Williams, Walsh & O'Connor, LLC

Mistakes dog owners make when correcting canine aggressiveness

Have you ever been approached by an aggressive dog? It's very frightening. In a primal sort of way, you quickly understand just how vulnerable you are. You know how badly you could be injured if the dog decides to attack.

This situation can come up in dozens of different ways. Joggers are chased when they go by the dog's property. Mail carriers get bitten when they try to drop off packages. Children are attacked when they approach dogs too quickly to play. Visitors are hurt when dogs don't like them coming into the home.

Problems with dog owners

Regardless of how you were bitten, one of the first things you'll probably wonder is why the owner did not do a better job teaching the dog not to be aggressive. Why didn't they train the animal, from the time it was a puppy, to behave properly?

One potential issue is that the owner may have attempted to train the dog but made crucial mistakes that undermined that training or even made the situation worse. Examples of mistakes people make include:

1. Waiting too long to punish the dog

If the dog acts out in an aggressive manner and the owner does not punish it until an hour later, the dog has no idea why the punishment is happening. Dogs simply do not associate the two events with one another. They don't know why the punishment is happening.

Instead, at best, the dog gets confused. In the worst case scenario, the dog simply feels like the prior aggressive behavior was fine -- since it had no ramifications -- and that the owner is also randomly aggressive without warning. This can make the dog feel on edge all the time, potentially making it more dangerous.

2. Assaulting the dog as a means of punishment

Dogs do understand some types of physical punishment, such as controlled restraint. Kicking the dog, though, or hitting it, will not have the desired effect; it just riles the dog up. It can make it more aggressive and unpredictable. An abused dog tends to think it needs to violently defend itself, and so it can lash out at any perceived threat.

3. Using aggressive games to get the dog's energy out

Helping a dog burn off energy can help it become less aggressive, but it's best to do this in a non-aggressive way. For instance, the owner should take the dog for a walk or a run. People often want to use ropes and tug toys, but these can stimulate overall aggression, rather than calming the dog down.

Seeking compensation

If you get bitten by an aggressive dog, learn what options you have to seek financial compensation for your medical bills and other damages.

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