What do I do if my dog is aggressive?

by Rachel Casey

What to do with Your Aggressive Dog

The treatment of aggression is entirely dependent on the specific reason for the behaviour in each case. Like any problem behaviour, the main part of treatment is some detective work to sort out the sequence of events that has led up to the current situation. In the short term, it is vital for safety to identify the specific situations which lead to aggression and avoid these until you get professional help. It is also important to not tell your dog off or punish him or her – this doesn’t help as the aggression occurs because he is scared, and telling him off may well make the behaviour worse.

First of all contact your vet, who will be able to check that there is no medical reason for your dog’s change in behaviour. Assuming all is OK physically, your vet will be able to refer you to a qualified behaviourist. The behaviourist will provide you with a behaviour modification programme designed specifically for your dog. The long term aim of the therapy is to for the dog to learn that the things he or she is reacting to are not a threat.

Behaviour modification

Elements of behaviour therapy which may be incorporated in a programme will depend on the specific reasons for the aggression, but may include:

  • Asking you to change the way you interact with your dog to ensure that your dog can easily identify and predict how you will react – and know that it will always be positive!
  • Make sure the dog is not told off or punished.
  • Teaching your dog that whatever he is worried about is no longer scary!
  • Give your dog more to do, for example through increased exercise, play, training or enrichment.
  • Identifying exactly what he is reacting to and teaching him a different response to any predictive events