Dog aggression towards people is similar to dog on dog aggression in many ways. The root cause of aggression towards people is that the attacking dog believes that he is the leader of the pack.
Sadly, aggressive dog behavior toward people is one of the most common reasons that people abandon their dogs to dog rescues and shelters. However, for the most part, aggression is preventable.
Make no mistake. There is no reason to allow your dog to be aggressive toward people, assuming that he is not in training for police work.
Even dogs working for the police or military, are taught to follow commands and use aggression only upon command. So there are absolutely no excuses for you to accept aggressive behavior in your family Weimaraner!
If you are looking for information about dog aggression toward other dogs and objects, the article here discusses aggression toward dogs and objects.
In this article about dog aggression toward people, I discuss:
- Two Types of Dog Aggression
- Body Language of Aggressive Dogs
- How an Aggressive Dog Thinks
- Your Dog’s Options
- How to Handle Dog Aggression towards People
- Video Demo by Doggy Dan
Two Types of Aggressive Dog Behavior
Dogs are aggressive toward people for similar reasons to being aggressive toward other dogs. Key to understanding an aggressive dog, is understanding just how dogs think.
A dog who is aggressive thinks that he is the Pack Leader. He thinks that he should make all the important decisions. It is his duty to protect the Pack, which he thinks is you and your family.
Pack leaders may decide that people in general are dangerous, and this is based on factors that we don’t understand. Some of this behavior could occur only when your dog feels that he needs to protect the pack at home (your den) or pack members on a walk.
Dominant canine leaders will usually warn a person before biting. However, occasionally they become aggressive without warning. You need to know your dog, so that you can anticipate a problem.
Keep in mind that all barking is not aggressive. And an attentive dog owner needs to distinguish between friendly hellos and warnings or aggressive barks.
One additional complication is that, your dog could be frightened, even though she thinks she is the Pack Leader and needs to protect the Pack.
When a dog believes that he is the alpha Leader, his duty is to protect you. A dominant dog will approach people in a confident manner, with tail held high in the air.
Dominant dogs do not usually run away, and they will stand their ground when protecting others. They won’t back down or retreat.
When people come to the door, a dominant dog will aggressively protect his Pack, if he believes that the person at the door is dangerous and could hurt him or his family members.
Mailmen and package delivery people have a long history of being attacked by dogs.
A more submissive dog will approach strangers with his tail between his legs. He may be afraid, yet still think he is the Pack Leader. Submissive dogs are more likely to run or freeze, before becoming aggressive.
Even though a dog is frightened and glued to your leg, he could also be barking aggressively and snarling. We see this kind of behavior when a dog feels cornered.
Your dog could feel that he is cornered when:
- On a leash or tether and he can’t get away
- He is startled by a young child who gives no warning before running into your dog’s personal space.
- A child or adult unexpectedly touches, pets or pats your dog. Your dog is startled.
- Being petted by a stranger while being carried (with no way to escape). Of course, with Weimaraners, this is only in the puppy stage.
After the puppy stage, Weimaraners are not carried or riding in dog strollers. For the most part, they are less likely to feel cornered or unable to escape.
However, your dog could be easily startled by a child or stranger. He may be defensive when a child pats him roughly or he may be frightened because of bad experiences before you rescued him.
Children are frequently the object of aggression–partly because the children are not taught about approaching a dog. And partly because the dog was not socialized properly when he was a puppy.
Body Language of Aggressive Dogs
When a dog is becoming aggressive, she will give you clues. Reading these signals will help you get the situation under control before someone gets hurt.
Notice that a dog gets more serious as the warnings increase.
It is important to make sure that your dog does not continue to escalate toward an attack.
- An intense stare – You will recognize this. Not a casual or interested glance at you, this stare at your eyes, is threatening.
- Rigid body and taut muscles
- The dog moves slowly and looks stiff as he moves
- Growling that comes from the throat. This is not a playful growl.
- If the growling is from the chest, it’s getting even more serious.
- A tummy area growl – this is the most serious growl. Not really a warning anymore! Everyone needs to stay clear.
- Snapping or a half-snap. The dog snaps at the air near you.
- Bite that bruises, but does not break the skin
- Hard bite that bruises, breaks the skin and bleeds. If things are out of control, the dog may not stop with one hard bite. At this point, you have a very dangerous situation!
How an Aggressive Dog Thinks
Dogs don’t just bite someone randomly or out of the blue! There is a series of events that lead up to aggressive dog behavior. As a dog owner, you need to be aware of how this works.
Think about how dogs in a pack interact. The pack leader has certain privileges and responsibilities. Here are the pack leader’s jobs:
Maintain her position in the pack
This is an ongoing responsibility. Your dog needs to stay on top of her game. Other dogs in your home or people in your family, will challenge the leader’s position.
If no one can do it better, she remains in the leadership role. If your dog thinks she is the pack leader, she will always be protecting her role.
This is just part of her responsibilities.
There are rules in a pack, and it is the leader’s responsibility to keep everyone in line.
In your dog’s first pack, his mother kept everyone in line and disciplined by nudging, nipping or gently growling when a puppy needed redirection.
