Though fear aggression can be inherited, it mostly occurs as a result of poor early socialization or an early trauma in puppyhood. Most fearful dogs become aggressive as they mature, though not all do. There are still too many breeders who do not like letting puppies go to other homes at seven or eight weeks of age, even though there is plenty of evidence to show that it helps prevent temperamental problems from developing, especially fear aggression.
Fear Aggression In Public Places
Fear-aggressive dogs are very dangerous because of their unpredictable nature. Common triggers are numerous: pedestrians that walk with a limp, animated children, well-meaning people in the park who try to befriend your dog by petting it and thus imposing on it. They may believe that this will rid the dog of its fear; in general it has the opposite effect. Children, of course, are often attracted to pretty dogs, so you need to be firm and polite in explaining to the inquisitive child that they must not touch the dog.
It is best to use a muzzle if you feel that in the early stages of training your dog may bite, or if you have not yet gained the upper hand in controlling it. The caged variety are best because the dog can still pant, and treats can still be eaten through the gaps in the muzzle. It is imperative that the dog is taught to accept the muzzle in your home and yard for at least one week before walking the dog in public places.
Keeping A Safe Distance
When you’re dealing with a fear-driven dog, you’ll notice that what triggers or intensifies the fear in your dog is the distance between him and the objects of his fear. If your dog remains reasonably calm at 10 feet, that’s the distance you need to start from when it comes to training.
If your dog is calmer in a larger space, try to arrange for visitors to arrive at your home while you and the dog are in the yard. Always control the dog with a leash or collar. The space reassures your dog that it can escape if necessary. Everybody should act normally and ignore the dog, for it is direct eye contact or physical approach to the dog that often triggers the fear reaction.
If your dog remains relaxed, your visitors can slowly throw a treat near it. The distance between your visitor and the dog can be gradually reduced until your dog is taking the treat from their hand. This will take many sessions and perhaps require many months of habituation.
Do Not Impose On Aggressive Dogs
One of the most important rules when dealing with dominance or fear aggression is to move slowly and to not corner the dog or try to befriend it in the normal way. In fact, acting calmly and ignoring the dog completely is often the best way of reducing the dog’s fear. Many people who enter a house as visitors feel embarrassed when a dog is aggressive, especially if they are dog lovers. They react by trying to win the dog over with kind, reassuring actions or soothing words. Of course, these actions exacerbate the fear, causing more embarrassment all around.
Another Fear Factor: Vaccination Period
Another factor that can contribute to the development of fearful dogs is the recommended vaccination period. This occurs at one of the most crucial times of a puppy’s life between five and twelve weeks, which is the critical window of opportunity for socializing the puppy to the world it will live in – there is no second chance.
At seven weeks of age you should take your puppy on short car trips. Park the car in a busy spot and just sit with the puppy on your knee with the car door open, allowing it to see all around, habituating the pup to sounds, smells, and sights. Don’t let other dogs contact it physically.
Also you can invite people, especially children, and dogs that you know to be free of ill, healthy to your home, to accustom the puppy to them from day one. There is a small risk – however the risk of aggression developing later on is a greater worry, as it might mark the dog for life or end up having to be put down.
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