Living With Aggressive Dogs

Use verbal commands instead of hands. Dogs who are poked, prodded or grabbed by the collar to get them to move may snap in response. It’s always better to use commands such as “off” and “come” or offer treats to induce them to move on their own.

Trade possessions instead of taking them away. A dog who is eating food or playing with a toy may not understand why it is abruptly taken away. Subsequent removal of objects may make the dog more apt to growl or bite to defend his possessions. A better approach is to reward the dog for relinquishing an object by giving her something in return, whether it’s a treat or praise.

Never leave dogs unsupervised with children. Interactions between small children and pets can be unpredictable. Children may climb on pets, pull at their hair and shriek in high voices, which can scare any dog. Unless at least one adult can be in the room with the child and the dog, it’s best to keep them separated.

Finally, for those dogs who may be uncomfortable with interactions on walks, Dr. Reisner recommends tying a yellow ribbon on the dog's leash. The yellow ribbon creates awareness that this dog should not be approached on walks, either because of potential aggression problems or simply because she has health issues or is in training. More information about this approach can be found at


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