Dog behavior problems can be heartbreaking and life altering. With regards to aggressive behaviors, waiting or not addressing them quickly may have dire repercussions for both humans and dogs alike.
At times of aggressive dog behavior, the first step should be locating an experienced trainer or behavior consultant. A consultant can train owners how to reinforce desired behaviors and teach alternative behaviors; providing safe and effective means for preventing future episodes of unwanted behavior from reoccurring.
Trainers or behaviorists may employ other strategies, including counter conditioning and desensitization, response substitution and shaping as methods to alleviate distress in various forms of behavior change. All these techniques are less stressful than punishment and can help address various forms of negative behavior change; additionally they’re usually easier for the student to learn than traditional forms of punishment and can take longer to master than punishment alone.
When searching for a trainer or behaviorist, it’s essential to verify they have both certification and an ethical code of practice that includes forgoing any forms of aversive training techniques. A good professional will also keep up with current research in their field and implement best practices; should someone advocate outdated approaches like alpha theory it is best to find another professional.
Aggressive behavior typically stems from fear-based responses and requires knowledge of various forms of aggression to treat effectively. Trainers or behaviorists should understand what types of aggressive behaviors exist as well as ways to treat them, including territorial aggression, redirected aggression (i.e. biting anyone who attempts to stop the dog from attacking another animal), anxiety-induced aggression and pain-elicited aggression – among many others.
Once a safety and management plan is in place, a trainer or behaviorist can begin working on addressing the root causes of aggression in dogs. This may involve simple measures like providing your pup with chew toys to play with or more intense interventions like counter conditioning, desensitization and response substitution.
Goal of treatment should be to help the dog learn to cope with situations without reacting negatively, using behavioral interventions and/or medication as needed to control aggression. When dealing with serious aggression issues, professional help from trainers or behaviorists may suggest medication as part of an ongoing therapy strategy for optimal success.
Veterinarians may also provide useful assistance for aggression issues. A veterinarian who specializes in veterinary behavior, internist or neurology can perform a comprehensive physical exam and blood work test to look for medical conditions which might be contributing to aggression in a dog who had previously been friendly and docile but suddenly becomes aggressive; hypothyroidism or congenital neurological disorders like epilepsy could be to blame here – in such instances medication could significantly enhance results.