How To Train Aggressive Dogs

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How to Train Aggressive Dogs

Having a dog at home, or for that matter any pet changes our lives a lot.

While all the fluffy cuteness and goofy incidents can be adorable, some dogs tend to show signs of aggression and it should not be taken lightly.

There are different triggers for such behavior which can be both physiological or psychological.

Depending on this there are different ways to treat or manage it. This article talks about how to train aggressive dogs by understanding the reasons behind their aggression.

It's never too early to start learning the right training for aggressive dogs. That's because from as young as newborns, dogs can learn and develop aggressive dog behavior. 

Often dog owners are not aware that their puppy is developing aggressive behavior and mistake it for playful behavior. This is the start of an aggressive dog.

It's important when dog training for aggressive behavior that you put yourself in the dominating position. You must show firm authority to ensure that you get off to good start.

Not all modes of training are the same, so choose the right one that can effectively manage aggressive behavior.

The right training for aggressive dogs can reduce the risk of injury to others from dog attacks. What's more, you can finally have the dog you've always wanted; obedient, loyal and a great companion.

It's always best to learn how to treat aggressive dog behaviors from someone who specializes in animal behavior.

 It's also important to see a veterinarian in case there's an underlining medical condition for your dog aggressive behavior.

If you are aware of your dog's aggressive tendencies, then it's your responsibility to ensure that he is not a danger to others. Precautions must be taken when taking your dog out.

Avoid taking your dog out if he is a serious threat, unless guided by a professional. Situations that make your dog feel fear or anxiety could potentially trigger violent behavior.

How to know whether your dog is aggressive?

Aggression is the most common and a serious behavioural problem that is seen in dogs.

Aggression is an umbrella term that covers a number of behaviours that are triggered by many reasons in various circumstances.

Animals have the innate tendency to show aggression to guard, defend and protect their territories, offspring and themselves respectively, especially in the wild.

Domestication provides a secure escape from these daunting circumstances, but the natural instinct lives on within each being, including dogs and even humans.

A rare case of a friendly Labrador being highly aggressive.

Aggression in dogs can mean lots of things that begins with various forms of demonstrations of warnings to a final attack.

The following aggressive signs in dogs usually happen chronologically and you should take note if you have any doubt about your pooch being not in the best of its mood.

Signs and Symptoms of Aggression:
Holding a still and rigid posture for long
Threatening barks that have a guttural tone in it
Lunging towards a person in the manner of charging without making any actual contact with a person
Mouthing (biting without putting in much force) to as if deter a person from doing something
Throwing ‘muzzle punches’ (where a dog literally uses its node to punch’
Showing teeth
Snarling (growl and show teeth simultaneously)
A quick nip without leaving any mark behind
A quick byte that causes the skin to tear.
Biting that causes puncturing wounds
Multiple bites that come in quick succession
Biting and shaking the bitten part

Often, the warning and attacking phase may not be easy to discriminate as it happens really fast.

This could make you feel like your dog is being unusually and suddenly aggressive. But that might not be the case.

What Causes Aggressiveness in Dogs?

It is not always that a dog behaves aggressively towards a person.

Some dogs can show aggression towards other animals and inanimate objects as well.

To come up with the right plan that will be effective in controlling and altering your dog’s behaviour, you must know what is causing it.

There are numerous types of aggression in dogs. The most common ones are listed below:

Types of Aggression in Dogs
Territorial Aggression

  Dogs that display this type of aggression act on their instincts to protect their own territory or sometimes even yours from what they perceive as a threat.

Protective aggression

 Dogs tend to see the ones around them especially the owners and the other pets in your home as their pack members. They naturally develop a protective instinct towards them and behave in a hostile manner if someone seems like a threat to them.

Possessive aggression

Dogs can be extremely possessive about their things, especially toys, food, collars, etc. They could show signs of aggression if another dog or a person they don’t trust tries to touch or take it.

Fear aggression

Dogs can become aggressive when they are scared. Even though they tend to retreat when in a scary situation, they may attack if cornered.

Health Related Aggression

Aggressive behavior of a dog may always not be due to surrounding conditions. Underlying health problems may also make a dog aggressive.

How to Treat and Train Aggressive Dogs?

Knowing how to treat aggressive dog behavior is important so that you can avoid improper techniques that may worsen your dog's behavior. For example, physical punishment should be avoided. 

This is because fear will only make your dog's anxieties worse.

It's difficult knowing how to help an aggressive dog correctly, since you do not want to fight fire with fire.

If your dog does do something wrong, a firm 'No' will do, show that you're displeased and avoid giving tricks. It doesn't have to be difficult to start the ball rolling from this.

Refrain from playing games that may give your dog power and dominance over you, physical games such as wrestling should be avoided.

Training for aggressive dogs is not just about learning how to command and take control. It's important to show affection and praise when your dog does something right. See below for additional training tips:


If your visit to the vet has yielded a negative result about the presence of health problems, then the next person you must reach out to is a professional dog trainer.

Now, wondering how to train an aggressive dog?

The answer is simple. The dog trainer or an animal behaviourist will help you identify the cause of aggression first.

 Once this is done, half your battle has been won.

 If you do not know a person proficient in this field, you can always ask your vet to get a reference.

You can work with a trainer to come up with a plan that could be tailor-made for your pooch’s requirements.

These would primarily consist of 3 steps:

Positive Reinforcement Training

Dogs who show aggression towards specific subjects such as strangers, children, other dogs, etc respond very well to positive reinforcement training.

In this a dog is exposed to the factor of its agitation in a controlled way and is given a treat every time.

Slowly the proximity to the subject is reduced while continuing the process of rewarding it.

 Ultimately the dog starts associating the trigger with the reward and warms up to it.

In this way you can remove the cause of aggression and also teach it new behaviours.

Avoiding Punishment

Many times, punishing your dog for showing aggression can backfire as mentioned earlier.

Dogs usually threaten before they attack.

But if you hit, scold or try to discipline your dog when it growls, muzzle punches or snarls it could be detrimental.

 They could skip the threatening phase and jump directly towards the victim to attack. Punishments could also make them defensive and hence fan their aggressiveness.


In some cases, training alone won’t help as their aggression may stem from fear which is deep rooted.

Medication is the best answer to how to calm an aggressive dog like this.

Medicines in these cases work like tools that help the dog to overcome the fear, stress and anxiety that hinders their learning process as well.

Sometimes, treatment for aggression is also primarily used for those dogs who have certain health problems. 

Common medical problems like injuries that cause pain, hypothyroidism, neurological diseases like epilepsy, encephalitis and brain tumours are often the reason behind such behaviour in some dogs.

Aggression here is more of a symptom of a bigger problem than being the problem itself.

You must first take your dog to a veterinarian to eliminate the chances of it having any such problem. 

These conditions can often be controlled with treatment and medication.

about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.

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