Dog aggression is an overloaded word.
It can mean anything from staring, jumping, showing teeth, lunging, growling, barking, or the terrible B-word – biting.
Usually, aggression is used to describe dogs that overact to a stimuli (e.g. another dog, a stranger, food).
Reactivity is a new, perhaps less negative term, coined to describe the same behavior. Some trainers use aggression to describe dogs that overact as a result of dominance and reactivity to describe dogs that overact as a result of fear.
These terms, however, are just labels, and it is not useful to overly focus on which label to use.
The important thing is to recognize extreme behavior in our dogs, which causes us to lose control.
What constitutes extreme behavior varies from person to person, and is dependent on context. Mouthing and showing teeth in one context may just be play (top and right), while in another, it may be dangerous.
A problem only arises when the human/owner is not in control of the situation.
If your dog is biting you and causing puncture wounds, it is best to seek help from a professional dog trainer.
My Experiences with Dog Aggression
I was very embarrassed, shocked, and worried when my Shiba first showed signs of aggression. It happened four days after we brought him home (at 10 weeks old), when we took him to the vet.
The vet was very afraid of him and had to muzzle him to do an examination. She later recommended that we return him to the breeder. I never visited with this poor vet again, but at the time it was very difficult not to be embarrassed, and try to show that we were good dog parents by scolding and punishing our Shiba.
Many of my neighbors also gave us the ‘you are such a bad dog parent‘ look.
Because I was so embarrassed I made some very bad mistakes. The worst was using alpha rolls and other aversive techniques including leash jerks with him. My embarrassment also caused me to get angry, and frustrated with my dog.
I was jealous and hurt when my dog would behave better with other people. After all, I feed him and take care of him most of the time, why should he misbehave most with me?
Although it is very natural to have such feelings, they are very detrimental to helping a dog with his reactivity or aggression issues.
Dog Aggression and Love
Remember that your dog’s behavior is a result of behavior conditioning, and not from lack of love
It is natural for us to place our own, very human values and expectations upon our dogs but that is not the way they think.
Dogs respond to conditioning (classical and operant). Dogs will repeat behaviors that have good results and reduce behaviors that have bad results.
What constitutes a good or bad result can sometimes vary from dog to dog. If your dog is showing aggressive behaviors that are continuing to escalate, then he is inadvertently being rewarded for that bad behavior.
- Does he get to go on a walk when he jumps up on you and makes a pest of himself?
- Does he get to smell the other dog by whining loudly and lunging?
- Does nail clipping stop when he mouths or bites you?
- Do you back away when he growls and shows teeth?
If so, then your dog is getting what he wants through aggressive behaviors and will continue those behaviors.
Once we accept that our dogs are not acting out of hate, jealousy, or some other human emotion, we can move on and start reshaping their behavior by changing the consequences of their actions.
Dog Aggression and Other People
Do not worry about what strangers think. Your dog’s welfare is a lot more important.
Actively watch out for feelings of embarrassment, anger and frustration and try to redirect yourself to a more positive frame of mind. Rather than focus on the judgment of strangers –
- Think about the fun you had with your dog just this morning and how cute he looked with cheese bits all over his muzzle and his tongue hanging out in a goofy smile.
- Carry some happy pictures of your dog with you to help redirect your negative feelings.
- Remove yourself and your dog from the unpleasant stimulus as soon as possible.
Dog Aggression and Breed
Some dog breeds may be more prone to reactive or aggressive behaviors. Breeds that are strong-willed, stubborn, and independent will have a higher propensity for challenging you, and displaying aggression in that process.
Breeds that have a strong prey drive may easily become over-excited when they spot prey (e.g. squirrels, cats) and redirect that energy onto you if you thwart their instinct to chase.
Similarly, a strong protective drive may result in using aggression to guard territory, food, toys, or other resources.
More primitive dog breeds often have a lower reactivity threshold. I.e., they may easily go rear-brained when excited, stressed, or fearful.
Make sure to take your dog’s temperament and natural breed instinct into account while retraining his aggressive behaviors.
