Aggressive Dogs
Aggression is a serious problem for many dog owners. Behaviors such as growling, snapping, or biting are disturbing and frightening. Dogs of any breed are capable of aggression. And while aggession cannot be cured overnight, there are steps you can take to manage aggressive behaviour and hopefully stop it.

First Talk to Your Veterinarian: Dogs who show abrupt signs of aggression may have an underlying medical problem. There are a number of circumstances and diseases which cause aggressive behavior. Talk to your vet to determine whether this is the case for your dog. Treatment and medication may make a big improvement in your dog's behavior.

Call in a Professional: (You could think this is self-serving but not really!) If you have ruled out a medical problem, it is time to call in a professional dog trainer or behaviorist--dog owners should not attempt to fix this behavior on their own. A professional can help you create a plan to manage your dog's aggression. To find a professional dog trainer or behaviorist, ask your veterinarian for a referral or check out NADOI (National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors) .

Determine What Produces the Aggression: The first step is to figure out what causes your dog's aggression. Some dogs react aggressively towards children or strangers. Others growl when someone approaches them while they are eating or chewing a bone. You cannot come up with a plan to change your dog's behavior until you know the reason behind it.

 Avoid Situations that Produce Aggressive Behavior: Once you know what causes your dog's behavior, you can avoid these trigger situations. If your dog growls over his food bowl, you can feed him in his crate. If he is aggressive towards strangers or other dogs, you can keep his exercise limited to your own backyard.

Create a Plan: Your professional dog trainer can help you figure out the best plan for managing your dog's aggression. The plan will be different for each dog depending on the cause and the degree of the aggression. In most cases, you will use positive reinforcement (i.e., lots of treats and praise) to teach your dog new behaviors. For example, if your dog is mildly aggressive towards strangers, start off by teaching your dog to focus on you.  Then, have your dog remain far enough away from the stranger so as not to trigger the aggressive behavior. The distance should be far enough away so that your dog does not start to growl or snap. Have the dog look at you and give him lots of treats and praise. If needed stand in the line of sight between your dog and the stranger. Gradually decrease the distance between your dog and strangers, continuing to use the positive reinforcement. Your dog will begin to learn that strangers equal treats, and you should see a decrease in aggression.

Be Consistent, Patient, and Positive: It is important to keep things positive. Punishing your dog for aggressive behavior usually backfires and can escalate the aggression. If you respond to a growling dog by hitting or yelling, he may feel the need to defend himself by biting. Punishment may also lead to your dog biting without warning. For example, if your dog growls at children, he is letting you know that he is uncomfortable around them. If you punish him for growling, he may not give this warning the next time he gets uncomfortable. He will simply bite.

Other Considerations: Of key importance is whether or not your lifestyle allows you to stick with a plan to correct aggressive behavior. For instance, if you have a dog who growls at children and you have kids, it is impossible to avoid the situation which brings out his aggression. In this case, the best option for you and your dog may be finding him a new home.

Aggression Is Not Something that Goes Away Overnight. It is important that once you have a plan of action in place, you are consistent. Stick to your plan and do not try to jump ahead to the next step until your dog is ready. Although it can take several months or more, with patience and persistence you should see changes in your dog's behavior. For help, seek out a dog trainer or animal behaviorist.