My dog is showing signs of aggression. How do I socialise him without worrying that he’ll hurt another dog?
Not all aggression is equal — we can catorgorise aggression in dog into two main types: fear and protection aggressions. Both have different root causes and must be treated differently to ensure that your dog is not put under any additional stress. Fear aggression is usually caused by a behavioural issue and protective aggression is usually the sign of an underlying, untreated health problem.
Each dog has its own personality so before any steps are taken to improve the situation, we must first understand why the dog is behaving aggressivley. Is there a certain breed, sex or size of dog that your dog does not socialise well with or is it all dogs? Have there been any changes to your dog’s routine or living situation that could be causing the issue? Is your dog scared of people riding bikes, for example? Asking these types of questions can help you identify if your dog’s behaviour has a trigger that could potentially be avoided.
It is also important that you rule out any underlying medical condition that could be the cause of your dog’s distress and change in behaviour. A trip to your vet is always the first step in ensuring there are no health issues. If your dog is fit and healthy, it is most likely displaying signs of fear aggression and speak with a vet to put an action plan together.
Where possible, avoid situations that cause your dog to be aggressive, especially until you have an action plan from your vet in place. However, there are things you can start doing immediately.
Safety first: If you find yourself in a situation of canine aggression or conflict, do not use your hands to break up the fight, as you may cause yourself or others an injury. Instead use loud noises, or in a serious situation, a bucket of cold water to distract the dogs. As a dog owner, your reaction to a stressful situation can often create or reinforce a learned behaviour. Your vet will be able to give you a safe, effective strategy for how to properly handle your dog in between sessions.
Avoid large groups of dogs: Don’t put your dog into a situation where it is faced with a large number of dogs. This may mean rescheduling your walks or taking less popular routes. If you have an older dog, avoid puppies and younger dogs as they are highly energetic, which may agitate your dog.
Find a neutral environment: Many dogs with fear aggression are highly protective and territorial. If you have friends with other dogs, avoid bringing them to your house as this will trigger your dog’s natural instinct to protect.
You can also take your dog to a doggy daycare centre where it can play and socialise with other dogs under the supervision of a trained professional.
Using a basket muzzle: This option will make passers by, other dog owners and you feel much more at ease when out in public. However, ensure that you purchase a basket muzzle rather than a closed muzzle.
More dog care tips:
Dr Sara Elliott is a veterinary surgeon at the British Veterinary Hospital in Dubai. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.