How To Handle Fear Aggression In Dogs

Hi Friends!

I am increasingly becoming more involved with my clients to assist in socializing and correcting negative behaviors. Over the past few years, I am helping more clients having dogs with fear aggression issues.

Because I am so passionate about ensuring that animals are able to enjoy the most fulfilling lives possible, I am providing tips and information I hope you will find to be beneficial. I am encountering more dogs with fear aggression issues. As a result, I would like to be able to create awareness and inform so that you will be able to correct and manage any possible fear aggression behavior that may arise.

A fearful dog may appear generally insecure and give off signals like cowering, shaking, or averting is eyes. Owners may describe their dog as “skittish,” “nervous,” or “snapping at people.” Not all fearful dogs are aggressive. There are different thresholds for when a dog will become aggressive towards different stimuli. For some fearful dogs, avoidance and ‘shutting down’ is their response when afraid. Others may become defensive: growling, snarling, lunging, or biting. Fear-aggressive dogs may appear worse when they are confined, such as in a crate, in their home, or on a leash. When a dog is confined by a leash, his option to flee is limited, so he may become defensive out of fear- towards other dogs or towards people. To work with a fearful animal, a trainer must be very skilled at reading the dogs body language and signals. Causes of fear aggression can include genetics (one or both parents may have been fearful dogs), experiences in early puppyhood, and lack of socialization and training. If you have a fearful dog, realize that it may be strongly genetic, as fear is a hardwired response in animals.


A fearful dog does the best with a patient and confident trainer who can make them feel safe and give them guidance. We want to teach the dog to defer back to us for guidance in situations where he is unsure. As dog trainers, we don’t want to associate punishment with something the dog is already afraid of, example “I am already scared of dogs, and now every time a dog comes around I get punished.” We want to make a good association of “Every time a dog comes around, good things happen!” This is “counter-conditioning.” You play a big part in your dogs behavior and training. It is important to not reinforce your dogs fear through trying to comfort them when they are displaying aggression (growling, snapping, lunging), which can be taken as praise for that behavior. To counter-condition, praise and reward must come before the dog shows aggression, and the training plan should use a desensitizing technique along with counter-conditioning.

First and foremost, you will need a strong and reliable foundation of obedience so you can have control, including sit, down, sit-stays and down-stays. Obedience gives your dog something else to focus on. Your dog should be getting about 30 minutes of exercise per day along with his obedience lessons. Anxiety medication may also be recommended through your veterinarian, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), amitriptyline, or clomipramine .Many times the dog is simply interpreting a human's behavior as threatening. Lack of socialization is one of the main culprits. It is key to expose your dog to as many animals and people as possible before it reaches fourteen weeks. Another factor is abuse: A dog that has been mistreated by humans will naturally be distrusting of them.

Thankfully, there are a number of basic steps that you can take to alleviate this potentially dangerous situation 1. Break down the triggers for your dog's aggression. Socialize your dog if it acts aggressively toward strangers. Display alpha male behavior if it is aggressive toward members of your family. Quickly correct these tendencies by using leash restraint. Slowly introduce your dog to more people, both children and adults, preferably before 12 to 14 weeks of age. Be careful not to crowd your pet as this can trigger fear. 2. Manage your dog's environment. If the animal is nervous around children, keep your pet on a leash at all times until it is accustomed to them. Dogs can sense fear, and this makes them skittish. Avoid shouting and hitting your dog if it displays aggression. This will only increase your pet's fear and consequent aggression. 3. Use different, real-life situations, like allowing your dog to greet someone at the front door. Take it to bustling places that have the potential to trigger fear and aggressive behavior. Be sure to keep your pet on a leash at all times until the animal is desensitized to this environment. Erect a fence around your house to prevent the dog from roaming at will. 4. Keep obedience training lessons for your dog short and consistent. Give your pet a treat for a reward as well as positive verbal reinforcement when it obeys your commands. Isolate the animal when it misbehaves. 5. Contact a professional animal behaviorist as soon as possible if your dog continues to display aggressive behavior toward people.

If you leave such behavior unchecked, one savage attack or bite can lead to untold problems. Over the past year, I have been expanding my pet care business to include more training, socializing, enrichment, and exercise programs for my clients' dogs. I am committing myself to be a resource of information and to help equip others in providing the best of care for their pets. I am always here for you and will always go the extra mile to ensure that your animal companions are happy and healthy. Please contact me anytime to schedule an initial consultation for socialization, enrichment, exercise and training.


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