Fear Aggression In Dogs

dog barking

What is fear aggression in dogs?  Does your dog suffer from fear aggression?   If so, what can you do about your dog’s condition? How can you fix dog fear aggression?

These are some of the most prevalent questions that dog trainers both here on Long Island, Queens and around the world are asked by pet owners of fearful aggressive dogs.

Before going any further, we’d like to clarify that dog aggression comes in many forms and can be paired with other aggression. That being said, fear aggression in dogs is the most prevalent. If you believe that your dog is showing other aggression, please feel free to look-over the other aggressive dog behavior problems our Long Island dog training school can help you with.

What is Fear Aggression in Dogs?

Simply put, fear aggression in dogs have two (2) components.  If you’ve guessed fear and aggression you are correct!. Most canines are predisposed to this phobia. If you have a dog that is fear aggressive you may think back to the puppy days or when you first acquired him or her:

  • Was he a little stand-offish?
  • Did he keep to himself (perhaps in the corner not with the other dogs)?
  • Did she look a little nervous?
  • Was she shaking a lot?
  • Was she a bit hand-shy?

If your dog was a young puppy, they have had very little history; it would be safe to say that this is who they are from a genetic standpoint. The above describes the first part of fear aggresion in dogs- the FEAR part which is always seen first.

As the puppy faces new people & things in the environment his or her first reaction(s) may be to flee (run or walk away) and/or avoid (by not looking at the person or remaining hidden (perhaps in what he deems as a safe place). For the most part, if these options are available the puppy will use then.

However, there will probably come a point in time, either by accident, unawreness or good intentions where these two (2) options are not available. When this happens, the puppy’s DNA or genetics kick in and will show AGGRESSION that was brought out by FEAR.

Somethings else happens when the dog growls, snarles, lunges, barks or bites; they learn there is another way to feel secure. That other way is through aggression. Aggression is present in most animals; it is how they (we) survive.  That said, like any other behavior it is not the emotion that becomes the problem, BUT when is it DISPLAYED? (is it approriate?) In other words, true self-defense is a form aggression, but the person defending themselves is not considered to be a danger to others unless they are going to cause physical harm – that is an approriate diplay of aggression. Some other areas of that should be considered in the fear aggressive dog are the:

  • severity
  • amount
  • threshold
  • triggers
  • recovery time

All will differ greatly and will help to deterime how much improvement can be made with fear aggression in dogs.

Dogs that are fearful show aggression to gain or regain their space of safety.  Having a fear aggressive dog is a lot different than owning a dog that has other aggression(s). Let’s compare some other forms of aggressive behavior to fear aggression in dogs:

1) Food Aggression – which is easily more controlled because it occurs maybe twice a day and the environment is a lot easier to control because of the predictability.

2) Dominant aggression – this accounts for a small portion of dogs, but still it can be easier to own this type of dog because their aggression is more calcuable, allowing the pet owner to be prepared.

3) Resource Guarding – is a little more challenging than food aggression in dogs, because today’s resource, may be different than yesterday’s & tomorrow’s resource. However, there is still a certain level of likelihood involved there than with fear aggressive dogs. That said, Dedicated Dog Training still believes fear aggression in dogs to be more difficult for the pet owner.

4) Territorial Aggression – This type of aggression is also a litte easier to control because it has the predictability component present like the other aggressions where fear aggressive dogs do not have.

Keep in mind that fear aggression in dogs will vary depending on how fearful and how many different triggers that dog has.  It is very common for a young puppy to display fear (which is the first part of fear aggression in dogs) but no aggression; full genetics have not kicked in yet.  As the puppy matures, you may slowly see acts of aggression (hackless, quick nip, growl, barking, etc….)  If the puppy realizes this gets him or her to feel secure, their aggression efforts will become stronger, quiker & more frequent.

The fear aggressive dog is not sure about many things; however, the one thing they will become confident in, is their ability to use aggression to counter their fear.

Before we dive into answering the above common fear aggression questions, we need to really examine why so many pet owners do not achieve satisfying results with their fear aggressive dogs.

When Does Fear Aggression in Dogs Strike?

