There is more misinformation about aggressive dogs than about nearly any other topic in canine care. Many people look at canine aggression as the product of certain “bad breeds.” Bull dogs, rottweilers and certain other breeds are singled out and demonized as aggressive killer dogs. In reality, any dog can become aggressive (or at least, unpredictable) through improper care and any dog can be taught to behave itself if correctly trained and cared for. Certainly, breed and temperament play a role in things, but they hardly determine the dog’s fate from the day he is born. Nurture is, overall, a bigger factor than nature.
Both dog on human and dog on dog aggression have a lot to do with socialization. Young dogs need to spend time with humans, learning to interact and play. When they are puppies, they should be treated in a friendly manner and disciplined gently. As they get older, their owners need to be on the lookout for dominance behavior. Alpha dogs will try to establish dominance over family members to negotiate a better place in the pack. They may growl at certain family members as a way to defend a particular piece of territory, for example. When people allow this sort of aggressive behavior to happen, it can spiral out of control. If you don’t direct an aggressive dog, it may eventually bite people as a way of asserting its dominance.
The best way to treat aggressive dogs is to train them thoroughly. Particularly if your dog has not been properly socialized as a pup, sending it to a pet training school can do wonders for its temperament. The dog will learn how to follow basic instructions and, more importantly, will grow to understand that it is never to act aggressively towards its owner, other people or other dogs. Knowing how to correct your own dog also makes a big difference. Praise your dog when it does something well, but correct it when it does something wrong. Don’t strike your dog. Instead, say “bad dog” in an angry, loud voice and put it in a timeout area. Physically hurting your dog when it acts up is unnecessarily cruel. It can also make your dog fearful and anxious, which can lead it to lash out aggressively. Keep a cool head and a firm hand with your dog, and you will be able to teach your best friend to be cool-headed as well. It takes a lot of work, but is well worth the effort when you get a calm, well-behaved canine.