How to Socialize an Aggressive Dog

An aggressive dog can frighten others and even cause injury to people and other animals. If you have an aggressive dog, it's your responsibility as an owner to keep that dog from harming others out of aggression. Muzzles and prong collars can help control your dog's aggressive behavior, but it will take re-socialization to permanently change that behavior. Here's how you can socialize your aggressive dog to make him friendlier and more polite.

Factors that Contribute to Canine Aggression

Most dogs need to undergo a socialization process when they are no more than 3 to 14 weeks of age, or else they may develop aggressive traits later in life. Puppies younger than 14 weeks should be handled with kindness and care by adults, children and other dogs in order to be properly socialized. They should be handled frequently, and never harshly disciplined.

Genetics can play a role in canine aggression, as some breeds are naturally more aggressive than others. Aggressive breeds include Dobermans, Rottweilers and German Shepherds. Inbreeding can exacerbate natural aggressiveness in a dog. Sexual responsiveness can also contribute to canine aggression; intact males, pregnant and nursing females and females in heat may be more aggressive than others.

A dog's environment also plays a role in fostering or discouraging, aggressive behavior. Poor socialization, poor living conditions and frequent harsh punishment can contribute to aggression, but dogs who are coddled and spoiled by their owners may also develop aggressive tendencies. Dogs who are often attacked by other dogs, teased or isolated can become more aggressive.

Socializing Your Aggressive Dog

Their are two important keys to socializing your adult dog. You need to make it clear to your dog that you are in charge, and that your dog owes you obedience. You must do this by earning your dog's respect, rather than by terrorizing him with harsh punishments that could make aggressive behavior worse. 

Aggressive dogs should be safely exposed to adults, children, and other dogs, but do not leave your aggressive dog alone with other dogs or people. Use a prong collar and, if necessary, a muzzle, to protect others from your dog's aggression while you are socializing it. 

Figure out what it is that sparks your dog's aggression, and socializing him by gradually exposing him to these triggers in a way that should make him realize that they present no cause for aggression. Daily walks and exposure to friends, family and other pets can gradually help your dog become comfortable with strangers and other perceived threats. 

if your dog displays aggressive behavior, correct him right away with gentle discipline. Praise him when he remains calm and friendly in a situation that would normally spark aggressive behavior. Do not allow your dog to bark, growl, jump up on or otherwise approach others in an aggressive manner. If you find yourself at odds with your aggressive dog, stand your ground to prove your dominance.

Getting Help with Your Aggressive Dog

Sometimes, neutering an aggressive male dog can help reduce aggressive behavior. Otherwise, you may want to seek the help of a professional trainer. If your otherwise mild-mannered dog suddenly develops aggressive traits, it may be a sign of a medical problem. See your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes of dog aggression.