If you think your dog has an aggression problem, you need to get expert help, but it probably won't be easy to find. Anyone can call himself an animal behavior consultant or dog psychologist. There are no licensing requirements. This is complicated by the fact that someone with a Ph.D. in animal behavior may have little practical experience in handling aggressive dogs, while a dog trainer with no academic degrees may have a lot of experience and be of great help.
You can ask a veterinarian for referrals; however, be cautious about taking your veterinarian's advice regarding your dog's aggression problem unless he has had special training in this area beyond the normal veterinary training. His advice may be well meaning but lacking a foundation in experience and knowledge. You could also contact the nearest veterinary school for a referral. They often have a dog behavior specialist on staff.
Taking an obedience class might be helpful if your aggression problem has not progressed far and if your dog is young. If you sign up for a class, tell the instructor about your aggression problem beforehand. Be honest with him or her. The instructor may not feel qualified to handle your problem, or may feel that the class setting is inappropriate for your dog. He or she may require that you take some private lessons before entering a class.
When dealing with an aggression problem, don't add tension to tension, or aggression to aggression. If your dog is tense and in a situation in which you think he may bite, you will only increase the likelihood of that happening if you become tense yourself. Your dog will sense your fears and become more stressed himself, feeling more of a need to defend himself. Instead, try relaxing your dog with happy talk, play, and laughter. Don't increase your dog's aggression by adding aggression with punishment that is hostile in nature, excessive, and beyond the point of instructional correction.
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