Dog Aggression – What to Expect
Dealing with dog aggression can be difficult, and may take a long time to fix, but …
- The rewards are well worth the trouble.
The journey will reveal many things not just about your dog, but also about youself. In the process, you will develop a special relationship and strong bond with your dog – and that in itself is priceless.
- Things will get better.
Many dog owners are going through the same thing, and their dog’s behavior has and continue to improve.
- Your dog will challenge you less as he matures.
… but he may keep challenging you. That is one of the joys of dog ownership 😀
When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
~~[ Author Unknown ]
If you are having aggression issues with your dog, know that you are not alone. I had many aggression issues with my Shiba Inu.
There are also many touching stories from the Toronto Shiba Meetup and Dogster about dealing with dog aggression.
More on Aggression
- Aggression: The Humane Society of the United States
- Behavioral View on Dog Aggression
- Desensitizing your Dog with Clicker Training
Canine Body Language
- Calming Signals: An article about Turid Rugaas.
- How to Interpret Your Dog’s Body Language, Facial Expressions and Vocalizations
my dog boo in the last 3 weeks or so has become progressively agressive At first he was growling and showing his teeth. tonight he fully attacked me and mauled my face, causing me to go to the hospital and get a face full of stitches. i didnt tell the hospital it was a dog bite for fear of losing him because his shots may not be up to date. i know i know this is a dangerous choice, but i just lost his brother last september when he got hit by a car right in front of us both. Boo is a Shitzu(?sp) lapsu apsu mix we believe. When I say this dog was the nicest, most affectionate, funny, smart, loving dog that i have ever seen in a million ways. he is about 4 or 5 years old. he doesnt even growl at anyone else only but me. everyone please help me figure out what i should do.
What is the surrounding context when he starts growling? What was he doing right before? What were the people around him doing? What was his body language like? What is his daily routine like? What type of training is he used to? What kind of structure and house rules does he have? When was his last vet visit? Is he moving around normally? Is his energy normal? Is he eating and drinking normally? Have there been any changes in his routine or the routine of others in the household?
When there are large and sudden changes in my dog’s behavior, the first thing that I do is rule out physical causes. When my dog is in pain or is in physical discomfort, he feels more vulnerable and may become more protective of his space and body.
After I rule out physical issues, then I start to look at behavioral causes. Dog behavior is very context dependent, so the surrounding context, temperament of the dog, past experiences of the dog, and more, all come into play. The first thing that I do when trying to change my dog’s behavior, is try to identify the source of the behavior. This is where a professional trainer can be quite helpful because he can read the dog’s body language, and observe the dog within the context of his regular routine and environment. In addition, given the seriousness of what you describe, it seems best and safest to consult with a good trainer/behaviorist as soon as possible.
When my dog growls, it is a warning and he is telling me that he is uncomfortable with the current situation. If I continue to push him, he will likely escalate his behavior, especially if he feels cornered. I always try to set my dog up for success and not put him in situations that he is unable to handle, or feels he has to resort to growling or aggression. I make sure to listen to his warnings, I try to maximize positive associations, and minimize negative ones. The more reactive episodes my dog has, the more likely he will become reactive in the future, and with greater intensity.
More on how I approach changing my dog’s behavior.
Natacha Cohen says
We have the most adorable 8 1/2 year old springer spaniel. He is incredibly tolerant and will allow small children to pet him, kittens to play with his tail, etc….
Except young dogs….
He’s fine with most adult dogs, but young dogs he bites, drawing blood. And he’s doing it more and more often.
People stop me in the street to pet him. He will sit there forever being pet by complete strangers, he plays with most dogs, but young dogs he bites. It is highly embarrassing.
What can I do???
Thank you. Natacha
Has he always been this way towards young dogs, or did this only develop recently? Does he bite right away? Who is the one who approaches, the Springer or the young dog? Are the young dogs all excited and high energy? What is the young dog doing – e.g. trying to jump on him, trying to sniff his butt?
With my Shiba Inu, I did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises to help him be more calm and relaxed around other dogs. However, I also make sure to protect him from rude behavior and things that he does not enjoy, e.g. butt-sniffs.
