How to address aggressive dog behavior / anxious dog behavior

by Steph Mahrle

Too much, too easy, too soon. Ever hear that phrase? It's an old school phrase which typically was applied to spoiled children. In this instance, I'm referring to dogs. 🙂 Humor me. Spoiling your dog endlessly will not lead your dog toward better behavior. I know because I tried the spoiling method, and failed. Miserably. My current structured lifestyle with my dogs allows my dogs to experience more freedom, and spend more quality time with my family and I, than I could have ever imagined with my first dog Karma. People reach out to me for training advice daily, struggling to cope with really horrible aggressively behaved dogs, and the answers are in these ten steps.

1) Crate train the dog. The dog should be able to sleep for eight hours in its crate overnight, and should be crated when you are not present to interrupt bad behaviors. 2) Avoid providing the dog with unearned affection, talking directly to the dog, dolling out treats, playing with toys scattered around your home, and avoid excitement in general. 3) Teach the "place" command. 4) Don't worry about walking your dog, if your dog has aggressive and/or anxious behavior outside on leash, letting the dog practice that aggressive and/or anxious behavior isn't working to resolve the bad behavior. Instead, begin calm, quiet obedience training indoors without distractions. 5) The dog needs to hold long durations of the "place" command, and/or the "down" command. The idea is for the dog to get into the habit of doing nothing, on command, until released from the command by you. 6) If your obedience is tight enough, testing your dog outside with distractions will be very easy. If you find it hard, return to obedience training in your home. Tighten that up. The dog shouldn't break command unless released. Then, retest outside with distractions. 7) Continue a life of structure, if you loosen up on structure, your dog will let you know right away if they can't handle excitement, affection, playing, or other freedoms. 8) Always do what the dog NEEDS, and not what you WANT. Everyone wants to pet the fur off their dog, snuggle the bejesus out of them on the couch, and excitedly greet them by rolling around on the floor the instant they arrive home from work. Not every dog can handle that level of excitement, affection, and/or freedom. Make a conscious effort to give your dog what he/she needs, and avoid doing the easy stuff that makes you immediately feel good. 9) Be at peace with your dogs limitations. Not every dog is a super easygoing muffin of a dog to spend time with. 10) Set goals, and work toward them together. If you find you're all struggling with implementing a life of structure, contact a balanced dog trainer, that can help guide you and your dog through a behavior modification program.