Managing Aggressive Behavior in Dogs

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Canine aggression is one of the most common behavioral problems seen in veterinary medicine. There can be many possible causes from dominance and fear-based behavioral causes to underlying medical diseases.  One of the first steps to take in lessening the likelihood of aggression is to have your pet spayed or neutered. Once hormonal factors have been eliminated, it is important to supervise, confine and/or restrict your dog’s activities until you can obtain professional help due to the potential liability and safety issues.

Pet owners should avoid exposing a dog to situations where they are more likely to show aggression, and initially confinement may be needed until help can be obtained. An aggressive problem will not go away by itself, so I highly recommend working with an in-home veterinary behavioral specialist and a dog trainer on behavior modification exercises. Some aggressive dogs can be possessive of certain places or territories, treats and/or foods, so it’s important to try and not allow access to these areas or items.

To lessen the likelihood of territorial or protective aggression, one should not encourage their dogs to bark and dash about in response to outside stimuli. Avoiding games like tug-of-war or purposely wrestling with your dog can also reduce the possibility of dominance aggression becoming a future problem.  With most types of aggression physical punishment only worsens the problem; thus stressing the importance of working with a veterinary behavioral specialist.  In some cases, prescription pet medications such as Prozac and Clomiprimine may be needed in conjunction with behavioral modification therapy.

Have you tried behavioral training with your dog? Do you have any tips or experienced you’d like to share?

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