How to Deal with Frustration Aggression/Re-Directed Aggression

This post is part of the series Working with Aggressive Dogs

Other posts in this series:

  1. Monkey, 8 lbs of Aggression
  2. Types of Aggression in Dogs
  3. Fear Based Aggression in Dogs

Just like humans, dogs sometimes get frustrated.  And just like humans, they sometimes lash out with aggression when they are frustrated.  Frustration aggression can present itself any time the dog wants to do something, and is being prevented or restrained from doing it.  And we all know that sometimes we have to prevent our dogs from doing things that they really want to do.  For their own good.

Frustration Aggression, or Re-directed Aggression

Unfortunately over time, a dog may learn to associate restraint with frustration. So even when the dog has nothing to be excited about, he can act out aggressively over just being restrained.  This is the reason why sometimes normally friendly dogs can become aggressive when leashed, or locked up in a crate or gate.

All dogs need to learn how to deal with feeling of frustration.  Since most of their time is spent in a human controlled world, they can get frustrated a lot.  So dealing with their frustration is a necessary skill for well mannered dogs.  It keeps them from behaving badly when they’re frustrated, and helps to eliminate the frustration aggression.

Frustration aggression can be directed at a human, another dog, or even an  inanimate object.  Such as a dog sees a squirrel out the window, so he tears up the curtains because he couldn’t get to it.  Or if the dog is being restrained by a leash, he may turn and bite his handler, or the leash itself.

Frustration is usually the reason dogs shred their beds, destroy crates, or even their toys.

Frustrations aggression is more common in energetic dogs with a need for lots of exercise.  It’s also more common in the more confident personality types of dogs.  The outgoing, confident and aggressive personalities, especially.

Dealing with Frustration Aggression

One of the first things to do to help your dog deal with his frustration is to make sure he’s getting enough exercise.  A tired dog is a good dog!  Lack of exercise is the number one reason for most bad doggy behaviors.

Basic obedience training is another must for a frustrated dog.  At the very least he should know the 10 Basic commands for a well mannered dog.  An untrained dog is the second leading cause of bad doggy behaviors.  Nothing in Life is Free, is a great way to get your dog started, and a great way to work on his manners continuously.

Make a list of all of the things your dog enjoys every day.  From least valuable to him, to most valuable.

Begin with the items at the top of the list.  The thing he gets the least excited about.  Ask him to wait quietly and patiently before giving it to him.  Such as, if he wants to go outside, make him wait calmly and patiently before you open the door.  Don’t open it until he settles down.  Don’t look at him or talk to him.  Just ignore him until he settles down.  If your dog already knows the Wait command, this is great practice for him.  And a lot easier on you.

Once he’s learned to wait patiently for his least favorite thing, move onto the next item on the list.  If it happens to be toys, try this.  Put him on a leash and put the toy just out of his reach.  Holding him in place, until he calms down and waits patiently.  Once he’s calm release him, and let him have the toy.

Keep working with him on each item in the list, until he learns to wait patiently for all of them.

By doing this, your dog will learn how to control his feeling of disappointment and frustration when he can’t do what he wants to do immediately.  Once he’s learned how to control his feelings, he’ll do better in other situations when he wants to do something other than what you want him to do.

Dealing with Re-directed Aggression

Dogs that redirect their aggression onto other things, be it human, animal, or objects tend to be very focused on whatever is triggering their excitement before the re-direction.  When they snap, they tend to go after anything that is close by, without really looking at it.  It’s usually a very quick bite, done in the heat of the moment, when their excitement is at it’s peak.

Lots of exercise, basic dog obedience commands, and the above method will help.

While working with the dog on these things, try to avoid situation that get your dog too excited.  Or use a muzzle when you know it’s going to happen.

Desensitization and counter-conditioning your dog to these situations may also help.

This post is part of the series Working with Aggressive Dogs

Other posts in this series:

  1. Monkey, 8 lbs of Aggression
  2. Types of Aggression in Dogs
  3. Fear Based Aggression in Dogs

Continue reading this series:

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