How to Correct a Dog Who Is Aggressive

Handle aggressive dogs carefully to correct inappropriate behavior.
Handle aggressive dogs carefully to correct inappropriate behavior. (Image: dog on beach image by john barber from

Dogs serve as loyal companions and protectors for millions of people around the world. Not all dogs are easy to get along with, however, and some will show extreme signs of aggression. From pushing you aside to get through a doorway to snarling and snapping at people in the household, aggressive dogs can be difficult and dangerous. These dogs often feel that they are the dominant members of the family, and will assert that dominance. To correct this type of behavior, establish yourself as the top member of the family.

Choose a member of the family to be the dog's primary trainer. If the dog exhibits aggressive behavior toward one family member in particular, this person should be its trainer. The dog will learn its place below this human and will stop challenging him. This person must provide the dog with all of its needs (food, water, attention, walks, etc.); no one else in the family should provide these.

Give the dog commands in a soft but strong voice. Do not yell at the dog; this will increase defensive-aggressive behavior. If he is afraid of you, he may retaliate.

Give the dog small treats and praise in the form of verbal congratulations and petting if he performs an act on command. If he does not, withhold the treats and praise; the dog should get no attention, playing, food or water until he follows commands.

Establish yourself as in control of the dog's needs. If the dog demands to be let outside, command him to sit first. If he does so, provide the small treat and allow him what he wants; if he will not comply, walk away. Do not provide the dog anything he demands unless he obeys you first; this shows him that you are in charge of everything he does.

Avoid punishing an aggressive dog; they often do not understand that the punishment is taking place because of something they did, and will instead resent you for your actions. Never strike an aggressive dog. Instead, withhold treats and attention until the desired behavior is performed.

Tips & Warnings

  • The reinforcement/ignoring method of training can be used to teach a dog a multitude of behaviors. You must provide positive reinforcement for each good behavior, or else the dog will not perform them consistently and may grow more aggressive due to confusion.
  • As training progresses, have other members of the household, including children, give the dog commands and rewards at least once per day. This will ensure the dog understands that the humans are all above him in the family unit.
  • Never leave an aggressive dog alone with a child, even if he has been doing well with training. Children do not always understand how to treat a dog, and some behaviors (crying, falling, flailing, etc.) can make the dog think that he can challenge the child's place in the family, leading to aggression against the child.
  • Never attempt to train or approach an aggressive dog without the help of a professional trainer or animal behaviorist. Aggressive dogs can be extremely difficult and dangerous, and many require professional assistance.

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