Here’s Why Fear Aggressive Dog Owners Do NOT Meet Their Goals

Unfortunately, the number #1 reason (and there are a few!) that many fear aggressive dog owners do not meet their dog behavior modification goals regarding their dog’s fear aggression is:

“They Have Unrealistic Goals!”

There, we said it! The words “Aggression & Fix” should never be used in the same sentence or phrase, because true dog aggression is never really fixed. Whether you’re searching for that dog behaviorist on Long Island, that dog trainer in Queens, or that world wide dog whisperer that is going to fix your dog’s fear aggression – you may find yourself unsuccessfully exhausted and always searching.

We can’t even count how many dog owners of fearful aggressive dogs contact Dedicated Dog Training explaining how they have tried so many other Long Island dog trainers and have tried so many different obedience training programs to no avail.

Although there are plenty good dog trainers and dog behaviorists out there; unfortunately, there are a lot of obedience trainers that are deceitful and prey on the pet owners that have fear aggressive dogs. They know exactly what you want to hear – and, they tell you!

Fear Aggression in Dogs Does Not Go Away, It Can Get Better Though

Let’s face it, most fear aggression in dogs will not go away, but a lot after going through a dog training program and changing the environment which the dog resides in, could go a long away. The problem is, why would people that have fear aggressive dogs pay money to a dog trainer that says they can better their situation, but not fix their dog’s fear aggressive behaviors? The truth is, many pet owners will not. They will keep searching and eventually they will find the charlatans of the dog training industry, who again, will tell them what they want to hear. They will offer all kinds of incentives to close the deal, not limited to:

  • Free evaluation;
  • lifetime support;
  • free follow-up lessons AFTER a doggie boot camp;
  • group classes;
  • specialized training tools

…..And much more!

Why is My Dog Fear Aggressive?

This is a big question that many fear aggressive dog owners want answers to. Unfortunately, knowing the answers will not help with the solution. However, we know that, that response may not suffice, so here goes:

Fear aggressive dogs are a product of their breeding (genetics) or environment. That’s it! You have it.

Dog owners of fearful or aggressive dogs MUST Realize that for whatever reason, this is the dog that they have and to focus on the “why” and the “past” will NOT serve them in the present and the future.

Yes, it is nice to know the history or have the answers to why someone or being that we care about, but when it comes to dog fear aggression – genetics or environment are the answers.

Why are some young children shyer than others?

Probably genetics

Why do some adults have stage freight?

Could be genetics, could be environmental (a bad experience on the stage) but probably a combo of both – but the show must go on! With that said, spending more time on how to get that person on stage is far better than spending time on trying to figure out where and what went wrong – especially when we know the answer – genetics or environment or Both

Pet Owners, Dog Trainers And Fear Aggression in Dogs

Many times, pet owners become frustrated when professional dog trainers do not place as much weight on why a dog displays dog fear aggression.

And, on the flip side, many pet owners of fearful aggressive dogs become irritated when the dog trainer takes the conversation in another direction which focuses on the solution.

The prospect sometimes even becoming irate at the dog behaviorist or the honest dog trainer that informs them that they’re dog’s fear aggression will never really be fixed. We understand this. Fear aggression in dogs is disheartening and the truth can be very discouraging to your average pet owner, especially if this dog behavior is new to them.

Treating Fear Aggression in Dogs with Dog Behaviorists

Often dog behaviorists invoke a hybrid approach to combatting fear aggression in dogs. One that consists of:

1) Drugs
2) Counter-conditioning
3) Desensitizing
4) Rules and boundaries
5) Change of life-style for the owners
6) Isolation for the dog at high anxiety times
7) And never the deployment of corrections; all positive reinforcement techniques

Now, we know for a fact this is not all the dog behaviorists modus operandi but this generally is the itinerary in a dog behavior modification program for dogs suffering with fear aggression.

Dog Behaviorist Training Tools

Not all, but many dog behaviorists invoke the use of:

a) Food (treats)

b) Toys

c) Praise (via words and touch)

d) avoidance

e) isolation (not with bad intentions)

f) clickers

g) Harnesses

h) maybe a martingale collar

i) drugs (prescribed)

j) blankets

So, as you can decipher from the above list, as expected, there is a lot of behavior modification that a dog behaviorists places into their programs. We agree with a good portion of this as well. Now, let’s peak into how a dog trainer might handle fear aggressive dogs.

