How To Stop Dog Aggression Towards People!

Agressive shepardWhen 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.

tecknad bulldogThe causes of aggression towards people

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.

agressive leashDifferent 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
  • Snapping
  • Growling
  • Keeping eye contact
  • Exposing his teeth
  • Hackles raised

Prevention

  • 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.

Here is a link to Doggy Dan’s web page dealing with aggression

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.

Here is an article I wrote on how to become the packleader and why it is soo important when training your dog.

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.

Comments 18

  • I’m a senior citizen and have a very small dog that bites everyone who visits me. My husband and I got her from a lady that got her for her sons, but they didn’t like her. So she was kept out in a barn along with other animals. I’m not sure but believe she was abused and it’s very difficult making her stop biting. My husband recently died and now I’m alone trying to take care of her. Please give me some advice on what to do for her. I don’t want to see her hurt.

    • Hi and thank you for reaching out to me. Biting is common and rather serious problem but it can be dealt with. My impression is that your dog bites out of fear. She sees your visitors as threats to you and her and thus she is doing this in order to protect you. To make her stop biting you have to show your dog that your visitors pose no threat to her (and you). Before you can do that you need to make sure that your dog listens to you and considers you to be her leader. I suggest you take a look at these two posts:

      How To Stop Dog Aggression Towards People! and this one on how to be the packleader.

      How to become a packleader your dog admires

      Once your dog see you as its leader you can start working on the aggression issue. As you show your dog that the visitors pose no threat to you (or her) your dog will soon become much calmer. It is very important to stay relaxed and show confidence at all times as your dog will pick up your emotions and act as you do.

      I wish you good luck and if I can be of further help feel free to contact my anytime and I will do what I can to help you.

      Jojo

  • Hi, We just adopted form MDSPCA. Saint is a pit mix? 1year 6months when adopted. He is very strong. my grandson comes over and he likes to nibble at his shoes. my grandson is scared because he is so aggressive with it. we try to make him stop, he will walk away when redirected and then come right back. My son is 16 he plays with him but at times Saint will growl and snip at my son when he doesn’t want to play and we are eating dinner he goes under the table to bother my son. when my son tells him to move he growls and snips at him.. we want to keep him and give him a good home. but I am afraid that he is going to bite someone and I don’t want that to happen. because that will traumatize my 5 year old grandson and my 16 year old. Any suggestions.

    • Hi,
      it seems like this dog considers himself to be the leader of your family. If he growls and snaps everytime HE does not want to do something it means that he considers himself to be in charge and that everyone else must obey him. Thus you must show him that YOU are his leader and not the other way around. In fact everyone in the family (including your son and grandson) should be above him in the ranking. When this is done then I am certain that he will calm down and become a lot easier to handle.

      There are a few steps to take in order to show your dog that you are in charge. For example, when you leave your house, you go before your dog and he will follow because in a dogs world the leader always goes first. Feed your dog after you have eaten, as the leaders eat first. Once your dog has finished eating take away his food bowl, even if there is food let in it. This also goes for bones and similiar things. Those who lead, control the food, so your dog should learn that you control his food not him.

      If you want to learn more about how to establish yourself as the packleader take a look at this post:

      How to become a packleader your dog admires

      I do think that it would be a good thing get help from a professional dog trainer. This is because aggression can turn dangerous and especially with a big powerful dog. A personal dog trainer would be the best in this situation but if there is none available in where you live or if you can’t afford it then I suggest you take a look at THE Online Dog Trainer as he has a lot of experience of Aggressive dogs and with his help you should soon be able sort out this problem. Here is a link to a page of the Online Dog Trainer that deals with aggression.

      How to deal with an aggressive dog

      If there is anything more I can do to help you, feel free to write to me anytime. I wish you luck.

      All the best,

      Jojo

  • Our one year old Golden retriever for some reason growls and snaps at my two younger children ages 3 and 6 but my older two he loves. Today he bit my youngest while she was holding his collar. We have no idea how to stop this behavior and we all love him and don’t want to have to get rid of him. How to we help him stop?

    • Hi,

      When did this aggression issue start? It could be a case of jealousy or that your dog considers your two youngest kids to be some kind of threat. A common reason for aggression is resource guarding. Resource guarding is when a dog guards his possessions such as toys, food or his favorite place to sleep. When a small child takes or handles these things the dog might get aggressive in order to protect what he considers his.

