When your dog is getting aggressive towards people it can really be troublesome and embarrassing. It might be difficult when friends are visiting, and put strain on your relationship with people. If you have a big and strong dog it can also lead to dangerous situations so therefore learning how to to stop aggression towards people is really important in order to live smoothly with your dog and to keep good relations with your friends and neighbors.
In this post I would like to explain what aggression towards people come from, what causes it, how to prevent it and how to treat it. I will show you a video on how to deal with aggression made by the dog trainer Doggy Dan. But first some info on what causes dogs to be aggressive.
Aggression, where does it come from?
Aggression, whether it is against people, other dogs, other animals or even certain objects are born out of fear and anxiety. All that aggression have a purpose for dogs living in the wild as they have to protect their pack and territory and go hunting for prey. With domestic dogs this instinct can of course create problems unless you are able to control it and show your dog that the people you meet are not a threat to you or your family.
Another problem is that dogs and humans do not always understand each other. We are different species so it is kind of normal. This means that a behavior which to a human means; “hi there, let us be friends” might very well be perceived as a threat to a dog. The contrary is true as well; a dog might think is giving the signals “back away” but the human might see it as invite to approach.
Let me give you an example. A man sees a dog together with his owner, he approaches the dog looking at it straight in the eyes, he comes up to it and pats it on the head. To a dog all of this is threatening.
In the wild, and this is not only among dogs, looking someone straight in the eyes is a challenge. It is a dominant behavior saying I am in charge here, or this is my territory. So if you do this to a dog it might very well cause the dog to be aggressive.
Now here is how he should have done instead. It is always better to let a dog come to you. Call for the dog without looking in its eyes (or if it is on a leash let owner come over with it) then talk calmly to dog and pat it lower underneath the chin and not on top of the head as this might be considered a threat.
Aggression is caused by anxiety and fear. There are a few reasons why a dog might be fearful and aggressive. Lack of socialisation is one reason. If a dog is not used to seeing a variety of people (and/or dogs and other animals) the aggression might be caused by fear against strangers or anyone outside of the family. Therefore it is recommended to expose a young puppy for different people, objects, sounds and environments. Also make him get used to human handling by touching his paws, head, mouth and tail so he gets used to that and feel comfortable with it.
Mistreatment is another reason why a dog gets aggressive. It is of course perfectly logic that a dog who has been beaten and abused becomes fearful and suspicious towards people. With a dog who has been abused it is important to be extra careful and not treat it in harsh way such as yelling at it or punishing it physically. Doing soo will only make it more nervous and aggressive.
Different breeds of dogs have different characters and therefore some breeds are by nature more aggressive and suspicious. Guard dogs and shepards for example are bred to protect and guard and therefore more likely to consider a stranger a threat. Terriers are also known to have a high level of energy and can sometimes be aggressive. Labradors and Golden Retrievers are generally among the least aggressive dogs but aggression can develop with them as well. Socialisation is important for all dogs and all dogs can be aggressive towards people, it often depends on the circumstances and the background of the dog.
Signs of a dog being aggressive
It is important to be able to recognise these signs of aggression in your dog so that you immediatly take action and calm the dog. It is not all dogs who react by barking and pulling the leash.
- Stiffening of the body
- Keeping eye contact
- Exposing his teeth
- Hackles raised
- Socialize him. As mentioned socialize your dog from an early age to make him used to other people and other dogs. Expose him to different environments, sounds and sensation. Gently touch various parts of his body.
- Treat your dog gently and with respect. A dog being hit, yelled at or treated harshly in any way is far more likely to become aggressive than a dog who is treated with kindness and respect.
- If you adopt a dog from a rescue shelter make sure to ask about the dog’s background. A dog who has been abused or already bitten someone will be harder to train and socialize
- A dog who is neutered or spayed is likely to be less aggressive as hormones naturally increases aggression in a dog. So this might be something to consider.
How to treat aggression towards people
Rather then just explaining how to treat aggression towards people I suggest you watch this video by professional dog trainer Doggy Dan. In this video Doggy Dan is showing three simple techniques that works very well and calms down a big, strong and aggressive dog almost instantly. If you like to know more about Doggy Dan and his online dog training program you can read my full review of The Online Dog Trainer here.
So in brief, these are the three methods used by Doggy Dan to calm down a dog who is very aggressive when people are coming in to the owners property.
Technique one: The dog owner turns his back towards the “threat” thus showing the dog that the “threat” is nothing to worry about (You won’t turn your back to a real threat)
Technique two: using the “Calm Freeze” to calm the dog. Gently put your hand under your dog’s chin.
Technique three: “Block the visual” by putting yourself between the dog and the “threat” (with your back against the threat) you are blocking what the dog considers a threat and therefore he calms down.
It is important to stay as calm as possible. The calmer you are the calmer the dog will be. If he sees you calm and in control he will follow your example. If your dog is not taking any notice of you then it might be a leadership issue. This means that your dog sees himself as the packleader and therefore the one who is in charge and who makes the decisions. If this is the case you first need to establish yourself as the packleader before you try to stop your dog from being aggressive to people.
I hope you enjoyed this article on how to stop dog aggression towards people. If you have any comments, questions or experiences you would like to share please leave them below.