Treating Fear Aggression in Dogs with Dog Trainers

Although Dedicated Dog Training believes that behavior modification is needed to effectively help with canine fear aggression, not all dog trainers give to this notion. Instead, many dog trainers believe that because your dog is fear aggressive you’re the perfect dog owner that needs for your dog to be obedient to you to lessen or avoid incident while improving the quality of life for both your dog and you.

Many dog trainers provide obedience training programs that focus on commands These dog training commands are intended to successfully navigate your dog through tough situations with minimum or no incident. So, a dog trainer that works with fear aggressive dogs may have an obedience program that resembles this:

1) Heel (walk by my side, irrespective of how you feel about that other dog)
2) Come when called
3) Sit
4) Down
5) Stay
6) No command
7) Attention command
8) Place command (a designated location in the home, often used for the dog’s safe space (guests too)
The dog trainer approach is to deal with the present and look towards to the future in a timely manner.

Dedicated Dog Training & Fear Aggression in Dogs

While we certainly believe in effectiveness of terms such as:
a) Counterconditioning
b) Desensitizing
c) Boundaries
d) A change in human behavior

We also believe in a dog being obedient to the owner not only when they want to, but when they MUST. And, we could not think of a better time or need for a dog to understand that their owner is in charge and they (the dog) MUST be compliant.

Now, this does not mean that counterconditioning, desensitizing & behavior modification for the aggressive dog can’t be injected into the program as well. Dedicated Dog Training does it all the time.

How to Achieve Success with Your Dog’s Fear Aggression

Amazingly, your success with your fearful aggressive dog has little to do with your dog and more to do with your expectations.

“If you expect your dog to go from fear aggression to super confident on an independent platform (on their own without your supervision), you are setting yourself and dog up for failure.”

Now if you’re having trouble walking your dog by other people and dogs, or not being able to control your dog while entertaining company….



We Can Help You Control Your Dog’s Fear Aggression

“We can help you to control your dog’s aggression while implementing a program to modify his behavior over time, we cannot change your dog, but we can help you to properly control your dog’s aggression.”

“Pet owners of fear aggressive dogs need to understand the difference between dog behavior and temperament; only when this concept is understood and accepted can we may things better for our dogs and ourselves”

15% Of Pet Owners With Fear Aggression In Their Dog Will Enroll With Dedicated Dog Training

Now, the above statements will prevent at least 50 percent of prospective clients from moving forward with Dedicated Dog Training; they will seek the services of another dog training school that will tell them more of what they want to hear instead of what they NEED to hear.

For those the 50 percent that stick around, 50 percent of them will also exit after learning they will need to be an active participant in the dog training process of their fearful aggressive canine.

So, out of 20 people that contact Dedicated Dog Training for help with their fear aggressive dog, we’re now down to 5 candidates for consideration into our training program – we’re not finished though!

Out of those 5 pet dog owners that have decided/said that they’re in it for the long haul, we will probably disqualify two (2) to three of them based on other answers to their questions and willingness to make changes.

At the end of the day, for every 20 pet owners that are seeking help with their fear aggressive dog, only 2 to 3 would be eligible, but those 2 or 3 prospects stand the best chance to succeed. Why?

Simply, because their goals are realistic, they understand that their dog will not be fixed.
They understand that their goal is to make things better for their dog by placing strong obedience on them with a behavior modification program.
They understand that they will have to make changes to the way that they reside with their dog.
They understand that it will take a considerable amount of time and consistency on their end.
They are willing to spend the money not for promises but for the truth and realistic results with their aggressive dog.

Who End Up With Dogs With Fear Aggression?

Most of the time people that adopt from a dog shelter or rescue are good hearted and have the best of intentions. After all, they’re looking to help a dog out by preventing them from either being euthinized or living is very subpar conditions; they want to give the dog a better life.

When they arrive, it is almost always the dog or puppy in the corner by themselves that catches the eye of the good samiratan. He needs us the most!

Although, sometimes it can be a first time puppy owner or a future pet owner that is looking for the least rambunctious dog in the pack. They try to pick the calm one, the one that is not nipping or jumping up interacting hyperactively with the other dogs. Or the one that shows no extreme excitement when they see their potential new master.