Getting a new puppy can be one of the most joyous times in a family’s life — the long walks, trips to the dog park and late-night cuddles. Unfortunately, those idyllic expectations don’t always manifest, and many of us have found ourselves frustrated when our dog’s quirky personality traits start to show themselves. And while all dogs require an adjustment period to their new role as our trusted companion, when dogs start to exhibit aggressive behaviors it can be extremely challenging, and even scary.
Typical signs of aggression include growling, snapping and biting — and while any dog may do this on occasion, if your dog is exhibiting these behaviors on a more regular basis, it is time to assess the problem and implement a plan of action. There is a misconception that certain breeds tend to be more aggressive, but any dog of any size and breed requires intervention to address these issues as soon as they arise. Even behaviors that may appear to be benign, such as becoming rigid, snarling or baring their teeth can indicate your dog has aggressive tendencies that need to be nipped in the bud.
Aggression is no laughing matter, even if you think it’s adorable that your dog growls at their favorite toy. The first step is to try and determine the pattern and triggers associated with your dog exhibiting any aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, the triggers for aggression run the gamut — whether its during mealtime, around children, strangers, other animals — to territorial, protective or possessive aggression — to just plain fear. Aggression can also be an indicator of an underlying medical condition. It is imperative to understand the motivation behind your dog’s aggression in order to identify the best way to eliminate the behavior.
Start with a call to your vet, who can rule out if there is a medical issue that needs to be addressed. If your vet can’t identify a biological reason for your dog’s aggression, it is time to find an experienced, reputable dog trainer.
The great news about a dog trainer is that any dog can benefit from a few training sessions, and they can help identify any human behaviors that may be working against your dog’s progress. Additionally, they will work directly with you and your dog on how to use positive reinforcement, and how to expose your dog to different scenarios that can condition the unwanted behaviors to dissipate.
Habitual aggression in dogs needs expert intervention to mitigate – so don’t try and go at it alone. Through open communication and partnership with your dog and the right trainer, your beloved puppy will soon be on the road to fulfilling all of your greatest expectations.