The key with my dog is to provide structured and managed exercises for positive greetings. At the same time, I want to minimize negative experiences with other dogs. The more positive greetings my dog has, the more my dog learns to associate other dogs with rewards and fun. Similarly, negative experiences will undermine that positive association, significantly set back retraining, and cause my dog to become more reactive.
More on dog social tolerances.
More on the friendly dog.
He Just Wants to Say Hi.
Embarrassed by my dog.
However, dog behavior is complex and very context dependent, so each dog and situation are different. When in doubt, I get help from a good professional trainer, especially in cases of aggression.
Imani Pinkard says
Hello i have a pitbull red nose, and blue nose. He is eight months old and a joy to be around when he wants to be. He has been trying to attack people in the house when he doesnt get his way. He’ll squat down as if he is ready to lunge at somebody. My father used to play fight with him alot and let him bite him whenever now he tries to do it with all of us and when we say no cause he bites to hard he barks and growls. I love him so much but i am scared in my own home. Do you think i can fix this if so how?!
With my dogs, consistency and structure are very important. I make sure to set up a fixed routine, a consistent set of rules, and everyone in the household applies the same rules and techniques. It is very important that everyone is on the same page so that my dog does not get confused about what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
More on how I teach my puppy structure and self-control.
More on how I train my puppy to control his biting.
However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and situation are different. Given that you have a powerful dog, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.
I hope you no longer let your father, or anyone else, playfight with him.
I have a six year old beagle. He’s always been kind of nippy. As of recently though, it’s becoming unbearable. If I pick him up he will attack me. The other day I was putting a warm cloth on his paws from the cold snow and he attacked me. When I pick him up, he doesn’t always bite but it’s more often than not. If we’re sleeping and I try to move him, he starts growling and tries to bite me. I don’t know what to do to get him to stop. It seems if anytime his legs are touched or he’s attemped to be picked up he goes into attack mode. I am worried for myself, but also for the well being of others. I’m scared one day he will hurt the wrong person.
Does he seem to be moving normally? What is his regular routine like and is his activity level normal? What type of training is he used to? Did he allow you to pick him up before but not now? What exactly has changed from before to now? When did he last visit with the vet? When there are sudden changes in behavior, sometimes it can be due to physical pain or discomfort. If there are sudden changes in behavior with my dog, I rule out physical issues first.
If my dog is healthy, then I start looking at other sources and triggers to the behavior. For example, is he trying to protect himself, does he simply not enjoy touches from people, does he not know how to interpret human affection, or is it something else? Dog behavior is very context dependent and aggression can be the result of many different things –
When I am in doubt, I get help from a good professional trainer to help me identify the source of the behavior. Once I have a good idea where the behavior is coming from, then I can start to take steps to help my dog overcome the problem at the source. In cases of aggression, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.
More on how I change my dog’s behavior.
I have a 7 year old American bulldog. He has always been aggressive around strangers but not all strangers. he is very protective of me and even if my husband raises his voice to me he will come stand in front of me and growl at my husband. yet my husband has never hit or really yelled at me. we have always disciplined him. we walk him everyday and he gets a lot of love and attention. I always thought he adored me and would never show aggression towards me of all people as he has always been a mommy’s boy. Long story short I was cleaning out the fridge and he kept standing in my way. I waved my hand in front of him and said Sarge out of the kitchen he jumped towards my hand and went to bit my hand as he was about to grab my hand to bit it he realized what he was doing and went to back off but it was too late. it wasn’t even a bit my hand ended up in his mouth but he didn’t really bit down. he growled but then put his head down and came to my side and leaned his head on the side of my leg and looked up with the saddest eyes as if to say oh shit what did I almost do. I was alarmed that he would even do this. my husband is very upset and said of all the people for him to even think to bit I never thought he would even think about it as he adores you and cries if you even leave him to go to the bathroom. could you please give me some advice on why you think he did this as I am upset he would even think of grabbing me. Thankyou.
Aggressive behavior can come from multiple different sources and can be triggered by different things.
