “Here’s a vacuum cleaner, here’s a treat.” “Here’s a set of stairs, here’s a treat.” “Here’s a hair dryer, here’s a treat” and “Here’s a Veterinarian’s office, here’s a treat.” Gee, aren’t all these different things sooo much fun to be around?!
When your veterinarian gives you the green light, you can begin to take your puppy out more often and to a wider variety of places. This generally occurs between 12 and 16 weeks- prime time for puppy training classes! Puppy classes are a great way to share the Puppy raising experience with other new dog owners, and of course, to let your pup meet and play with other youngster-puppies. Long dog walks can also provide an assortment of pleasurable social opportunities.
Puppy Training Benefits
Puppy training has become increasingly popular for several reasons. Young puppies are eager to learn. Young puppies have not fully developed bad habits. Young puppies are smaller and physically easier to teach than adult dogs. Most importantly, young puppies retain a high degree of what they are taught during their early developmental stages.
As early as possible, get your puppy involved in a puppy class that stresses socialization, confidence building and reward-based training. There are many excellent programs to choose from with many different styles, methods or approaches. Watching a puppy class is the best way to pick and choose what training suits you best.
Nurturing a sound temperament through socialization and positive training can certainly help avoid aggression in adult dogs, but there are no guarantees. If you see any signs such as growling, protecting items, high stress in unfamiliar settings, excessive barking, lunging or snapping in your adult pet, you should have a behavior evaluation done by a professional trainer or behavior specialist.