Aggression – Barking – Bad Behavior

The Mailmans Worry

Fear Of An Attack Is Not A Good Starting Point 

It’s never a good feeling when you pet turns on you, exposes teeth or has a vicious look. Your 1st feeling might be fear. Your next thought might be “What should I do right now?”. Understand that your dog is preceded by thousands of generations of ancestors that survived because they were part of a “Pack” society. There are pecking orders within a pack and your dog is attempting to exert domination (in this instance over you). It is important to stop this behavior at the 1st signs when a dog is young. You must establish yourself as the “Alpha” being and leader of the pack. Failure to do so may result in a permanent problem when the dog is older. Aggressive dogs can create unpleasant or dangerous situations to owners, people, property or animal. It can frequently be corrected easily (if done early). Failure to train the dog early can sometimes result in situations where you are forced to put the dog down. No one ever wants it to get to that point.

Signs & Types Of Aggression

Growling, snapping, yapping, tooth exposure, and nipping/biting are signs of aggression. Make sure that your dog does not have a medical issue or injury that could be the source of the symptom. Common types of aggression are fear, dominance, possession, gender aggression (male to male or female to female), and parental protection aggression. There are lists of defining actions that allow the trainer to determine the appropriate remedial or corrective actions  to be taken in each circumstance. See our Articles  Links webpage for further information on each type. Your dog trainer will also provide you with helpful documentation relating to proper dog aggression remedial treatment. Here are a few highlights. 

  • Fear Based  – Dogs that have been abused in prior human exposures may snap in a perceived difficult position. Submissive body language is usually a sign of fear.
  • Dominance  – Your dog may try to become the “Alpha Being” of the pack (meaning your family). It may exhibit aggression to control people, territory or other dogs. Your mission is to take charge as the “Alpha” and establish leadership.
  • Possession  – Certain objects such as feed bowls and sleeping materials can trigger aggressive responses. Establish control and condition the animal to a different response to avoid future flair-ups.
  • Parental      – Sibling rivalry and maternal protective acts by the mom can induce some forms of aggression. Socialization training to people and other animals as puppies at an early age is the best prevention.

Breed Selection

Some breeds are naturally more aggressive than others. It’s wise to research articles & seek advice on breed tendencies before making your choice. It is important to select a breed that suits your comfort level, lifestyle, personality and family environment. It should also be noted that some breeds have a tendency to become more dominant which can lead to aggression as they mature. Knowing this upfront is always good.

Corrective Techniques For Serious Aggression

First understand that it is your responsibility to keep others safe. If you have any concern about your dog harming others (especially children) take all precautionary but temporary measures for safety. These may include leashes, caging, muzzles, or other aids that are preventive measures until the training has altered undesirable behavior.  Corrective measures to cure aggression permanently in dogs that do not respond favorably to normal behavior modification training are usually fear-based and should be used only as a last resort. Your dog must learn to understand that people and other dogs are not to be treated with aggression, however excessive force is never an acceptable methodology. 

Barking Good Or Bad

All dogs bark and there are times when barking is a God Send. Dogs can hear at higher frequencies than humans and their sense of smell is in a different league. Their bark can alert people to any number of things that are useful and protective. Just because you can’t hear something does not mean that your dog can’t!  On the other hand, continual howling or yapping for extensive periods on a daily basis can tax one’s sanity and patience. You do not want it to become a nuisance in your own home and that of your neighbors. There are techniques that can be used to curb the apparent unwarranted barking, but first make sure that your household electronics are not the source of the disturbance. Did your garage door or speakers on your entertainment devices causing vibrations which stimulate the response?  When you are sure that you equipment and environment are not the cause of the barking, you can use a spray bottle with water gently sprayed to their hind-quarter with a “No Bark” command should eventually change the behavior. Repetition is key however, teaching the dog the “No” command is a prerequisite. Refer to our Obedience & Behavior webpage for more information.