Based on what you describe, it sounds like there is some resource guarding behaviors (e.g. guarding people). In terms of the hand waving, dogs are very attuned to detecting motion. Fast motion often cause my dogs to get excited or may sometimes engage their prey drive. This causes my dog to want to chase, pounce, or grab (with his mouth) on the moving object.
With my dogs, I teach them to have a soft mouth by doing bite inhibition exercises. I also teach them self-control, and I make sure not to put them in situations where they cannot handle, e.g. overly high stimulus environments, etc.
However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and situation are different. In cases of aggression, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer who can observe our dog and read his body language within the context of his regular environment and routine.
Guarding behavior can be dangerous, when it is not under our control. Our dog will exercise his own judgement and may bite others that *he* views to be a threat, for example, for coming near his person. I train my dogs not to guard resources, including their food, toys, and people. During my Shiba Inu’s difficult period, I got help from several trainers to help me with guarding and other issues.
Gina Bothem says
I am at the end of my rope. My 10 month old English Bulldog has started snapping at us. She did it once with me, several months ago, but it never happened again. Since then, we were able to get her litter mate so she would have someone to play with. They now play together a lot, and they tend to be aggressive with each other, with toys, bones, etc. In the last 3 to 4 weeks, she has snapped at my husband twice. He got angry the first time it happened, and swatted her with a newspaper. It got even worse. The 2nd time, he told me that he wouldn’t keep a dog that was a biter. He used to train dogs in the Army and said that they are so much harder to condition. She is my sweetheart. I love this dog with all my heart. I’ve wanted an English Bulldog since I was 16 years old, and now at 48, I finally have one. It breaks my heart to have to give her up, and I told him as much. He told me yesterday, “I’ll never make you give her up. We both love her too much. As long as she doesn’t get aggressive with the kids, we’ll never get rid of her.” Well today she snapped at my 17 year old, all because she tried to move her out of the way in the kitchen. She bent over and pushed her back, and that’s when she snapped at her. I don’t know what to do. I’ve never wanted to use a shock collar, but I’m prepared to do that if it means modifying her behavior, so we can keep her. Please help. 🙁 🙁
How long have you had her? What type of training is she used to? What is her daily routine like? What was the context when she snapped at you? What were you doing, what was she doing, what was in the environment, etc? What was the context when she snapped at your husband?
With my dogs, I set up a fixed daily routine and a set of consistent rules. I have clear rules on how to interact with people, how to interact with other dogs, etc. I make sure to slowly teach each new dog what my rules are. In this way, my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. I motivate my dogs to follow commands and house rules by following the Nothing in Life is Free program.
I set my dogs up for success by managing their excitement levels during play, and making sure that they do not lose control. I do this by throwing in many play-breaks, and carefully supervising their play-time. More on what I do during play-time.
More on how I discourage my dog from biting.
More on bite inhibition training.
I stay away from dominance and aversive based techniques. Here is why.
However, it is important to note that dog behavior is very context dependent. Therefore, each dog and each situation is different, depending on the temperament of the dog, his environment, what is happening in the environment, past experiences, routine, and more. This is why especially in cases of aggression, it is usually best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.
Was the dog sleeping at that time? When my dog is startled awake, he may sometimes air-snap. It is a survival instinct. Dogs are vulnerable when they are asleep. Therefore, I make sure that my dog is awake before making any physical contact so that he does not get startled. This is probably where the saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie” comes from. 😀
If I need my dog to move somewhere else, I call him to me or I give him the “Go Bed” command. In this way, he moves according to command and I can reward him for performing a positive behavior. I pre-train both commands beforehand. ASPCA article on how to train a dog to come when called.
As for shock collars, it is not something that I would use on my dogs or something that I would recommend to others. Here is why.
When I was having problems with my Shiba Inu, I read up a lot on dog behavior and got help from several professional trainers. It can be a challenge to find good trainers because the field is not well regulated. However, the ASPCA and APDT links I provided above has good information on what to look for while searching for a trainer.
