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Dominance Aggression

By: Dr. Alice Moon-Fanelli and Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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A minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of sustained aerobic exercise daily is necessary to make exercise a worthwhile therapy. Walking a mile or two with your dog is not really enough for most young, fit dogs. Brisk walks and games of fetch or Frisbee are excellent forms of exercise. Simply turning your dog out in the backyard is often insufficient, since many dogs do not really push themselves to the maximum.

Practice obedience training for a few minutes each day since you will be using commands for control. Make the sessions fun using treats, praise and toys for motivation.

If your veterinarian approves, feed a quality non-performance artificial preservative-free diet for a trial period of 2 to 4 weeks to see if there is any improvement in your dog's behavior. Change the diet over 3 days to avoid intestinal upsets.
        
We recommend that all dogs with aggression issues be trained to wear a basket muzzle. Your dog will be able to pant, take treats, and drink water, but will not be able to bite. Training your dog to wear a head halter will give you more control over your dog. Halters may reduce the number of aggressive incidents with which you have to contend since they tend to subdue many dogs. However, beware of head shy dogs who may become aggressive when you try to put the head halter on because they don't like you messing around with their muzzles.

Improvement peaks about two months after implementation of the program. After that time, you can revert to a more normal relationship with your dog though some rules must stay in place. How far you can relax your guard depends on your dog, but for most dominant dogs at least half of the above measures must remain if the improved status is to be maintained. Dogs that have developed dominance always have the potential to revert to their old ways should you lower your guard too far. Therefore, you must always be alert for dominant behavior and curb it immediately by re-instituting a full non-confrontational dominance program.

Finally, it is essential that dominant dogs are never left unsupervised in the presence of young children. Children may unwittingly trespass on the rules of the hierarchy simply by walking past the dog or taking a toy, stick or having food that the dog wants. If a dominant dog feels his authority is being threatened, he may warn children by growling or may simply punish them by snapping or biting. Avoid having your dog in close contact with children and/or ensure the child's safety by having your dog wear a basket muzzle. Remember, both children and dogs can be unpredictable. Dominant dogs tend to bite children on the face, rather than on the hands or arms as they do with adults. It is imperative when children are involved that you avoid any situations in which your dog may become aggressive. The best way to achieve this is to control the child.

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