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How to Socialize An Aggressive Dog

How to Socialize An Aggressive Dog

We all want to be able to take our best friend with us everywhere we go.  But what happens when that best friend doesn’t play well with others, whether it be other people or other dogs?  It’s not only difficult to deal with an aggressive dog, it can be downright dangerous.

These dogs are not lost causes. Aggressive dog training can help dial down your pooch’s temper and prevent dog attacks.  Socializing your dog is one of those aggressive dog training methods.

Why Are Some Dogs Aggressive?

As with most bad dog behaviors, in order to better fix the problem it helps to know where the aggression is coming from.  Dogs can show aggression for many reasons. Most of the time those triggers are pretty easy to spot, but dogs can suddenly change their behaviors too.  

So it’s important to understand all dog aggression issues.  Aggression can show up as excessive barking and growling and then progress to snapping and biting if the behavior isn’t corrected.

Territorial Aggression

Like a little kid that doesn’t want his siblings in his room, dogs can become aggressive when they feel intruders are invading their space.  This can mean their yard, home, car, or even just their bed. These intruders aren’t limited to people, they can be other animals too like your neighbors cat or an adventurous squirrel.

Possessive Aggression

Similar to territorial aggression, dogs want to lay claim to what is theirs.  This form can pop up when someone tries to play with your dog’s toys, stake claim to his bed, or try to steal his snacks or meals.

Protective Aggression

The perfect example of protective aggression is a mother dog with her puppies. Some females won’t let even their most trusted humans handle their babies. Other dogs can be protective of you and members of your family as well.

Fear Aggression

If a dog isn’t able to get away from a scary situation they may try to confront that fear instead.

Defensive Aggression

When cornered or put into a fearful situation, some dogs will try to defend themselves rather than run away.

Social Aggression

Some dogs become aggressive when put into groups of other dogs or people.  It may be out of fear, uncertainty or trying to establish dominance over the other group members.

Redirected Aggression

When your dog can’t get to the cause of their anger they may take it out on whoever’s available.  For example, if your dog gets worked up when the mailman stops by, he may bite you or your other pets because he can’t get to the mailman himself.

Pain-elicited Aggression

An injured dog may bite those that are trying to help her simply due to pain or discomfort.

Hormonal Aggression

Male dogs can become aggressive with each other when there is a female in heat around.

Predatory Aggression

This happens when dogs sort of confuse their domestic life with their ancestral life.  A game of chase turns into predator versus prey and the human or animal that was getting innocently chased may get attacked.

How to Socialize Your Dog

Just as people need to learn what is acceptable behavior in society, dogs need to know what they can and can’t do when confronted with other humans and dogs. Socializing them, or putting them in controlled situations with other people and animals, is the most effective way of doing this. Ideally, socialization would occur when your pup is younger, but that may not always be possible.  It’s never too late to socialize a dog. Socializing your dog towards other humans, both children and adults, and to other dogs is important.

How to Properly Socialize Your Dog With Humans

In order to get your dog used to being around other people besides just you and your family, she needs to get out there and mingle so to speak.  This doesn’t mean just turning her loose at your dinner party, let her get comfortable with others in a controlled situation where you can easily prevent attacks and remove her if necessary.  Here are some ways to help make your dog friendly to strangers and other people.

Daily Walks

Not only are walks important for your dog’s physical health, they play an important role in his mental health as well.  Walks expose your dog to the outside world and all of the people in it. Keep him on a short leash but allow him time to smell and investigate.  Be sure to change up the route frequently so that your pup can encounter new things everyday and become comfortable outside of his comfort zone. Not only will your dog come across new people on these walks, he will also gain respect for cars.

Exposing Your Dog to People Early On

The younger the better when it comes to socializing an aggressive dog.  As puppies get older they become more set in their ways and large breed dogs become more physically difficult to manage.  Make sure you’re getting your pup from a reputable breeder that will have already started this process and then continue to socialize him by letting him meet a variety of people.  Try to expose him to old and young, big and small, male and female so that he’ll be comfortable in every setting. Don’t push your pup and reward good behavior with treats. Older puppies and adult dogs can be socialized too just plan on it taking longer and maybe you’ll have to do it in smaller doses.  Make sure you’re patience is running high because the calmer you stay the calmer your dog will stay with each new interaction.

Growl Classes

Enrolling your new pup in an obedience class is great not only to learn some basic sit and stay commands, it’s also a great way to socialize.  Growl classes are obedience classes specifically tailored for those aggressive dogs that may need a little more help with socialization. Not only will these classes help align your pup with other dogs, it will also expose them to a variety of people.

Seek Out a Professional Trainer

If you still need help fixing some aggressive dog behavior a professional trainer may be your best bet.  Professional trainers can offer other tips on how to socialize your pup with other humans and give you as the handler tips for better understanding dog behavior.  They can also put you in touch with socialization classes or other dog parents that might be experiencing the same aggressive behavior.

How to Properly Socialize Your Dog With Other Dogs

Some dogs may be fine with any human or other animal that you throw at him, but other dogs tend to trigger some bad aggressive behavior.  If your pup isn’t a fan of his own kind you can help him find his friendly pack with these dog socialization tips.

Keep the Treats Coming

Dogs will do anything for food!  Using treats to reward any positive behavior toward another dog is a great way to show your pup what is expected of her.  In the beginning you may have to start small and give her treats for just glancing in the direction of another dog without showing signs of aggression. Once she masters the basic skills, work up rewarding positive play. Treats can be anything that your dog finds irresistible. Just be sure that each treat is small as you may be giving several in one dog socialization session.

Visit the Dog Park

The more your pooch sees other dogs, the better your chances are at stopping that aggressive behavior.  Dog parks are usually crawling with other critters giving her lots of exposure to a variety of dogs. When doing this form of socialization, be sure to keep your dog on a leash and under control to prevent dog attacks until you know that she is comfortable with the situation.

Obedience Classes

Again, obedience classes are a great controlled environment for meeting other dogs and their people.  These classes may offer specific exercises to help stop the aggressive behavior and make your dog more comfortable with all prospective furry friends.

More Socialization Tips

Allow your pup to take her time with it comes to being socialized.  Younger puppies may take right to it while older rescue dogs will need a couple extra tries.  Be patient with your pup and try many different approaches until you find one that works for both of you.  A few other tips include:

Be Aware of Your Dog’s Cues

When starting any socialization, whether it be with humans or dogs, know your pup’s cues. This means be aware of those telltale signs that your pup is about to become aggressive. For some dogs this may be a lip curl, raised hackles, stiff stance, or a worried look.  Try to diffuse the situation before there is a behavior issue.


Before you jump into an obedience class, the dog park, or a camping trip with your friends, make sure that you have taken precautions to keep your pup and others safe.  Keeping your dog on a short leash is a must when being approached by another human or critter. You may also consider muzzling your dog the first couple times out if he is prone to biting.  Also, think about what you’re asking of your pup. A Great Dane meeting a Yorkie might not be the best socialization match up the first time around.


Having a dog that we can trust in any situation is a must on most people’s dream pet list.  Dogs that show aggression towards strangers or other dogs don’t fit that model. Properly socializing your pooch can help decrease that aggression and allow your pup to be comfortable with any newcomer, two-legged or four. If your dog is suddenly showing signs of aggression where he didn’t before or you’re still battling it after trying all of these tips, be sure to visit your veterinarian.