If you have ever found yourself Googling “aggressive dog training” or “dog training for an aggressive dog” you are not alone. Finding yourself in this position can lead to some lonely and stressful feelings. Those stressful and lonely feelings can be even worse when you hear others saying things like “it’s all in how you raise them”—insinuating that you must have done something wrong to end up with a dog that is displaying aggression or reactivity. No one goes into owning a dog thinking they will end up with a dog displaying aggression, but many people find themselves in that situation. You are not alone!
The Leading Factor of Aggression and Reactivity in Dogs
As a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant with over 13 years of experience, I am here to tell you that the leading factor of aggression and reactivity in dogs is genetics. That’s right. Something you had zero control over will have the most influence on aggression and reactivity. You can raise two dogs the exact same way and end up with two very different personalities and social limitations. Why? Genetics!
Training Can Help
The good news is that training can help! But what exactly can training accomplish? Well, a large part of that is going to come down to where your dog’s behavior is stemming from. Reactivity and aggression are the symptoms of a bigger issue. That bigger issue could be based on fear, insecurities, frustration, a genetic predisposition, or a combination of things. Therefore, it is crucial that when you are seeking out training help, it’s important to do your research. Some trainers won’t accept canines with reactive behaviors, while others may intimidate or berate you. Thus it is critical to find a trainer that understands and is experienced with dog behavioral issues.
Common Scenarios of Aggressive or Reactive Dogs
Here are two of the most common scenarios that dog owners face with their aggressive or reactive dog.
Leash reactivity is when a dog lunges, barks, or growls when passing other dogs when on a leash but is social with most dogs when off leash. Many owners come to training looking to overcome their dog’s “dog aggression” which in turn ends up being leash reactivity. Leash reactivity is normally caused by frustration the dog feels from not understanding the pressure the leash is applying combined with overarousal from seeing another dog.
Teaching the dog how to understand and control the pressure of the leash along with teaching impulse control for this behavioral issue can resolve leash reactivity. Imagine enjoying your walks instead of fearing and dreading them.
Dog aggression is when a dog will immediately seek conflict with the intent to harm another dog. One of the most common misconceptions is that dog aggression is created by previous negative experiences that the dog endured. Though past negative experiences may not have helped your dog’s aggression towards other dogs, it is not the sole reason for their aggression towards other dogs.
Dogs, just like people, have their own social tolerance level. With some dogs, this tolerance level will decrease as they mature with age. Many dogs who have a low tolerance level for other dogs will become reactive to the sight or sound of another dog. To a dog, reacting is the solution to create the space they so desperately want from that other dog.
The Number 1 Goal to Teach Reactive Dogs
When conducting dog training for aggressive dogs the number one goal is to teach them that you will be their advocate in situations with other dogs. Once your dog sees that they have an advocate, they will no longer feel the need to advocate for themselves with reactivity. You will be able to take nice walks together, hang out on the coffee shop patio and so much more.
Expectations: Unachievable Goals
The one goal that might not be achievable here is going to the dog park or bringing your dog into situations like a cookout where there may be many loose strange dogs. This is because training cannot change your dog’s social tolerance level. Like aggression, a dog’s social tolerance level is genetic too. Training a reactive dog can give him coping skills to move through our world more peacefully. And you’ll have a more confident relationship with each other. But your dog will always have that genetic disposition.
Training and Improving Quality of Life
Proper training can make major improvements to both your quality of life and your dog’s quality of life. You can transition to a balanced and harmonious life with each other. Depending on where you live, there are many resources that offer behavior training for dogs.
Transition Dog Training in the West Michigan area offers Board and Train programs, One on One lessons, and In-Home lessons to teach you and your dog new skills and solutions, resulting in a well-behaved companion and partner. Regardless of where you go for training, we wish you much success and a happy outcome!