Dogs exhibit a wide range of behaviors. Some of them are straightforward, while others are more difficult to interpret. When behavior of dogs is undesirable, there are three levels of consideration:
1) Behaviors within the normal range for the species, age, and breed.
2) Behaviors more difficult or challenging, because they might fall within or just beyond the range of what is considered normal but are particularly intense or difficult to manage. Examples include:
Also in this category might be what could be normal for the breed but unsuitable for the family and home (ie, mismatch). These cases require behavior assessment and counseling to ensure the owners have a realistic understanding of what might be achieved and to implement treatment strategies, including environmental management and behavior modification, to achieve an acceptable level of improvement for both the owners and the pet.
3) Behaviors that are abnormal or pathologic, as a result of emotional disorders or mental health issues. These may have developed as a result of genetic factors, stressful perinatal environment (prenatal, neonatal), insufficient early socialization, medical conditions affecting brain health and development, or particularly traumatic environmental events. For these pets, the prognosis may be guarded, and owner expectations altered to achieve an acceptable outcome. Treatment generally requires both environmental management and behavioral modification, often in combination with medication (natural products, diet, drugs) to improve underlying pathology and facilitate learning.
Aggression and Reactivity in Dogs
The word aggressive is used to explain a category of behaviors, not an overall state of being or disposition of a dog. Aggressive behaviors are almost always modifiable and/or manageable.
What do you do if your dog is exhibiting aggressive or reactive behaviors?
Call a professional!
1) Take your dog to the vet to rule out any medical problems that could be causing your dog's behavior changes.
2) Contact an animal behaviorist. They’re specially trained experts in the principles of animal behavior and animal learning with a set of science-backed tools, such as behavior modification. They will help identify the cause of your dog’s problem behavior and then create a customized treatment plan, teach you how to carry it out successfully, and follow up with you to help with any headaches you may be experiencing along the way.
(A regular trainer that you will find at most dog training facilities is NOT the same as a behaviorist, so look for the following certifications when looking for a behaviorist: CAAB or CBCC-KA).
There are some resources we can share for a dog with reactivity behaviors that we recommend looking into: