Dog bites are not acceptable. If you own an unpredictable dog that bites people you need to do the right thing. The right thing is euthanasia. If it hasn’t got to that point find a professional trainer. Here are some tips if you have a young dog that is reactive (aggressive) towards dogs, people and possessions.
When you have a pup or new dog member join your family, do not take their food away or stick your hands in their food. How would you feel if someone did that to your food while you were eating? Food is a primary reinforcer for dogs. They need food for survival so when they eat leave them alone. If you are concerned about food guarding, add food to their bowl while they eat. You want the dog to learn people approaching his/her food bowl are there to add treats not to take it away.
The same process works for bones and toys. If you need to take away a possession from the dog, offer them another item in return. The item can be another toy or a treat. Treat and take the item, treat and give the item. If you see a serious guarding issue, seek professional help. With aggression issues I cannot make your dog like people, dogs, or stop with the possessiveness. I can help but what I teach is control. It’s all about obedience.
Out is a command which means drop whatever is in your mouth. So I teach out, come, treat. I teach the dog to drop the item, leave the item, and get a reward to performing as he/she is told. I see a fair amount of dogs that are reactive. Most of the dogs that board with us have some level of reactivity towards other dogs. The social dogs get extra free time to chase, play, and hang out with our day care dogs. The dogs that can do day care are few. Most cannot. I am not sure why. It maybe the owners didn’t socialize the pups when they were young. All pups should attend a puppy class.
Puppies should have positive adult role models. If a pup gets attacked by an adult dog, they most likely will not be very trusting of dogs in the future. If a pups role model is a dog that is reactive with other dogs, this is a learned behavior. Puppies learn flight or fight at a very young age. Many nervous dogs learn if they act tough by exhibiting behaviors such as barking, growling, lunging, and showing teeth the scary thing goes away. Now you have a nervous dog that has learned aggressive behavior solves his/her inadequacies.
I have seen nervous pups join a day care pack and within minutes they are running and playing with the pack. One play date doesn’t do it, but ongoing day care visits does help. It is important to find a quality day care that does a good job of evaluating dogs they permit in day care. Any signs of unpredictability and they are out. With pups you want a positive dog experience. Dog packs teach appropriate dog behavior and I feel it is very important to have a well- balanced happy dog.
Pups should see people as treat dispensers. Years ago my brother owned a Pit Bull Terrier who was not fond of men. The dog especially disliked my brother-in-law, Dale. Dale decided to bring the dog a doggy ice cream cone every time he visited. It didn’t take long and the Pitty loved Dale. They were friends for life. It only took some treats… High value treats.
If you have an adult dog that is reactive the best advice is to teach the dog obedience. I don’t mean sit, down, come for treats in the home when there are no distractions. I mean a high level of obedience; come, sit, place, heel, down, stay during distractions. I mean down stay with distraction until I tell you to get up. I mean a 30 minute down stay. Control is your best friend to prevent a dog bite.
If your dog is reactive when he/she sees other dogs, your dog should be able to ignore dogs. Going for a walk head straight ignoring the distraction, which is another dog. If you cannot control your dog your dog controls you.
Control is your best friend and your best friend’s best friend.