The leader protects the den (your home) and the pack (your family). If your dog thinks she is in charge, she will take over the security and protection duties. Not a good idea.
However, if you assume the leadership role, your dog will relax and let you handle all the protection duties and make the important decisions.
Always on Duty
When you work so hard at being the pack leader, you do get tired and you are always on duty. It can make you irritable and edgy.
If your dog thinks she is the pack leader, she will simply be carrying out her duties. As humans, we may interpret her actions differently.
How to Recognize Aggressive Dog Behavior
Everyday activities can lead to aggression, when your dog is in charge of your household. When you think about some of the following scenarios from a dog’s point of view, it’s easier to understand her behavior.
Here are some typical examples:
When your dog thinks he is the leader, he doesn’t have to obey you. You have to obey him. Something as simple as telling your dog to get off the sofa can escalate into a problem.
If your dog thinks she is the pack leader and she doesn’t want to sit on the floor, she can refuse and then proceed to discipline you. Disciplining you can be anything from growling to snarling or baring her teeth.
Be aware that, if your dog refuses to do what you ask or just ignores you, this is passive aggression. If you ignore this refusal to obey you, things will only get worse.
Aggression at the Door
When someone comes to the door, your dog thinks she needs to determine who is there and what to do about it. This decision should be yours, not hers.
Invading a Dog’s Space
People get uncomfortable when a stranger invades their personal space. So do dogs. Especially dogs who are dominant or think they are leaders.
When a child or stranger quickly gets close to a dominant dog (to pat or show affection), the dog may misinterpret the action. Children can confuse a dog when they run toward the dog, waving their arms and yelling.
Pack leaders do not tolerate space invasion, and they will “correct” a person who tries to invade their space.
To avoid a problem, ask an adult to call the dog over to them, then to stroke the dog under the chin, instead of on top of the head. Stroking a dog under its chin is less threatening, as the dog does not feel that he will be hit. The dog feels that the situation is under control.
For children, you need to control your dog and then work with the child to teach him how to gently approach your dog, if your dog will tolerate it. Otherwise, just tell children that your dog is off limits.
Aggression over Food
In the wild, the alpha dogs eat first and then those in a lesser position eat what is left. When you establish yourself as the pack leader, your dog will not show aggression toward you when it is meal time.
However, it’s important that you never take food from your dog’s bowl when he is eating. That’s just asking for trouble.
Power Gesture Eating, taught by Doggy Dan is one of the ways that you establish your position as leader in the pack. This does work.
We had a problem with our alpha female dog Skipper when it was mealtime. Skipper would barge in to get her kibble before we even finished putting it into her bowl. Then she would warn us to get away.
We used Dan’s techniques and now Skipper sits and waits (almost patiently) for us to tell her that she can now eat her meal.
Your Dog’s Options
Unfortunately we often misinterpret what is happening with our dogs, sometimes because we just aren’t paying close attention.
Whether your dog is scared or feeling dominant, he has limited options. He does not have hands to push someone away from him. He can’t ask them to back off and give him space. If he is on a leash, being held, or in a carrier, he can’t get away.
Depending on how he sees the situation, your dog is either feeling frightened or feels that someone is threatening his leadership. In either case, he needs to do something about it.
Your job is to see the tension mounting and stop things before your dog becomes aggressive.
How to Handle Dog Aggression Towards People
This is not rocket science. And in most cases, you can get this under control, so you won’t end up having to take your dog to a shelter, because he’s out of control.
First, and most important, you need to become the Pack Leader in your home. Doggy Dan has 5 Golden Rules that will help you do this.
No matter what the situation, you need to stay calm. Dogs pick up on our emotions, and if you are calm, your Weimaraner dog will stay calm, as well.
Do Things Slowly
Do things slowly when answering the door or meeting people on the street.
Stay in Control
For example, when walking an aggressive dog, keep him on a short leash, so you have control. If you know your dog is aggressive, avoid taking him near people or other dogs.
Practice with your Dog
If your dog has shown aggression, take him for walks but stay far away from others. As he does better, gradually walk closer and closer to strangers.
Your Dog’s Space
Ask others not to invade your dog’s space. Since your dog can’t speak for himself, it’s up to you to set the rules and keep others out of your dog’s personal space.
The Online Training System by Doggy Dan is an excellent way to learn how to work with your Weimaraner, aggressive or not.
In this video, Dan demonstrates how to handle dog aggression toward people visiting your home. When he starts, the dog barks aggressively as he enters the gate. The dog has been consistently barking aggressively at anyone who enters the gate.
Watch carefully to see how they work together to calm the dog. When the owner follows the simple rules for calming his dog, Dan is able to enter the yard.
After this lesson, the owner should practice the technique with other people, to make sure that the dog transfers his learning to others.
Dog aggression can be handled and kept under control, but it will take some effort and commitment on your part!
Of course, if your dog was socialized properly as a puppy, you probably won’t have an aggression issue. However, some Weimaraners have a tendency to be protective of family members, so it’s not always your fault.
In addition, when you adopt a formerly owned dog, you just don’t know what happened to the dog before you.
In any case, most dogs can be successfully redirected, and you can correct dog aggression towards people before you have a serious problem.