We had some bad trainers, but the good ones helped me with timing, reading my dog’s body language, and more. To change my dog’s behavior, I need to understand where the behavior is coming from, I need to properly communicate with my dog, and I need to know what to do at the right time. Bad timing can cause a dog’s behavior to become worse.
More on how I deal with bad dog behavior.
More on how I train my puppy.
More on how I went about finding a trainer for my dog.
I have a 2 year old lab cross who is extremely aggressive with other dogs. We adopted her from the SPCA and when we got her they said she was aggressive with small dogs, but very people friendly. She certainly does love people and children, but she has attacked a Cane Corso, a Shih-Tzu and even a service dog, so she hates all dogs. We’ve spent over a thousand dollars in professional dog training (she boarded at the trainers for several weeks to desensitize her to other dogs and do obedience) and have worked on training her for two months with little improvement with other dogs.
She is a highly intelligent dog who was very easy to train on commands, and she is well behaved inside and absolutely trusted around our daughter, however outside the house she causes me a great deal of anxiety. We live downtown in a large city in a neighbourhood and building full of dogs, and we have no yard. After she injured me trying to attack a service dog (I have bruises weeks later and it caused a hematoma) I am hesitant to take her outside on my own, since she even tries to attack the dogs in our building and she can drag me. My boyfriend and the trainer tell me she is responding to my anxiety, but I have an anxiety disorder and honestly I don’t think it’s unreasonable that I would be anxious since this behaviour occurs almost every time our dog sees another dog. Our dog learned to tolerate the trainers dogs after several weeks of desensitization, but our dog will still try to attack other dogs with various trainers walking her. I absolutely hate walking her or even being around when she is being walked because of her aggression (I was diagnosed with PTSD) and I have no idea what to do now. We love her, and she’s amazing with our daughter and inside the house, but no one but my boyfriend is willing to walk her, she cannot stay in a kennel and we travel for work/family obligations. Any suggestions on what we can do? I appreciate any advice.
The thing with dog-to-dog desensitization is that the dog must be introduced slowly to increasing levels of the problem stimulus. For example, I started desensitizing my dog to a single other dog, who is well trained and under the control of a trainer. After a bit, my dog learned to relax with that dog, then I start desensitizing him to a different dog and so on.
However, if in the middle of retraining I suddenly put him in a building full of dogs, he will definitely become very anxious, panic, and start to act badly. This is because at that point in his training, he is not yet ready for such an environment. For systematic desensitization to work, I need to build my dog’s confidence and tolerance up slowly, by helping him associate other dogs with positive and calm experiences.
Each positive and successful experience helped my Shiba to gain confidence. Similarly, negative and reactive experiences will undermine his confidence and significantly set back training. Therefore, for training to be effective, I had to not only maximize successful experiences, but also minimize reactive episodes.
This ASPCA article has more on desensitization and counter-conditioning-
More on how I desensitized my dog to other dogs.
The energy part is certainly true. My dog is very sensitive to my energy, so if I get stressed, angry, frustrated, or worried, he will pick up on that, get stressed himself, and that might trigger a reactive episode. With Sephy, doing desensitization exercises helped me as well, because successful walks increased my own confidence and helped me to stay more calm. I also read up a lot on dog behavior, and always had a plan of exactly what to do if Sephy becomes reactive. As I learned to understand Sephy better and gained more knowledge on how to control him, I became more confident and less stressed.
Some people use a head-halti to control a large dog. However, like any other piece of equipment, it has its pros and cons. The head-halti needs to be properly fitted and used according to instruction. Incorrect use can cause harm to the dog.
Some people may also use a basket muzzle and other management equipment to keep things safe. Dog behavior is very context dependent, so the appropriate equipment to use will depend a lot on the dog and the situation. When I had troubles with my Shiba, I did a lot of research and reading, and the trainers we visited were also helpful.
However, it was a challenge to find good trainers. The dog training area is not well regulated, so we had some good trainers that gave us correct information and helped us along, and some not so good trainers, who gave us bad or incomplete information. Those caused more harm than good, but as I learned more on my own, I was able to filter those out. Below are some articles on what to look for while searching for a trainer.
