To start with, the single most common reason dogs are aggressive (and I will use this term lightly here) is because of human error.
This starts with improper socialization at a very early age. Any and all experiences a dog has in the first formative weeks of his life will, to some degree influence who the dog becomes. Taking dogs away from their mothers too early, removing a dog from its littermates too early and not introducing human interaction can cause instability in a dog’s developing behavior. As well, not introducing a dog to the elements of the real world early on can be damaging to how the dog sees things.
The single most important thing we can do to a dog is twofold:
- Form a strong bond with the dog from the very first time you interact with your dog. This bond consists of absolute fairness.
- Make EVERY experience the puppy has a positive one. Protect your dog from getting hurt on the stairs, around objects and people, prevent him from getting bit by another dog and your dog will not fear these things in his later years.
By spending some time in the formative weeks and months you can solve a lot of problems. Undoing these strong imprints is a lot of work and it takes a special person to be able to follow through on the steps it takes to fix aggressive dogs. Just putting a prong collar on the dog and yanking him around when he acts up is NOT the answer. If a dog meets many dogs in his development period and all of them offer him a positive experience, chances are the dog will have no issues with other dogs. If your dog, on the other hand, never meets another dog because you are afraid that he might get hurt, he will not know how to play or how to interact with other dogs and his behavior later can and will get him in trouble. An important point is that your dog should always see you as a higher value item than another dog. This comes from proper bonding with your dog from day one.
There are several things we must do to develop, strengthen and reinforce this bond, they include:
- Game playing
- Hand feeding
- Experiencing new things together
- Learning to be around you in a calm manner. Every waking moment does not mean play time.
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Dogs that have great interactive experiences with people at an early age will almost always develop into very people-friendly dogs. An important note here is that YOU must remain the most interesting thing to your dog. He must understand that YOU are more fun, interesting and desired than the other person.
Overall, a dog’s world is shaped by his surroundings and his experiences. Making every experience a happy one is easily done by giving your dog a treat, praise or a toy before, during and after every new experience. We can teach a dog that other dogs are good or bad, we can teach them to love people or hate them, to fear them or see them as the source of good things. The work is hard… yet fun, but it is nonetheless work.