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Behavior Changes in Aging Dogs


Aggression continued...

Aggression can’t be effectively treated until a diagnosis has been made and the cause has been determined. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate a qualified animal behavior expert in your area, such as a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB). If you can’t find a behaviorist, you can seek help from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), but be sure the trainer is qualified to help you. Determine whether she or he has education and experience in treating aggression, since this expertise is not required for CPDT certification.

One of these professionals can evaluate the situation and help you treat your dog’s aggression. Treatment-whether drug therapy, behavior therapy or making changes in your dog’s environment-will depend on the specific type of aggression and its cause or triggers. For example, treatment for fear-based aggression involves desensitization and counterconditioning (DSCC), as well as training to improve your control over your dog. Please see our article, Desensitization and Counterconditioning, for a detailed overview of this treatment. Medical problems that can’t be resolved, such as sensory decline, may limit what improvements can be achieved. Avoiding or preventing the triggers of your dog’s aggression may be the best option in these cases. Head halters, such as Premier’s Gentle Leader® Headcollar, can give you more control over your dog and increase everyone’s safety. Please see our article, Aggression in Dogs, for more information.

1Landsberg, G., Hunthausen. W., & Ackerman, L. (2003). Handbook of Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat. Saunders: New York.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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