More on how I went about finding a trainer for my dog.
My family has a 6-year-old Beagle mix(Female, fixed) named Maya and we have had her since she was 10 weeks old. She was the sweetest thing, very cuddly and playful. I was in Middle School when we got her, and mom had me train her on my own, so she has always been “my” dog. She was raised around a cat(who we gave away for unrelated reasons) and a pure-bred Mini Dachshund(Female, Fixed) named Lily. Maya is fully Kennel trained, but from reading your website, I trained her the “wrong” way(leash tugging, stern voice/scolding, lightly hitting the nose, etc. because My dad said she wouldn’t learn any other way)
We used to go on a lot of walks until one day, while strolling our usual route in the neighborhood, we were chased down and attacked by a large Pit Bull, unprovoked. (I even switched the sides of the street when I heard barking from behnd an 8ft tall chain-link fenced in Patio, which held at least five to eight dogs) Maya was bitten pretty badly, and a few months later, after I had finnaly worked up the courage to walk the route again, we were chased by a dog from the same household, which nearly got hit by a passing Minivan, and ran off wothout making contact. Since these two incidents, she has been very anxious or agressive with other dogs outside and inside of our home.
We adopted a Rescue Chihuahua/Shiba inu mix named Todd(Male, fixed) about a year ago. She loves to have a friend to run around and play with. She is very gentle with him even when they play fight, much to our relief. Lately however we have noticed a lot of disturbing agression involving dogs in general. It started with food agression. We feed the dogs breakfast and dinner, with a lunchtime treat or rawhide if they were good that day. She started to get super defensive over her rawhide chews and so we put her in her Kennel, and let it slide. We also fed her in there for the same reason. Once we didn’t lock the cage quite right, and a fight ensued between Maya and Lily. Maya, the younger, larger and more powerful of the two “winning.”
At least six other fights have occured since then, the most recent one being this morning, it woke up my sister and I, and neither of us know what caused it. We suspect is was a domino type reaction from Todd playing with a Pomeranian we are dogsitting running into Lily, who is 15 and nearly blind. Then Lily bit the nearest furry object, Maya, in a warning to “Quit horsing around, you crazy pups!”. But Maya then preceeded to panic and chomp into Lily at the neck.(Leaving three punctures and a vet bill in her wake)
We really have no clue though, and with this most recent incident, there is talk of giving Maya up to a Family with no other animals, and no small children. It breaks my heart to think we have to let her go, and I want to know if there is any kind of alternitive. There is minor talk of making an outdoors enclosure for her, but Dad thinks the neighbors will file complaints of her barking at the neighborhood cats and the horses who live on a ranch just behind our property. I really don’t want to lose my Dog, as Todd is My mom’s and Lily is my Dad’s. Plus Lily is 15 years old, and we are kind of emotionally preparing for when her time does come.
Maya is not agressive with Todd unless there is food involved and he tries to take it. Even then, she just growls and we remove Todd from the room until Maya is done. My mom is scared she will bite him one day, and dad is angry she keeps doing this and hits her with a newspaper a few times and yells before he locks her in her kennel for a few hours.(I have told him to stop being so agressive and he doesn’t listen) We are at our wit’s end. I don’t want to lose my dog, but we are running out of time and options. Is there anything we can do at all?
Thank you in advance as well as for taking the time to read this. My apologies for any typos I missed.
Dog behavior is very context dependent, which is why especially in cases of aggression, it is best and safest to get help from a good, properly certified, professional trainer.
In addition, in training my dog, consistency is very important. I set up a consistent set of rules, and I get everyone in the house to enforce the same rules and to use a consistent set of training techniques. In this way, my dog knows exactly what to expect from the people around him, and what we expect from him in return. This creates certainty, reduces stress, helps my dog build confidence, and helps my dog learn.
In terms of helping my dogs get along, I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. I supervise and make sure they follow the rules. One of my rules is the no-stealing rule. Whenever there are any valued resources about, I am there to supervise. I try to catch behaviors as early as possible and *redirect* it before it escalates into anything more.
