If you have ever owned or been around an aggressive or dominant dog, then you know the importance of getting control of him or her. Good obedience training will help keep the dog, other dogs and people safer. You need to understand something about aggressive dogs: Most dog aggression (unless the dog has been bred and trained to be aggressive) comes from one of two places…dominance or fear. If professional dog training is not in your budget, or you simply don’t have the time, here are some suggestions that may help you deal with your aggressive dog.
1. Have your dog spayed or neutered. Doing so will reduce hormonal dominance levels. Check with your veterinarian to discuss your best options.
2. Stop playing rough with your dog. Roughhousing games (like tug of war, wrestling, etc.) teach your dog that challenging you is fun. When your dog wins, he thinks he is stronger than you; and stronger dogs are always higher in the social hierarchy of the pack. In addition, do not allow your dog or puppy to "play bite”. This teaches him bad habits.
3. Teach your dog the "down” command and use it throughout the day. The down position (where the dog is lying down) is a submissive position. Many dogs, especially fearful or dominant dogs do not like this position. So, instead of letting your dog wander around the house or go where he pleases, make him lie down and stay there while you’re preparing dinner, watching television, changing your clothes, etc. Make your dog stay down for at least a full 30 minutes every day.
4. Make your dog work for praise. If your dog approaches you and demands to be petted, then make him sit or down first. He needs to learn that you are the dominant one, and that you make the rules, not him.
5. Lead your dog…stop letting him lead you. You need to be the first one to walk through doors, the first to eat, and the first to decide where you’re going to walk. Alpha dogs never walk behind the pack. They always lead. Establish yourself as the leader by making your dog wait on you.
6. Do not let your dog sleep on the bed. And do not let your dog sleep on your child’s bed. Annette Adams, owner of Off-Leash K9 Dog Training says, "There are sometimes more dominance and aggression problems created by people who let their dogs sleep on their bed, than perhaps any other single behavior.” The pack leader always sleeps on higher ground. Subordinate dogs sleep on lower ground. Being higher (or on top) is a dominance behavior.
7. When your dog misbehaves, correct him. Make sure that your dog gets corrected every time he exhibits an unwanted behavior. If you are uncertain as to the best way to correct them, consult a professional dog trainer. In the meantime, a good, strong "off” will work. Never hit or kick your dog. This can create fear, which in turn can create more aggression.
8. Be the one who decides when your dog is allowed to meet other people and dogs. Do not let your dog immediately run up to people or other dogs to greet them. You need to decide when and how that happens.
Handling an aggressive dog is something that needs to involve a lot of care and preparation, but it doesn’t have to be something that causes you fear. Just follow these tips and you will be on your way to learning how to handle dominant or aggressive dogs.