How to handle an aggressive dog

By Michelle Barson, KeraVet Bio Staff

In honor of “Responsible Dog Ownership Month,” we sat down with Mikkel Becker, a dog behavior consultant and certified lead animal trainer for, to ask her advice on how a pet parent can best serve their community and dog when faced with unwanted or aggressive behavior.

When introducing an aggressive dog to new people and places, Mikkel recommended to proceed in a “controlled and [gradual]” manner. She went on to explain, “a lot of people tend to think ‘flooding’ is the best practice, but what this does is it puts the dog emotionally in over its head, and this overexposure can make them become more sensitive to that situation in the future, thus making the unwanted behavior worse.” When training your dog for new situations, Mikkel talked about staying attuned to how your dog is feeling. “You need to see how they are feeling and not inhibit or punish that feeling, but instead recognize it and learn how you can help them feel more comfortable when you reintroduce them to those challenging situations in the future,” she said.

“For example,” Mikkel explains, “on a walk, (the most common situation pet parents express concerns of aggressive behavior over) the dog barks and the person gets upset. But that’s how the dog communicates. Once you see or hear they are trying to communicate, give them the space they need to work through it. The biggest thing is to avoid confrontation and avoid forcing the issue.” Whenever possible, she says to provide the pet with the physical space to remove themselves from unwanted situations and when that’s not possible, keep a close eye on their body language so that you can remove them if necessary.

“It’s important to remember that aggression is sending a message and you must be open to receiving it. Is it fear? Is it physical discomfort? Is the dog conflicted and has no safe place to escape to?” Mikkel goes on to say that when experiencing aggressive behavior repeatedly to see your family vet first. Share with them the situations where your pet exhibits these behaviors and in what ways. By giving your veterinarian a complete picture of the situation, they will be able to guide you on the next best steps to resolving it.

About Mikkel Becker, CBCC-KA, KPA CTP, CDBC, CPDT-KA, CTC

Mikkel Becker is a certified trainer and certified behavior consultant and is the owner of Mikkel Becker Animal Training LLC. She is the coauthor of 6 books and lead animal trainer for Mikkel is committed to helping pets and their people live better lives together through kind training and bond-building methods that partner closely with the pet’s veterinary team. Follow, Like, and Subscribe to Mikkel by clicking on the links below.

LinkedIn Instagram Facebook YouTube