If I am unable to supervise, then I separate my dogs in secure and safe areas. I am very careful while managing them, so that I set them up for success and keep everyone safe. That is my responsibility. I do not leave my dogs alone together unsupervised, until I am very very sure that there will be no issues. I make sure to remove ALL valued objects that may cause conflict.
More on how I help my dogs get along.
More on why dogs get aggressive over food and toys.
More on how I deal with bad dog behavior.
Note however, that I know my dogs very well. I know what their tolerance levels are, I am pretty good at reading their body language, I know their history, etc. This was not always the case. Initially, I had a lot of problems with my Shiba Inu, and during that time, we got help from several certified professional trainers.
Again, in cases of aggression, especially when there are children or young people in the house, it is best and safest to get help from a certified professional trainer.
Brady Blankemeyer says
My friend has a 3 year old American Bulldog who was protective of there male puppy (Pitbull). When the puppy’s boys descended the Bulldog became aggressive towards him. He went as far as to jump a gate and attack the this dog.
The puppy is very passive, and friendly so they know he wouldn’t have started anything. Just not sure why their bulldog has become aggressive towards this dog now. If it had to due with him maturing .
Dog behavior is very context dependent, and there is very little context here.
How long have they had the puppy? Is the Bulldog intact? What were the interactions between the two dogs like previously? Did they play? Were their interactions positive, negative, neutral? Did the bulldog like being with the puppy? Did he share his stuff with the puppy or was he protective of his stuff? How is the bulldog in general with other dogs? Has he been well socialized? What were both dogs doing before the attack? What were the people doing? What was the surrounding context? Were there other dogs nearby? Was there any warning? How serious was the attack?
Given what you describe, it may be best to get help from a good professional trainer who can meet and observe both dogs, within their regular environment and routine.
I have a 9 month old Akita mix. He is definitely part of the family (its just my husband and I). We thankfully made it through the teething stage with just a few minor tooth scratches. But now, he is showing aggression towards me, if I make him do something that he doesn’t like…a simple thing as getting off the bed. He will bare his teeth and growl. He hasn’t bitten me; I don’t let him have the opportunity. I love him to pieces but I don’t know what to do. He isn’t very social and we don’t have any other pets inside. Could it possibly be because I am female and he is an intact male? Please don’t laugh, I’m grasping at straws here.
Is sounds like guarding behavior, but it is difficult to say because dog behavior is very context dependent and there is very limited context here.
What is his daily routine like? What type of training has he had? What do you do when he bares his teeth and growls? Does he show the same behavior with your husband? Does he show aggression in other contexts?
My Shiba Inu started guarding his stuff when he was young. This happened because he would pick up all sorts of rubbish during our walks, and I would take those things away from him (often by force). Therefore he started to associate me (or people) coming near him with losing his stuff (could be food, a piece of tissue, a toy, or his sleeping area). As a result, he started guarding his stuff with aggression.
More on why my Shiba started guarding his stuff.
More on why dog’s guard their resources.
With my dogs, recall training is very useful. I just call them to me, and reward them very well for coming. This article from the ASPCA has a nice list of recall training techniques. Later on, I may also teach my dog the the “Off” and “Go Mat” commands. They get lots of good rewards for following my commands, so they are motivated to work for me. I also reward them very well when they are lying on their own bed or lying on the floor next to the couch. This helps to reinforce the behavior, so they actually prefer to sleep in their own bed or on the floor next to the couch. I set them up for success by closing the doors to certain rooms during the day. In this way, I can more effectively supervise them and redirect behaviors into something positive.
I usually start by teaching my dogs very simple commands (Touch, Look), before I move on to more complex commands (Recall).
More on how I trained my puppy.
More on providing structure and boundaries for my puppy.
I also follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs. If I need better control over my dog, I use a leash.
However, dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and each situation is different. For cases of aggression, especially with a large dog, I would get help from a good professional trainer. When I had issues with my Shiba, we visited with several trainers to trouble-shoot his more difficult behavioral issues.
More on how I deal with my dog’s bad behavior.