Understanding And Dealing With Your Aggressive Dog

Nothing is as frustrating as owning an aggressive dog. Finding a doggy day care facility or overnight boarding facility that will agree to watch your aggressive dog is no small feat.

The first step is identifying your dog's specific form of aggression. Once you understand the root of and the reasons behind your dog's aggression, you can take steps to turn your pet into a better citizen.

Understanding Dog Aggression

Not all aggressive dogs behave the way they do for the same reasons. Dog trainers and behaviorists recognize several different forms of canine aggression.

  • Possessive Aggression. Dogs that constantly feel threatened will display possessive aggressive behavior. A possessive aggressive dog feels pressured to protect food, toys, and bedding, believing that, without constantly staying on high alert, those things will be taken away. Usually, a possessive aggressive dog develops this kind of behavior because of inconsistency and uncertainty in the "pack" leadership.
  • Protective Aggression. Sometimes, bad experiences will cause dogs to fear certain people. This is especially true of rescue dogs, who often experience abuse and neglect. When a dog learns to fear someone, future interactions with people who share similar qualities to that initial scary person will trigger an aggressive response. For example, if a dog was once abused by an adult male, then that dog might develop protective aggressive behaviors around all new adult males.
  • Territorial Aggression. When a dog feels an excessive need to protect a certain area, like the yard or the home, that dog is displaying territorial aggressive behavior. This behavior is welcome in certain situations; if you live alone or want a watch dog, you might even encourage your dog to growl, bark, and chase after potential intruders. When you cannot control your dog's territorial aggression, or if your dog acts aggressively to you or your family members, then this behavior becomes a serious problem.
  • Fearful Aggression. If a dog encounters a fearful situation, that dog might first respond by submissively urinating, cowering, trembling, and avoiding eye contact. When escape is not an option, the dog might turn to fearful aggressive behavior. Abuse is sometimes the cause of fearful behavior, but usually, dogs that have not been properly socialized will simply respond fearfully in unknown surroundings.

Boarding Your Aggressive Dog

Before you enroll your aggressive dog in a day care program, first determine what kind of aggression your dog is displaying, and identify the cause of that aggression. If at all possible, address this aggressive behavior long before you plan to enroll your pet in day care or need to board them overnight. You can find excellent resources online or in print, but tread carefully. Aggressive dogs can be dangerous, and if you are not experienced or comfortable modifying your dog's behavior yourself, find a professional behaviorist or dog trainer.

That being said, if you are unable to modify your dog's aggressive behavior before the need for dog day care or boarding arises, then make sure that you inform the staff of your dog's aggression. The more detailed that you can be--revealing your dog's triggers or giving tips, for example--the better off the staff, your dog, and the other clients' dogs will be.

If your dog's aggression is quite severe and these behaviors put other people and pets at risk, consider talking to a veterinarian. Medications are available that can counteract your dog's aggressive behaviors, if only temporarily. You need not keep your pet on prescriptions permanently, but these medications can be extremely effective in getting "over the hump" and can give your dog a head start in behavior modification.