Managing Your Pup’s Aggression? Avoid These Mistakes!
In this blog I want to talk about 3 common mistakes that well-meaning dog owners make when living with and managing their aggressive dog.
This isn’t going to talk about how to fix aggression or reactivity, just some best practices on handling them day-to-day so they don’t hurt anyone and so the problem doesn’t get worse.
1: Prong Collars
Prong collars have their place in dog training, but it’s not with aggressive or reactive dogs. I went into detail on why that is in this blog here, but to sum it up: prong collars will only frustrate your reactive dog even more when they’re in a reactive state.
If you’re alone in your backyard and teaching them to walk nicely next to you, that’s one thing. But using them out on a walk, and then popping the dog with it when they react is a recipe for disaster.
The frustration and angst in your dog will only build up more and more, and they might even redirect that anger toward you.
If you’re in a situation where your dog might react or be aggressive, don’t have a prong collar on them.
2: Matching their energy
Let’s say you have a human aggressive dog who gets furious when visitors come into your studio apartment (this was my situation for a while).
So when visitors do come, you put your dog in the crate, so then they can’t hurt the visitor. That’s sensible obviously.
Here’s where people go wrong. When the visitor walks in, and your dog goes ballistic, you can’t start screaming at them or trying to shush them or anything like that.
Not only will that not work, it’ll pour more fuel on the fire. Think about the dog’s energy in that moment: there’s a lot of it, and it’s very negative.
You getting worked up too, yelling at them, or shushing them, or telling them “it’s ok, it’s ok”, all of that just adds to the stress.
We’ve all been in situations where we’re frustrated, something as simple as missing a turn on the highway, and then the other people in the car start saying to you “OH you missed it” “turn turn turn” you get what I mean.
When they’re doing that, does it add to your annoyance and frustration, or make it better?
It’s not the best example, but I’m sure you understand.
You need to be completely calm, and ideally the visitor does too.
Don’t even look at the dog, don’t add any sort of extra energy onto the situation.
This applies in any circumstances where your dog is getting riled up inappropriately. Don’t add to it, stay calm.
3: Giving Them a Chance to React
I understand this isn’t always possible, but some people are always putting their dogs in situations where they get upset, and then get upset when the dog gets upset.
It sounds crazy, but I admit even I did this for a long time.
Even when Gibson was at his worst, if I had visitors come over, I’d put Gibson in the crate, and then when everyone was settled in, I’d introduce Gibson to the visitor.
There were many attempted bites and nips through me doing this. It was so stupid.
My thought process was that if I introduced him and kept everything calm, that he would learn there’s nothing to be afraid of.
But he wasn’t in the headspace to be able to make that kind of progress. He needed training and a lot of work before he was ready for that, but I just kept putting him in that situation and it went badly many times, which made things worse for everyone.
Avoid situations where your dog will get reactive or aggressive. Train them, build them up, then when they’re ready, teach them to be calm in those situations.