It is far easier to train a puppy not to be aggressive than it is to break an aggressive dog of its bad habits. The sooner you start teaching your puppy patience and the other skills it takes to be a good canine citizen, the sooner you can enjoy a life with your puppy that includes positive social interactions with anyone, human or animal, you encounter together. The following 6 tips will go a long way toward preventing those aggressive habits in the first place.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
Dogs read our body language more than they read our words. Likewise, they comprehend tone of voice more than they comprehend language. This means if you're giving your dog conflicting information--such as your voice telling the dog to stay calm while you sound anxious and appear tense, the dog will react to your anxious and tense body language at the expense of obeying your commands. If you want your dog to remain calm, the first thing you must do is remain calm yourself.
Introduce Your Puppy to New Animals Outside Your Home
A dog is naturally inclined to protect its home, which it perceives as its den. Therefore, a natural initial reaction to a strange animal entering this space is for a dog to become defensive, perceiving the interloper as a possible threat. This is easily avoided by simply stepping outside with your dog to introduce it to any new animal before inviting that animal into your home. When visiting others with dogs, it might be wise to suggest you wait outside while they bring their dog out to meet you and your dog in neutral territory.
Use a Loose Leash and Soft Voice When Introducing Your Puppy to Another Dog
When introducing your dog to another dog, be sure both dogs are on leashes so that you and the other owner have control in case the greeting goes sour. Be sure your body language and vocal tone presents as calm, safe, and happy. This will make both dogs more comfortable with the greeting. Use a loose leash and move with your dog as necessary to avoid tangling leashes as the two perform their sniffing ritual. Keep these introductions brief until you can determine if the dogs will be able to get along or not.
Have Your Dog Sit When Meeting Other People (Especially Children)
Sitting puts a dog in both a calmer and more submissive mode, which also puts strangers to the dog more at ease when meeting it for the first time. Having your dog sit beside you during this interaction conveys two things:
1) This person is not simply a new playmate for them to engage at will
2) This person is higher up in status than the dog and therefore should not be treated as the beta to its alpha.
Avoid Aggressive Play
It may be fun to play-wrestle with your dog, or to play tug-of-war with your dog using a toy or a stick. Unfortunately these may encourage aggressive, competitive behavior. More playful games that don't tend to trigger aggression include catch, fetch, and hide-and-seek (as in: "Come find me, puppy! Where am I?")
If Your Dog Does Get Into An Incident With Another Person or Animal Seek Legal Counsel
Whether your dog was the aggressor or victim in an attack, you need to know the rights of everyone in the situation. The only way to do this with confidence is to get competent legal advice from attorneys who have experience dealing with personal injuries, like Blomberg Benson & Garrett.
It's easier to prevent aggressive behavior in your puppy than it is train such behavior out of it. With these simple tips, you'll raise your puppy into a happy, responsive, and well-behaved dog that makes fast friends of humans and canines alike.