Preventing aggression

December 20, 2015

The majority of canine aggression can be blamed on poor breeding, medical issues, or a lack of socialization, all of which require professional help. Call us for advice if you think this sounds like your dog. Aggression is a normal response to stress even in well-adjusted dogs, which is why avoiding stressful situations is crucial in the first few weeks and months.

Some tips:

  • Don’t overwhelm your dog. Give him time to settle in. He doesn’t have to meet the extended family, all your friends, and the neighbors on day one.
  • Provide enough downtime. Give your dog plenty of quiet time, especially in the beginning. It will help him adjust to his new environment. It is okay to, take him out on a nice walk, but give the block party a miss.
  • Monitor interactions. In the beginning (and always with kids), don’t leave your dog alone with new people or dogs. Be there to supervise and step in to end the interaction if your dog appears uncomfortable (tail tucked, ears flat, crouching, backing away/avoiding contact).
  • Use treats liberally. Sweeten all introductions, scary noises, and new sights with a tasty treat. This will help your dog form positive associations with these things.
  • Never force the issue. If your dog shows fear or reluctance in any situation, don’t force him. For example, don’t make him submit to being petted or to being jumped on by another dog. Allow him to withdraw and try another day.
  • Let eating dogs be. Being possessive of food bowls, bones, toys, garbage, sleeping locations, etc. is natural dog behavior. To us humans it seems less than polite if our dog snarls when we reach for his food bowl, but it makes perfect sense to the dog.

To avoid problems, don’t approach your dog when he is eating or chewing on something particularly good. If you need to take something away from him, offer something better. Toss a couple of tasty treats on the floor away from the contested object and remove it while he eats the treats. Remember you are new to the dog and he may not be willing to share until he knows you better. (If the behavior worsens or there are children in the household, call us.)

While he is not eating, walk past his food bowl and toss some kibble or treats into his bowl.

Hold the hugs (for now). Allow time for you and your dog to get to know each other before you try to handle him completely. Dogs can be just as particular as humans about being touched by strangers and as long as your relationship is brand new, proceed with respect.

To make it a good experience for your dog to be touched, offer a treat every time you touch him in a new area. Any kind of grooming or holding should be minimal at first and always combined with lots of wonderful treats. If your dog is on medication of any kind, be extra gentle and careful. A good rule of thumb is to let the dog initiate petting sessions until you know each other well.

Related articles:

Preparing for your new Puppy

Your first day with your dog

House Training 101

4 keys to long term happiness with your dog

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