Back in the days when food didn't come in a bag and life was a lot rougher than it is today, dogs and cats needed an aggressive attitude, along with sharp teeth and strong claws, just to survive.
In today's world, however, excessively aggressive behavior like hissing, growling, showing of teeth or slashing of claws, can be dangerous-not just for people or other pets but for your aggressive friend as well.
There are many reasons dogs and cats are aggressive. Fear of strangers or new situations will cause some pets to show their teeth or claws. A pet that has been abused is more likely to turn his temper--and teeth--on others. In addition, some pets are encouraged by their owners to play rough--and then look surprised when they get a scolding instead of praise.
Don't ever ignore aggressive behavior. Chances are it won't get better-and it can get worse. Sooner or later, someone-a person or another pet-is going to get hurt. To keep your pet calm and under control, here are some tips:
Remind him who is boss. The next time your pet growls, spits or bites, give him a firm "No!" You want your pet to stop what he is doing immediately and show a submissive lowering of the body. It is important, however, not to scare him or cause serious alarm. The trick is to be firm but not terrifying. He will soon get the hint.
Stop him in the act. Dogs and cats, like children, will occasionally act up when you are too busy or embarrassed to scold them-like when the boss is over for dinner. Take charge anyway. For scolding to be effective, it has to be delivered within a few seconds of the misbehavior.
Try a time out. One of the best ways to discipline an aggressive pet is to separate him from what he loves best--you. Put him in another room by himself for about five minutes. Pets don't like being alone.
Shake him up. Pets hate loud noises, so the next time your pooch gets aggressive, take him down a peg or two by rattling a shake can. Take an empty pop can, put some coins in it and tape the top shut. When your pet starts misbehaving, tell him "NO!" while at the same time giving the can a quick shake. The unpleasant noise will help remind him that he is getting out of line.
Save your hands for loving. It is natural to strike out at a biting dog or hissing cat, but in most cases hitting does more harm than good. In fact, some animals become so afraid of being hit that they automatically bite whenever they feel threatened. Your hand should be your dog's friend.
Introduce him to strangers. Dogs can be very territorial and may get aggressive when strangers-like delivery people and mail carriers--invade their turf. To help your dog make friends with foes, try keeping a stash of treats by the door. When visitors call, hand them a treat and let them offer it to the dog. It is hard for your dog to see a person as a threat when they are offering food.
Mail him a bone. Mail carriers often bear the brunt of a dog's unruly behavior. If you have a mail slot leading to the house, you can help your mailman get a first-class reception by taping a treat outside of the door. Then the mail carrier can slip in a peace offering along with the mail.
Sign up for a class. Perhaps the best way to prevent young dogs from getting uppity later on is to train them well. Puppy obedience classes provide exposure to other dogs and people and also teach the owner to gain and keep control of the dog. Most dogs can start classes between 12 and 16 weeks of age.