How to Resolve Fear Aggression In Dogs
Aggression is tough in all forms, but fear aggression is very tricky and often times, can be unpredictable. Fear aggression is when a dog is put in a fearful situation, and their response is to act out aggressively, usually toward the trigger that sets off the fear (though some dogs will simply lash at out anyone or anything when scared). Dogs have the instinct to either flee a fearful situation (flight), or confront it head-on (fight).
Many dog owners with fear aggressive dogs become worried that this is a permanent issue, that the fear is so ingrained in their dog’s mind, that they will never overcome it and never stop acting out. However, with enough time, consistency, and gradual exposure through a reward-based training system, a fearful or nervous dog can overcome this problem and transform into a more confident, calm dog!
The first step is determining what is causing the dog to be fearful. Is it loud, startling sounds, such as the noise of heavy traffic or fireworks? Is it people in general, or maybe children that are often running around or crying loudly? Does your dog seem to be fearful of other dogs his size or bigger, so he puffs his chest and present himself as a tough dog that no one should mess with? If you can easily tell what it is that sets off your dog’s fear aggression, you’re already a step ahead. If it still seems confusing or unpredictable, definitely consult a professional, both a trainer and a veterinarian.
The next step is evaluating the relationship between you and your dog. If you’re going to guide your dog through their fears, they need to trust you and also follow your lead. Many dogs, while having a loving relationship with their owner, will still avoid listening to their owners consistently and not view them as their leaders. This must be addressed before further steps can be taken. If your dog cannot reliably listen to you in controlled settings, there’s NO way they’re going to follow through when things get chaotic.
If there’s an established leadership for the owner and they know what sets off their dog’s fear, it is time to work on a variety of mentally stimulating exercises. Distraction training is very important, and this can be helpful as you’re slowly exposing your dog to the thing that sets off their fear aggression. We don’t advise “flooding” the dog with the fear stimuli, as that could cause more anxiety and aggression. Instead, make it a process, and with this, work on building your dog’s confidence through training exercises that involve enhancing their focus and succeeding in a variety of productive tasks.
It can be a lot of work and time, but fear aggression CAN be treated! There’s no need to subject you and your dog a lifetime of anxiety due to their fear aggression…get the help your dog needs and bring them peace of mind! If you’re struggling with your dog’s fear aggression, call us and we’ll assist you immediately! We can reached at 405.493.6490 or e-mail us using our contact form!