      Is there any particular situations when your dog gets aggressive towards your younger kids or does it happen at any moment? I will do my very best to help with this but I need a little more information. Think if over and write back to me and we shall find a solution for this.

      All the best,

      Kindest regards,

      Jojo

  • my dog is a lab and is very aggressive to people, but will make up to them right away, in the mean time he really scares them and me. I know a lot of my family and friends don’t like to come over because of her

    • If your lab is aggressive to people it probably means he considers them as threat and does this to protect you. There are a couple of things you need to do in order to fix this problem.
      First of all, your dog must consider you as the packleader. Once it sees you as its leader it will look to for advice on how to act and by watching calmly greet your visitors your dog will understand that they do not pose any threat and the dog will remain calm. I suggest you take a look at this post that I recently wrote on how to become the packleader your dog admires. Here is the link to this post:
      https://dogtrainingeasily.com/how-to-become-a-packleader-your-dog-admires

      I also suggest you take a good look at Doggy Dan’s page on how to deal with an aggressive dog. Here is a link to his site:
      How to Deal with an Aggressive Dog

  • Hi I loved reading your post it is very interesting and informative it was so easy to read with some great pictures.
    I agree that some breeds can be more aggressive than others but I am a true believer that it had a lot to do with how the dog has been treated as well.

    • Yes, with correct training you can solve aggression issues with any breed, though some dogs (and some breeds) require more work than others.

      • My dog growls at my father in law when he doesnt have his walker. When he does have his walker, he loves him! How do I show him he is the same person with or without the walker? Or how do I prevent him from growling at him without it? Is it safe for my father in law to offer him a treat when he growls? Or is that rewarding?

        • I had the same thing with a friend’s dog. The dog used to growl at me when I had my motorcycle leathers on but without them she calmed down and things got better. In the case of your father in law I think you should tackle this problem together with him. Sit and stand next your father in law and call your dog over. If your dog growls, firmly say no and turn your head away, if he stops let your father in law give him the treat. Thus reward your dog when doing the right thing and ignore it when it does wrong. Your dog will understand that when he is calm and does not growl he will get rewarded and he will then also understand that your father in law does not pose any threat.
          Try this out and tell me how it goes.

          All the best and good luck.

          Jojo

  • I thoroughly enjoyed your article about aggression in dogs.

    Personally, my life with five Golden Retrievers has taught me a lot and we learned much together over the years. Thanks to trainers like you I have had some training in aggression and how to posture ourselves.

    Your handling of the dog was a great example of leadership which is necessary always and especially in a pack environment.

    The experience you demonstrated would make me feel very comfortable in the training of my dogs or others to recommend your services.

    I love and still love all my dog companions I’ve had and have always felt so appreciative of people who care as much as you do. All the Best.

    • Thank you.

      Dogs act out of instincts and aggression towards people is often rooted in the will to protect its family from danger. In some breeds of dogs these instincts are much stronger than in others as certain dogs were bred to protect and guard.

      Of course all dogs can become aggressive towards people but when it comes to Golden Retrievers I have never encountered this problem. They are just soo social and friendly. Have you had any problems with aggression with any of your Golden Retrievers??

  • Hi,
    I’m touring your site and is the second page that I can’t stop reading.
    I already sent this page to my friend that have a dog exactly as you described on this page.
    His dog is attacking anyone from cats to people, and every time that I’m going to my friend house I always calling him before I enter his house so he will put him away from the door house so I will not lose my arm 🙂
    I hope that my friend will use your suggestion and it will help his dog.

    • Thank you. Yes, dogs being aggressive towards people is really big problem especially with strong and poweful dogs. I wish your friend good luck and hope that my post will be useful for him. Otherwise he is very welcome to contact me anytime and I will do my best to help him. I can be reached at admin@dogtrainingeasily.com

      Cheers,

      Jojo

  • Nice article on dog aggression, very well explained and great tips how to prevent aggression in your dog.

    Dogs are much like people, some people are more aggressive than others. My dog is a big baby, even though he is a Rottweiler he never has growled or showed his teeth to anyone or any other animal.

    Maybe it is how they are raised, getting a dog as a pup might make a difference as well.

    • True, there really are individual differences between dogs and also differences between different breeds. How the dog is raised has a lot to do with it as well. A dog who feels secure and who’s owner shows strong leadership will rarely be agressive. I am sure you are doing a great job with your dog that is why he is soo kind and gentle.

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