This is as bad as it gets. You are walking down the street and your dog sees another dog or a person. They lock eyes and begin to intensely stare at the person/dog.
You can see the build up happening right before your eyes. Suddenly your dog growls or lunges and you freak out.
You try your best to hold your dog back, but you can’t stop them and you are embarassed.
You don’t want to be seen as the person who has no control over their dog. Nobody does! So to avoid the embarassment you avoid the trigger that causes your dog to act up.
Now every time you see another dog or a person, you tense up and cross the street. This doesn’t fix the problem but it does avoid the problem.
In this article we are going to talk about how to resocialize an aggressive dog. Before I go into the steps let me first say that your dog should have a strong foundation before attempting these steps. I am an advocate for the dogs and I want to set them up for success. I don’t want you putting your dog in a situation that they are not ready for.
Why does this problem occur
Maybe poor socialization, but most dogs are usually insecure. They can not deal with the social pressure of someone entering in their space. They create more space by pushing the other dog or person back. This is only one reason why your dog may act like this. Lets jump right into it.
Being neutral around other dogs and people without aggression
We don’t want to rush our dogs to be friendly with people or other dogs. After all, our dogs previously hated both people and other dogs. What we want to do is to make our dog first tolerate being around them with no reaction.
We first have to block this behavior from happening. Once your dog knows they can’t use aggressive behavior to deal with their issues, anxiety usually sets in. They start to avoid the other dog or person. This is ok because they are now starting to understand that there choices matter.
What we dont want to do is stand still. Standing still can create a lot of tension and pressure for our dogs. So we are in constant motion at this stage. There is also no sniffing each other( dog to dog) and no petting dog( people to dogs). We want to act like other dogs and people are not there.
Here’s a recap of the beginning in step 1:
Block aggressive behavior
Anxiety might start to manifest. And your dog might show signs of avoidance
Move around dogs and people. Everyone is in constant motion
Keep your dog in a little bubble. Don’t allow other dogs to come up to your dog. If they do you can gently push them away. Make sure you can control other dogs. This is important so that your dog can learn to relax and trust you. If you can’t stop another dog or person from entering in their space then they will feel they need to take matters into their own hands.
Correct any aggressive behaviors
2. Standing still while other dogs and people are moving around your dog
This is where we will put our dog on a place bed and have them hold this command. Other dogs can play with each other but are not allowed to say hello to your dog yet.
We want your dog to be comfortable watching dogs and people and not fear anything bad will happen.
Once your dog is comfortable with movement around dogs and people, you must teach them some impulse control. They must stay on their place bed-obedience and relax-state of mind.
This combination should create a dog that is able to deal with the stress. This is teaching your dog to be a passenger in the world. They need to know that they don’t need to react to everything. Just relax and let your owner handle it. Remember to notice the signs of discomfort. Don’t put too much pressure on your dog to succeed. The little victories that are won mean a whole lot more.
3. Sniffing and rough play
This is where I practice something I call “go say whats up”. Ill talk about that in a little bit. But first your dog has to be able to be neutral and stay in constant motion (step 1) and stand still while other dogs and people move around them. Step 3 is a combination of both. In this step we will do
Step 1 + short sniffing greeting
Step 2 + tolerating rougher play by other dogs
The distraction level and the social pressure that your dog has to deal with is much more intense in this step. Take baby steps. Let your dog sniff another dog for 2 seconds before calling your dog off. Then work your way up to letting your dog sniff another dog for 5 seconds and beyond.
Just keep building up your dog. You don’t want to move too fast by letting your dog sniff another dog for 10 seconds on the first go. It is important for your dog to be successful in the early stages to build confidence.Aggressive dogs don’t like the social pressure and need to feel like nothing bad is going to happen to them. I have repeated this several times because it is very important that you understand whats going on in your dog’s head.
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