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Tips for Fear-Aggressive Dogs

A fear-aggressive dog may lunge at people or other dogs when they approach or turn away. Fear-aggressive dogs tend to lunge or bite in an attempt to control a situation in which they feel frightened or feel that they can't escape.

* If the dog is acting out because he is defensive, the dog needs to learn confidence and trust in the handler. That way, the need to protect himself diminishes. The handler/owner should be Alpha, and the dog should learn that it's not the dog's decision when and where to aggress.

* If the dog is acting out due to a dominance issue, the handler/owner needs to teach the dog that the handler -- the leader of the pack -- is controlling the situation.

* Often, fear aggression shown to other dogs results from the dog feeling uncertain of the outcome of an interaction -- fear of the unknown. Aggression is a panicked response stemming from loss of control. Ignorance leads to fear, and fear leads to aggression. The dog may feel at risk of injury; and might sense that confrontation is inevitable.

* It is a natural tendency among dogs to overreact. They are also have difficulties generalizing situations. This explains the dog who gets along well with another dog living in the home, but who fears other dogs. Most likely, the dog has not been properly exposed to other dogs in a safe and controlled environment. Group obedience classes can be very helpful in this regard.

* If properly conditioned to view other dogs as non-threatening, and properly supervised (keep the dog on leash), a fear-aggressive dog can learn to behave better.

* Be careful that you are not rewarding a dog for aggressive behavior.

* If you crate a fear aggressive dog, open the crate door from the side vs. leaning into the crate when releasing the dog (since the latter practice might be perceived as threatening to the dog).

* Counter conditioning can help the dog learn to react to a stimulus in a different manner than he does now. If the sight of large men triggers lunging, work to teach the dog channel his reactive response into a sit-stay (providing treats). Over time you can teach him to accept a treat gently from a large man.

* Helpful books include Nicholas Dodman's "The Dog Who Loved Too Much" and "The Cautious Canine" by Patricia McConnell. Useful web pages include: http://www.wonderpuppy.net/canwehelp/dbfear.htm or http://www.marin-humane.org/html/behavior.html

Good reading on Fear Aggression:












"The Cautious Canine" by Patricia McConnell

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport