Canine Aggression Dog Training

Aggression dog training varies based on the type and severity of the aggression. However, no matter what the aggression, there are many similarities in training.

Types of Aggression

Though it may not seem so, most aggression begins with fear. At some point, the dog learned that aggression caused the scary thing to disappear. Since this behavior is successful, the dog will continue to use it with increasing confidence until he doesn't appear fearful at all.

Fear aggression can develop toward many things: people, dogs, other animals, grooming, noises and other inanimate objects.

Other common types of aggression include:

  • territorial aggression, which is often innate
  • resource guarding, in which a dog guards resources from owners or other pets
  • prey drive, which is also innate
  • frustration, which looks like aggression but is actually just excitement
  • rage syndrome, which is a disorder that causes your dog to react aggressively for apparently no reason

If the aggression appears suddenly, consult your veterinarian before beginning a new training program. Rage syndrome can often be caused by seizures or other medical problems.

Stay Positive during Aggression Training

Since most aggression begins with fear, it isn't effective to punish. This often increases your dog's fear and causes him to continue to react. In fact, recent studies have shown that using aggressive training methods with your dog increases the likelihood of aggressive response.

Even if your dog's aggression isn't based in fear, punishment will often be ineffective. Your dog isn't reacting aggressively because he doesn't respect you. He's doing so because he doesn't know how else to react. Instead, you must teach him how you want him to behave so he understands.

In doing this, try to make training as nonconfrontational as possible. You don't want your dog to practice the behavior, so limit his exposure to instances where he would practice the behavior and use leashes or other nonconfrontational items to remove him from unexpected situations.

Desensitization and Counter Conditioning

Most dog training programs involve desensitizing your dog to the emotion causing his aggression and then rewarding him for behaving a different way.

Counter conditioning means teaching your dog that the things he fears should actually make him happy. To do this, you give him treats or toys when he sees something scary. If you do this each time, he will begin to see the scary thing as a good thing.

At the same time, you must desensitize him to the things he fears by keeping him at a distance where he doesn't react. If he's afraid of people, keep him a safe distance where he can still focus on you. If it's noises, start at a low volume. Gradually, move him closer to the scary thing as he becomes less frightened.

Teach an Alternate Behavior

In other cases, you may want to teach your dog what you would like him to do instead of react aggressively. For example, if your dog is guarding his food, teach him to walk away from the food and lie down at your command.

To teach this, you must first teach it 100 percent without food present and then begin to add in low value food until you work your way up to the food he guards most. This method may be used in conjunction with desensitization and counter conditioning.

Hire a Trainer

Since aggression training often requires many different training techniques, the average owner may find it overwhelming. If you find that the aggression isn't improving, hire a professional dog trainer.

There are many different trainers available that specialize in aggression and offer a variety of methods, including positive. Many web sites list certified dog trainers, such as and