- Dogs that behave as though they are shy, may actually be fearful and scared. They are most likely to become aggressive when they cannot escape or feel trapped, so avoid corning or overwhelming the dog by trying to pet or be near a shy, fearful dog.
- Listen to the dog: Dogs have a normal progression of aggression starting with barking, then growling, snarling, snapping, and finally biting. If a dog is showing one of the early signs of aggression then remove them or yourself from the situation so that they do not feel the need to escalate to biting. Also, look for other stress signals such as a furrowed brow, muzzle licking, yawning, moving in slow motion, hypervigilance, panting, not accepting treats, etc.
- So that your dog does not grow up to be a dog who bites, it’s important you socialize your dog starting as a puppy (less than 16 weeks of age) to vaccinate against fear, defensiveness, and aggression later in life. Although socialization must occur throughout life for maintenance of social relationships, at less than 16 weeks of age puppies are in their sensitive period of socialization. This is the time when they are more likely to overcome mild fears and habituate to people, other animals, noises, objects, etc. Remember not to socialize puppies in places frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination or disease status such as dog parks or pet stores.
By Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB