*NOTE: This article has been modified from its original version.
Dog aggression is a serious problem, and it's usually the owner that gets hurt. While this article focuses on the dominant dog, or dominance based aggression, the idea of dominance based aggression is actually outdated and very rare. If your dog or puppy is showing signs of dominance, he may actually be showing signs of fear, possessive, or territorial aggression. (Source: The Truth About Aggression and Dominance in Dogs, Clinical Animal Behavior Service)
Causes Of Aggressive Behavior
There are a number of factors thought to contribute to the development of aggressive behavior. These causes might include breeding, hormones, medical causes, situational causes, or environmental causes such as abuse or unsuitable living conditions. (Source: Causes of Dog Aggression, K9Aggression)
Recognize The Signs
If you see any signs of aggressive behavior in your pup, it's important to get it taken care of quickly, regardless of if your dog is big or small. Some early signs might include protectiveness over food or toys, growling, aggressive barking, or snapping.
If possible, it's important to steer your pup away from aggressive behavior at a young age. If he does show signs of aggression, start behavior training immediately. Be sure to take your pup to the vet to so you can be sure the aggression isn't due to medical problems.
Find A Specialist
If your dog is showing aggressive behavior, it's important to seek help. A behavioral specialist can guide you through the training process, to help you keep your pup's behavior under control. Without the help of a behavioral specialist, it's possible to misjudge your dog's actions and unintentionally encourage his behavior to worsen or continue.
Identify Triggers And Avoid Them
Do your best to identify what's triggering your dog's behavior. A behavioral specialist can help with this. Once you've determined what's triggering the dog to act aggressive, you can begin taking measures to control it. If possible, it's best to avoid situations that trigger aggression. If your dog is particularly aggressive, or these situations are unavoidable, consider purchasing a muzzle for safety's sake. (Source: The Truth About Aggression and Dominance in Dogs, Clinical Animal Behavior Service) A good muzzle that allows easy breathing like Baskerville Ultra Dog Muzzle might be a good choice.
Reward And Avoid Punishment
Negative reinforcement and punishments can actually encourage aggressive behavior, particularly fear-based aggression, and should be avoided. Instead, it's a good idea to focus on positive reinforcement and reward. This way, your dog can look at you for guidance instead of fearing punishment. Remember to reward your dog when he obeys a command and shows non-aggressive behavior.
Low Stress Situations
One training method includes teaching your dog commands in a low stress, no distraction situation. Find a room with little or no distractions that won't cause stress for your dog. Have him sit, and give him small treats to lessen possessive aggression and reward him for positive behavior and obeying. Gradually change the environment to increase distraction. This will help your dog get used to change and higher stress situations. Remember to be firm and consistent. If you have to take a step back to a lower distraction environment, it's okay. Try to move at your dogs pace. (Source: Possessive and Territorial Aggression in Dogs, PetMD)
Be extremely patient with your dog during the training process. It can be a long process, and dog aggression isn't always completely reversible. Most of the time, it can be controlled. Just remember that your dog is relying on you for a happy, comfortable life, and that it may take time for him to show less aggressive behavior.
These tips should help you to teach your pup non-aggressive behavior. Remember to seek help from a vet and a behavioral specialist to help you through the training process for the best results.
Also Read: Signs Of Aggressive Behavior In Dogs
Additional Sources: How to Stop Dog Aggression, PetWave