Dealing with an aggressive dog requires immense patience, understanding, caution, and a healthy dose of dominant behavior displayed by the human in the relationship. Aggression in dogs is usually a sign that they believe they are the leader of the pack, and their duty is to protect their pack at any cost. The larger the pack, the more intense their job becomes, and the more aggressive they may become. The sweetest, most loving dog who believes he is the dominant member of the household will turn into Fido from Hell the instant you take him outside or for a badly needed walk.
Aggressive dogs need leadership. They need a strong personality, not necessarily a strong person physically, but someone who can make up their mind and stick to their guns. Aggressive dogs need a firm set of rules. You can’t decide one week that he isn’t allowed to lounge about on the couch only to permit it the following week. If there are multiple people in the household, aggressive dogs need everyone to be on the same page if you plan to make any headway with his unruly behavior.
The first change in his life when dealing his aggressive behavior should be walk time. While it might not always suit your schedule, but try to walk him when there are as few distractions as possible while he is undergoing his re-education. A simple chain link choker collar (not the type with the spikes) used properly will help you to help him in understanding the new domain. In one direction, the choker won’t release, and that is not the proper use of a choker. Decide which side you are going to walk him on, the right or left, and then stand with him on the appropriate side. When you place the choker around his neck, the loop that the leash attaches to should be on the top, on the same side that you are on, and you should be able to easily tighten and loosen the collar without having to assist it with your hand. The farther up on the neck you can keep the choker, the more effective it will be. This is not a method of choking him, when used properly the dog is in control of his own level of comfort, not the human.
Walk him next to you. When an aggressive dog walks ahead of you he is being given a signal that he is the leader of the pack. You don’t want this. You want him to understand that all is good and you have the world under control. If he shows any sign of aggression during the walk, snap up on the choker and make him either sit or lie down. Alternatively you can snap up on the choker, change direction with him, and walk in a confident manner without catering to his behavior. You need to make him understand that sniffing, urinating, looking about, and normal dog activities are done are your terms, not his. Walking this way with a tight, upright posture is one of the most significant changes you can make in his life when dealing with an aggressive dog.
Exercise a bit of control in his life at meal time, and spit in his food. Most dog owners laugh or read the sentence a few time to be sure they read it right. But yes, spitting in his food dominates him. Just a few times, and he will associate you as the leader of the pack. Dogs are wolf like in their dealings with their human pack. In the wild, the leader eats first, followed by the rest of the gang, leaving their scent all over the food. Spitting in his food will send him a message, and he may not eat it for a few days if he is really dominant. When he gets hungry enough he will. If you replace his food because he is not eating it, you will hand him the dominant role.
An aggressive dog can benefit from some time in a dog training class. Although it seems like you are tempting the Devil by taking him in to be around a group of dogs and people, if you explain the problems ahead of time most dog training schools can offer special assistance including a few private lessons first. This seems like a huge expense, but many of the larger chain stores that offer pet training will give you two private and two group classes for about $200. This exercise can give you ways of introducing him to new situations without fear of him making a fatal error.
Unfortunately part of dealing with an aggressive dog means that you live with the possibility that he will bite, either a human or another animal, and that someone will insist that you put your beloved but beastly pal to sleep. In some cases, you will be able to fight it, such as if he bites a dog that approaches him that is off a leash, but your guy is on the leash. Provided that you have control over your dog and intervene before a situation leads to biting, you most likely won’t have to put your dog to sleep over an incident. However, the incident is likely to change the way you feel about your dog, create doubt about your own dog rearing capabilities, and cause problems between you and your neighbors. And nobody wants that, not even your dog.
These basic steps are a good start to dealing with the stress brought on by having an aggressive dog. If you can get to the heart of his aggression, you can often curb it. Changes in your behavior will promote changes in his behavior. Dogs that were beaten may carry an aggressive streak toward similar people. Such as a dog that was beaten by a man might not like men, but can be taught that the men he knows or is introduced to are safe for him. And for you. After all, nearly all aggression is a form of protection or fear. Dominating his world lets him know that you are in control and that you are there to provide protection for him. Dealing with an aggressive dog does not have to terminate your relationship with an otherwise well behaved friend.