If you’re new to dog ownership, and you’re seeing signs of aggression in your dog, you’re not alone—plenty of dogs experience these phases of aggressive behavior, whether they’re a recent rescue or you’ve had them for years. Thankfully, no matter when aggressive tendencies show themselves, you’re not stuck dealing with them on your own. Specific training classes and tips are available for you to better handle your pet, and to help your dog make the transition from high-strung or mean to calm, cool and collected.
Tips for the Home
Your first step with aggressive dog behavior can be trying to train your dog at home. As with any other training, positive reinforcement (treats, praise) will be more effective than training with negative reinforcement (hitting or swatting the dog)—try to praise your dog when they are showing good behavior like being quiet, sitting calmly, etc. This teaches the dog that you like it when they do things like that, and that when they act differently, they won’t be praised or get treats. Exercise extreme consistency with your training—make sure to scold the dog with a strong-sounding “No” when they are misbehaving, and to praise them when they show good behavior. This establishes a routine of how they should act. Pinpoint the reasons they are acting hostile (are they anxious, scared, jealous, angry?) and work from there. There are generally three types of aggression—dominance aggression, wherein the dog thinks he is superior to you; fear-based aggression, wherein the dog is afraid of a traumatic incident in its past repeating; and territorial aggression, which is what happens when another animal or person encroaches on the dog’s space. Territorial aggression is the most common, and while fixable, is very involved and labor-intensive—you have to be consistent and determined. Make sure to take your dog on plenty of walks so that it gets enough exercise—sometimes, this can mean hiring a dog walker to stop in when you’re unable to do so.
If you live in Chicago, and have an aggressive dog, there are a handful of trainers out there specializing in aggressive behavior. Here are a few that you can consider to start with:
- Chicago Paws – Serving Chicagoland residents as well as Evanston, Skokie and Lincolnwood, this trainer provides in-home training for your aggressive dog. Chicago Paws works with puppies, housetraining, aggression (towards dogs or other people), barking, separation anxiety, new babies in the home and the issues that can arise as a result, and much more.
- Found Chicago – Offering standard training as well as more specific “Boot Camp” training and private sessions, Found Chicago is located at 4108 N. Rockewell and is a non-profit organization serving Chicago dog owners. For more information about your dog, they start with a personalized evaluation to assess its specific needs.
- Barker Behavior – Serving a range of Chicago neighborhoods as well as some suburbs, these trainers help you learn how to train your dog as well as teach your dog better behavior. Their “Doggie Deluxe” option is a five-session class that is suited to aggressive, fearful dogs.
- Canis Familiaris – Located in Humboldt Park, Curtis Scott is behind this training program, including “Counsel K9,” a one-to-one private dog counseling session that will include you, your dog and your family. The session targets problem areas and provides solutions for them.
When you need held with an aggressive dog, don’t lose hope—sometimes, acknowledging there’s a problem that needs to be fixed is the best thing you can do.