Warm weather is here and everyone is getting excited to break out of the indoors for summer BBQ parties and get togethers with friends! But when your dog shows aggression towards people, it can feel almost impossible to have guests over to your home to celebrate good times. Dogs who are afraid of strangers can also make it difficult to visit parks and go for simple walks where people might be present. Here are some tips to help keep your pet calm under trigger circumstances and avoid aggressive dog behaviors with visitors to the home.
Why Do Dogs Show Aggression Towards People?
There’s no recipe of age, size, or breed that says your dog will become aggressive. Any dog can adopt aggressive behavior at any point in their life. Aggressive behavior means that a dog may bite, growl, snarl, show teeth, or lunge at people or other animals. There are different reasons why dogs can become aggressive with visitors to your home. Here are the most common reasons:
- Territorial aggression - Your home, or the bubble of space around their body, is a safe space. They will try to defend their space from intruders.
- Protective aggression - This aggression is most often seen in mother dogs who are protecting their puppies. Other adult dogs can also adopt this type of aggression when protecting their masters or family members from perceived threats.
- Possessive aggression - This type of aggression is often observed in shelter dogs who may have gone through periods of starvation. They become possessive over food, toys, bones, or other objects they think belong to them. This is also known as ‘resource guarding’.
- Fear aggression - Fear aggression triggers the ‘fight or flight’ reaction in dogs. When they can’t retreat and become cornered, they fight back with aggressive behavior.
- Social aggression - Dogs who are not socialized properly as they grow can become afraid of strangers, both dogs and people.
- Leash aggression - Being on a leash causes the dog to show aggression towards people or other dogs.
- Aggression towards children - Young children often don’t know how to interact well with dogs. They may poke, hit, pull fur, grab, or simply pet a dog in a spot they don't prefer to be touched. Some dogs simply do not pair well with the natural behaviors of kids.
Recognize Their Triggers
Learning what causes your dog to become aggressive with visitors to your home is key in preventing the situation from occurring and escalating. You will need to treat the underlying cause of the aggression and not just the aggressive behavior itself. If your dog suddenly becomes aggressive towards people and it is out of their usual character, take them to the vet for an assessment. Their sudden aggression could be due to a health issue like an injury, hyperthyroidism, tumors, a neurological problem, or other conditions.
Train With Positive Reinforcement
For mild cases of aggression in dogs, you can take training steps on your own to reinforce good behaviors. For example, when your dog is afraid of strangers, slowly introduce your dog to someone who is standing far away. Give them treats and praise for acting calmly. Gradually decrease the distance between you and the stranger, while continuing to use treats and praise as positive reinforcement. Stop at the first sign of aggression and repeat the process at a later time. Eventually, your pet will associate strangers with dog treats, becoming less aggressive with visitors to home. Positive reinforcement training can be used with a variety of other types of dog aggression as well.
Punishment Escalates Aggression
On the flip side, punishing your dog who’s aggressive with visitors to your home can backfire and worsen the behavior. Always avoid yelling, hitting, or other negative methods, as your dog may become more provoked to bite. When a dog is punished for growling, they may skip this warning step and go straight to biting next time they are around a trigger.
Use Aids Like Natural CBD or Medication
When a dog is experiencing stress, anxiety, or fear, it’s nearly impossible for them to learn new behaviors during training. Aids like pet CBD products or medication from your vet can help them relax enough to excelerate training. CBD oil for dogs is natural and safe to use on a daily basis and can help your pet overcome mild aggressions in everyday situations like when on walks and during your summer get-togethers. Prescription medications can also be helpful, but may include unwanted side effects. You can talk to your vet about CBD and medication options for dogs who are aggressive with visitors to your home.
Plan for Unavoidable Situations
In some instances, it’s impossible to avoid your dog’s triggers. For example, if you are having a Fourth of July party where kids will be present and fireworks will be set off, and your pet doesn’t respond well to either kids or loud noises, it’s best to find accommodations for your pet far away from the excitement. That may mean using a kennel or asking a friend or family member to watch them during that time frame. This way, your dog completely avoids aggressive behaviors with visitors to your home, and you can focus on spending quality time with friends and family without any anxiety.
Seek the Help of a Professional
Sometimes, self-training and medication aren’t enough to deter a dog’s aggressive behaviors with visitors to the home. Dog aggression is the number one reason why owners reach out to trained canine professionals for help. With time and dedication, a trained professional can help train your dog, and train you to respond correctly to your dog’s aggressive actions with visitors to your home.
For mild cases of dogs who are afraid of strangers, give CBD a try! Shop Chill Paws for affordable, high-quality pet CBD products that will help your dog relax and stay calm under stressful situations.