Understanding an Aggressive Dog – How to Calm, Training and Handling

aggressive dog

Aggressive Dog Top 10 Tips How to Calm, Training, Genetics and working through the difficult decision to surrender. As a dog owner, you are responsible for all that your dog does. Even a normally calm dog can suddenly get aggressive if it feels threatened or afraid.

Dealing with an aggressive dog can be dangerous and challenging. Therefore, it is important to handle the situation with caution, understand the root causes behind the aggression, and use the right training techniques to prevent it.

It is important to understand that all dog aggression stems from one or more underlying causes. Once you understand these causes, you can take the right steps to treat the problem.

This aggressive dog guide covers different aspects of canine aggression, such as

  • What causes dog aggression?
  • Signs of aggression
  • Genetically aggressive dog breeds
  • How to calm an aggressive dog
  • And more…

What Causes Dog Aggression?

aggressive dog breed

Dog aggression mainly stems from the following causes:

  • Lack of Socialisation – A dog that has not been exposed to other dogs, experiences, or situations during its crucial developmental period could end up being stressed or fearful when those situations arise. This can manifest as aggression.
  • Fear or Anxiety – A dog that is afraid or anxious may use aggression as a defence mechanism. Loud noises, certain people, or situations like being left alone for long periods can trigger fear or anxiety-related aggression.
  • Past Trauma – a dog that has endured abuse, neglect, or abandonment and has not been exposed to early enrichment is more likely to be aggressive in adulthood.
  • Illness or Injury sudden behaviour changes in a normally calm dog can become aggressive if it is in pain, injured, or sick. Please do not handle such a dog and have your vet examine it.
  • Possessive or Territorial Aggression – dogs usually get aggressive if they feel their family members or property are threatened. In some dogs, this type of aggression can get out of hand and could become a safety issue.

Signs of Dog Aggression

signs of dog aggression

Some common signs of canine aggression include

  • Stiff body
  • Ears stand up
  • Tail erect
  • Raised hackles (hair on the neck and back)
  • Eyes focused
  • Barking
  • Lunging
  • Growling
  • Teeth baring

Genetically Aggressive Dogs

how to calm an aggressive dog

No dog breed is inherently aggressive. However, some breeds are more genetically prone to aggression than others. These include:

  • Cane Corso 
  • Pit Bulls
  • Akita Inu
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Rottweiler
  • German Shepherd
  • Chihuahua
  • Dachshund
  • Siberian Husky
  • Chow Chow
  • Alaskan Malamute

Please note that individual temperaments can vary greatly within a breed. 

How To Calm an Aggressive Dog?

aggressive dogs

Here are some steps to calm an aggressive dog:

Safety First

You must always prioritise your safety. Make sure to have a safe exit away from the aggressive dog. Remove all the hazards and triggers in the dog’s environment.

Remain Calm

Dogs are sensitive to human moods and emotions. Avoid showing fear and stay calm. You can focus on your breathing. Avoid sudden movements. When you remain calm, chances are that the dog will calm down too.

Some calm body language cues you can use when you are around an aggressive dog are licking your lips, yawning, turning sideways to the dog, etc. These can diffuse the tension and keep the dog calm. 

Give the Dog Space

Dogs tend to feel threatened if you crowd into their space, and that can trigger aggression. Give the dog space to escape and do not make eye contact.

It should not feel trapped. Crate training is recommended, many dogs like having a cosy crate, as it gives them safety and protection. However, some dogs may feel trapped or might get even more aggressive if confined.

Identify and Remove Triggers

surrender an aggressive dog

If a dog gets aggressive due to certain triggers like other pets, noises, etc., try to remove them from its environment. Give the dog a quiet place to rest. Minimising triggers can help you avoid aggression in stressed dogs.

Maintain a Consistent Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit. They like to follow strict schedules for meals, naps, and walks. If you have recently rescued an aggressive dog, please maintain a strict routine for these activities. This can reduce stress and anxiety-related aggression.

Stimulate The Dog Mentally and Physically

By stimulating an aggressive dog mentally and physically, it can improve its well-being and reduce aggression. Here are some tips:

  • Have the dog work for its food. Use puzzles and treat dispensers or treat-stuffed Kong toys.
  • If the dog is receptive, teach it some tricks.
  • Take the dog out on multiple walks a day.
  • Play a game of fetch or tug of war with rope toys.

Seek Professional Help

If the above steps do not show results and the dog’s aggression escalates, then please seek the help of a canine behaviourist or a dog trainer skilled in aggressive dog training.

Aggressive Dog Training

aggressive dog training

It is important to conduct the aggressive dog’s training in a safe and controlled environment. If needed, have a professional evaluate your dog’s aggression. This will help you get an idea of the extent or degree of aggression and come up with a customised plan for training it.

Here are some training approaches for dealing with aggressive dogs:

  • Positive Reinforcement – Rewarding desired behaviour with treats and praise can go a long way towards training an aggressive dog. It helps create positive associations in the dog’s mind, which encourages it to repeat desired behaviours.
  • Counter-Conditioning -Counterconditioning involves changing the aggressive dog’s emotional response to the stimuli or triggers that cause its aggressive behaviour.
  • Desensitisation – This involves slowly exposing the dog to the triggers that cause aggression. For example, if the dog gets aggressive due to loud noises, you can play the sound of those noises while it is sleeping in another room. Gradually proceed to play those sounds closer and closer, feeding treats if possible, until the dog does not react towards them.

Should I get Rid of My Fear-Aggressive Dog? Where Should I Surrender It?

aggressive dog that bites

Deciding whether to give up or keep an aggressive dog is a tough call to make. Please consult with your vet or a knowledgeable dog behaviourist to help you.

Aggressive dogs are known to lead normal lives as long as they receive consistent reward-based training combined with a loving environment.

If, however, the dog continues to show aggressive behaviour or has attacked or bitten a human or another pet, then it may be best to surrender it to local animal shelters, rescue organisations, or your nearest animal control facility.

FAQs – Dog Aggression

where to surrender an aggressive dog

How do you deal with an aggressive dog on the street?

Here are some steps to follow if you encounter an aggressive dog on the street:
Stay calm
Do not make eye contact
Avoid making sudden movements
Do not run
Give the dog some room - it should not feel trapped
Use a barrier - a bag, umbrella, or some other object to protect you.
Back away slowly and seek refuge.
Call the local animal control office or try to locate the dog’s owner.
Always consider your safety first when dealing with an aggressive dog. As far as possible, avoid the encounter by seeking an alternative walking route.

What to do with an aggressive dog?

Never punish an aggressive dog. Instead, use positive reinforcement and reward-based training and try to avoid triggers that cause the dog’s aggressive behaviour.

Can an aggressive dog be cured?

There is no cure for canine aggression, although it can be managed using counterconditioning, desensitisation, and positive reinforcement.

Can you trust a dog after it bites?

Yes. However, you need to evaluate the bite incident and seek professional help if needed. You’d also need to address the root causes of the biting and develop a behaviour modification plan to manage and prevent future incidents.


most aggressive dog

Canine aggression is a complex behaviour problem – one that needs to be handled with care and sensitivity.

If you’re dealing with an aggressive rescued dog, it is best to work with a professional dog trainer to come up with a customised training and behaviour-modification programme.

We hope this brief guide helps you address and manage dog aggression and ensure the well-being of the aggressive dog as well as the people and other pets around it.

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Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney

Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney

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