How To Socialize An Aggressive Dog

Having a dog that does not know how to socialize (handle the triggers in his environment) and exhibiting aggressiveness as he faces them, will pose a big challenge to you and he could also attack your other dog in your home.

Socialization is making sure that your aggressive dog gets exposure to his surroundings and feels comfortable with the world (people, pets, things, places, smell) that he is living in and enjoys being around without any fear or anxiety through overcoming the stimulus that causing his unease.

Socialize Your Aggressive Dog

Socialization which is exploring the world to your aggressive dog should be carried out using the 3’S which is to keep the exposure session safe, short and slow.

Make sure that the environment is safe not only for your dog but also for other around the area.

Keep the exposure session short and as soon as you see that your dog feels tense up and uncomfortable, stop immediately and bring him back home.

Do not rush in the training. Keep it slow. You should not expect your dog to be able to socialize without any difficulty after just one training session.

So gradually increase the frequency of the stimulus when your dog starts showing progression in the training.

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Eliminate Stimulus That Trigger Aggressiveness

You can’t expect your dog to socialize if he keeps exhibiting aggressiveness. So your very first step is to find out what makes your dog turn aggressive and work your way to have that stimulus minimized or eliminated.

There are numerous triggers that could possibly lead to this unwanted behavior and you would certainly have to spend some time with your dog to gradually find out these stimuli.

Say for example, if you find that your dog starts to get aggressive the moment you have a visitor in your home, one of the possible stimuli is that he sees your visitor as invading his territory, and he feels insured and a threat to his safety. 

What you can do is to make him focus his attention to you and while being very calm, give him the command “Stop!”. Then give him a treat when he has calmed down. 

This will help him to associate that by not acting aggressively, he is getting a reward and there is no threat to him. This will make him more “open” to accept your visitors in your home.

Of course, this may take some practice for him to get trained but ultimately, he will learn to socialize with people based on the positive experience that he had gone through.

Introduce Your Dog To New Experiences Regularly

Make every opportunity to introduce your dog to multiple new experiences and keep in mind the 3 principles which are to keep the session safe, short and slow.  

For example, start taking him to new places such as car rides, short walks on less busy roads or a visit to a quiet park. 

Make sure that when walking in the public area, have your dog on a dog leash as this will help you to manage any unexpected trigger while he is still learning how to socialize.

Also keep some form of distraction kits such as his favorite foods or toys with you so that you make use of them to distract your dog’s attention if he gets aggressive as a result of some stimulus.

By getting him used to new things you will not only help him build confidence but build a stronger bond too.

Keep observing his behavior and react instantly (distract him and get him out of the situation) if he shows signs of tense up.

Don’t rush on the socialization training. As you progress, you will find that each new environment provides new and exciting experiences for your dog.

Positive Reinforcement

There is no better motivator for good behavior than positive reinforcement. Unlike physical punishment which is a type of negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement is a type of approach that is potentially more effective because it is a type of stimulus that is consistently rewarding. 

The primary objective of positive reinforcement in behavior modification is to produce a type of association between the behavior and the stimulus (or target) in which it occurs.

This creates a reliable association between the received stimulus and the elicited behavior in a positive experience. With respect to dog training, this means it is far better to use rewards than punishments.

With the right sequence of stimulation, the dog learns more quickly about what the desired behavior is and how he is supposed to do it.

Reinforcement can be as simple as praising and petting your dog for something that you know is a behavior you like. 

You can also use reinforcers such as food treats and physical affection. Physical touch is a powerful reinforcer, so your dog often wants to do something to get you to pet him.

Say for example, your dog tends to get aggressive whenever he sees another dog and will start to bark and attempt to attack him.

What you should do to help him overcome this barrier and learned to get along with other dog will be:

1. Do the training in a safe and controlled area, your backyard will be an ideal choice

2. Get a well-trained dog (Dog A) to your backyard, keep your dog on a leash and away from Dog A first. You can look for a friend who had a well-trained dog to help you on this.

3. Slowly move your dog to Dog A and keep a close lookout on his reaction. If he starts to tense up and show his teeth, back off and use distraction to get his attention off Dog A.

4. When he has calmed down, reward him with his favorite treat and move on again with the training. Keep repeating this steps till he feels comfortable to stay close to Dog A.

5. Of course, as I have mentioned in the start of the post, the 3’S that you should adhere to:

  • Safe – your training is conducted in your yard which is a controlled safe environment with limited external stimulus other than Dog A.
  • Slow – do not rush on the training. You might need many sessions to get your dog feel comfortable to socialize with Dog A.
  • Short – Dogs have short attention spans and prolonged training will make your dog lose his interest in the training and try to get away. So keep each training session to only 15 minutes.

The key point in this training is to keep rewarding your dog with high quality treats as he shows improvement (not exhibiting aggressiveness) when you progressively move him closer to Dog A. 

The goal is to make him aware that there isn’t going to be any life threatening issue when he gets near to a dog and in fact, he is getting a reward for just being with them.

This will ease his fear and anxiety and get him to socialize well with other dogs.

Obedience Training

You will have better control over your aggressive dog during the socialization process if he has completed his obedience training.

So you should begin the training as soon as possible. This is the best way to cure an aggressive dog in many cases. 

When starting obedience training, have multiple high quality treats with you. Never give any treats to your dog without asking him to do or follow your desired commands.

The key point is that he had to learn that only by following your instruction and executing it, he would then earn his reward.

Train him on the basic obedience commands such as “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “wait”, “drop off” as these commands will be put to good use during the socialization training (if he ever gets aggressive).

Every time your dog follows your command, reward him immediately with a treat. It is important that you are consistent with the training and use the same “word” throughout the session. 

Do not simply interchange the “sit” and “sit down” commands as your dog will get confused and will not know how to react.

Your Behavior Count!

Does this come to your mind that your dog’s aggressiveness during socialization could be the result of your emotional state?

You see, your dog sees you as his Alpha and when you exhibit signs of stress, nervous or anxiety, this is going to be picked up by him, and he will imitate your behavior and acts aggressive.

So be calm at all times when you are out with your dog on his socialization journey and you will see great success in the training.

Health Issue

At times, your dog’s aggressiveness could be the result of his physical pain or some related health issue such as hypothyroidism, seizures, brain conditions that make him really uncomfortable and unable to manage his emotion.

Visit a vet to have your dog carried out a medical examination to rule out this possibility. Certainly, you can’t expect a dog that is suffering from pain and discomfort to be able to socialize.

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Socialization is nothing more than exposure to your dog all kinds of stimulus. Each experience will have a different consequence.

Your dog will adapt to these situations slowly and by adopting positive reinforcement, you can certainly make your dog socialization training a pleasant and successful one.

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