Many dogs exhibit some form of assertive/aggressive behavior throughout their lifetime. There are many causes of aggression, stemming from lack of litter mate socialization, limited dog-dog interaction, and too much freedom as they mature. Dogs are pack animals and need to be socialized regularly with other balanced, healthy dogs.
Dogs, by instinct want to follow a leader, so routine and repetitious activities must be carried out for your dog daily. These activities must always show your dog that you are the pack leader, which instills a calm/submissive state of mind for your dog. By following the below tips on preventing dog aggression, you may just be invited back to your next neighborhood block party:
1. Food/toy possession. From the moment you bring your new puppy home, make it clear that no food or toy is theirs. I suggest to my customers to put their face and hands in the puppy’s food bowl to ensure that the dog learns that food is social and not possessive. I also suggest a “give/take” exercise with bones and chew toys. Give your dog a bone and take it away immediately. After this routine, give your dog the bone, let them chew on it for five minutes, and then take it back again. This will teach your dog that nothing is theirs and all food/toys are given and owned by humans.
2. Human first, dog second. How many times have you seen a dog on a walk and dragging its owner down the street? I call this the “ski boat” walk. The dog is the boat and the human is the skier. Not all dogs will take an assertive/aggressive stance, but any herding/sporting/working dog will have a much better chance of becoming “Alpha” if not shown the proper pack order sequence. Be sure to “lead” your dog on the walk, out your door, and anytime that you have forward motion. This will teach your dog to follow and not lead. Leave the skiing for your summer vacation.
3. Socialize your puppy from a young age. Many vets will recommend quarantining your puppy until 16 weeks of age, or upon completion of all necessary vaccines, including rabies. The first year of a dog’s life is crucial for socializing to build calm relations with other dogs and humans. So, when socialized with healthy and balanced dogs, your dog will have a greater chance of less assertive/aggressive tendencies as he ages. Form a “puppy social hour” at your home with friends, family, and neighbors dogs. Dogs are pack animals and will form solid social bonds with four or eight other balanced dogs. Dog parks are a good way to socialize your dog only if it’s a clean park with other healthy, well-trained, balanced dogs.
4. Make your dog work for everything. No free lunch is the point here! From a Chihuahua to a Great Dane, make your dog work for its food and treats. Have your dog sit before meals, at the curb before crossing the street, and before exiting your home. This routine will always have your dog looking to you for the next command, therefore, creating a dog follower, human pack leader relationship.
With the proper mixture of command work, nutrition, and exercise, your dog will experience the utmost state of mind and existence. By taking a “human first” approach with your dog, it will result in a natural “follower” instinct from your dog. Be a consistent and directive leader, and your dog will be calling you boss in no time.
• Mark Siebel is owner of DOGGIE STEPS Dog Training, LLC. He has trained more than 400 Valley dogs, speaks regularly at local schools about the importance of dog safety and ownership, and donates time to youths wanting to learn more about dogs. Siebel is a member of the Arizona Professional Pet Sitters Association and Australian Shepherd Club of Arizona. Contact him at (602) 318-0122 or www.DoggieStepsDogTraining.com.