Dog biting makes up for almost half of the claims made under homeowner’s insurance policies. Nearly two thirds of the cases related to biting incidents occurred with an acquainted dog. At the same time, healthy and well-trained dogs are not aggressive and normally do not bite.
There is evidence of a genetic disposition of dog aggression in certain breeds. However, that is not the only cause of aggressive dog behavior. There are other factors that influence aggressive behavior in dogs, and the best way to guard against such a situation is to start dog training when you purchase or accept a puppy.
Select a puppy that suits your family. Puppies that are too shy need large amounts of coaxing in various situations. Shy puppies will need more time in each activity. Before selecting a shy puppy, make sure that you are ready to spend some time with him. On the other hand, if you choose a dominant dog, you may require everyone in the family to be authoritative. You can get to know which puppy is dominant or too shy by inspecting the litter. The most dominant will take control of all activity, while a too shy puppy will be seen cringing in the corner.
How you train and handle the puppy in the initial weeks is likely to determine whether he will grow up to be aggressive or not. The period from six weeks to eighteen weeks is crucial for all puppies. It needs indulgence on your part in the shape of gentle but firm handling and hand-feeding. Teach him to accept food without snapping or lunging, even if it amounts to feeding him in your lap.
Initially most puppies tend to jump on people, walk between legs, go after running children or growl excessively. Physical punishment usually proves to be counterproductive in such cases. Instead, deny affection by not interacting for some time or scold verbally with an emphatic ‘NO’.
Early socializing is an important part of training. Puppies start developing sensitivity to other dogs and people almost as soon as they open their eyes at three weeks. The next fifteen weeks are critical to learn socializing skills. During this period, they need to be exposed to other dogs and people in a positive manner so that they develop the required skills to be comfortable with people and dogs.
Puppies brought to a new home after ten to twelve weeks find it difficult to adjust to the new family. They tend to be more fearful, which can lead to aggressive behavior. As new bonds are developed, the puppy may try to exert dominance over the family as he grows up. The best time to bring a puppy home is in the middle of the learning period.
The teenage years for a dog begin at sixteen weeks. At this age, the hormonal surge makes dogs become more protective and assert territorial dominance. If you bring a puppy home near about that age, his inherent breed specific disposition would have already taken root. In such instances, special care is required while handling. Ensure that you or your family handles him frequently but gently. Resist any temptation to release him if he squirms, showing him that you are the master and he cannot dominate you.
Certain breeds evolved as aggressive dogs due to typical jobs they were required to perform in the early stages of domestication. Before bringing home such puppies, realize that they may require professional training.