How to Socialize an Aggressive Dog with Humans – From Ruff to Fluff!

Every dog has a unique temperament, behavior, and predisposition. Also, some have aggressive tendencies which could either be learned or passed on from their parents. But whatever the reason behind the aggression, it’s important that you have it dealt with as the owner. Knowing how to socialize an aggressive dog with humans could be challenging, but it’s never too late for all dogs.

The sad truth is that some dog owners give up on their pooches because of aggression. Most end up in rescue shelters where their negative behavior worsens. The feeling of abandonment, fear, and being unwanted fuel their anguish toward humans and other dogs.

Still, there are many successful stories of pet owners who have won over their dog’s aggression. With proper training, patience, and love, any doggo will become disciplined and well-rounded.

What causes aggression among dogs?

A lot of things can cause aggression in dogs. Still, one thing is for sure; you can do something about it.

We know that living with an aggressive dog isn’t easy, especially if you have kids around. At some point, you might have considered giving them up.

However, the fix for this problem is only possible if you identify what’s causing it in the first place. The following are the usual reasons behind aggressive behavior.

In this National Geographic video, Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan shows us what you can do about the aggressive dog behavior:

-It’s in the genes

Regardless of your dog’s breed, its genes could be the possible culprit. Aggressive and neurotic parent dogs will likely pass the same disposition to their offspring.

Even if the parent dogs aren’t neurotic, your pet’s mother may have experienced intense stress during pregnancy. This leads to extreme hormonal changes that could impact the well-being of the puppies.

-They’ve had bad experiences

A dog that’s well-bred and raised could be aggressive if exposed to violence and maltreatment. Being left on the shelter or being punished physically are some of the classic examples that make dogs become fearful.

This fear will develop into aggression if they are exposed to the stimuli continuously. Even if the event seems minor and not that impactful, it could make a mark on a canine.

Nevertheless, like any cause of aggression, you can always fix or dampen these tendencies.

-It’s in the breed

Many dogs have aggressive tendencies because it’s innate in their breed. The likes of Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and other canines tend to have aggressive tendencies due to their backgrounds.

Pit Bulls were boldly bred for bullbaiting where they were made vicious. Meanwhile, Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers were guard dogs and bred to be courageous. These characteristics, if not dampened early on, can lead to signs of aggression and dominance.

Also, some hunting breeds could be perceived aggressive due to their intense hunting drive and affinity for chewing.

-It’s the combination of the three

If you can’t pinpoint the exact cause, it’s possible that it’s the combination of the first three factors. Dogs born on aggressive parents, exposed to harsh environments, and have breed-related predispositions are likely to show aggression toward humans and other dogs.

This will worsen if the dog wasn’t socialized well.

-Sickness is a factor

If your sweet dog suddenly becomes irritable and aggressive, the pooch may be ailing. Your dog may not want to be touched if it experiences pain or discomfort. So when you go for a cuddle and are met with snarling or a scratch from their sharp claws, you should have the pooch checked.

Nevertheless, just like humans, dogs may have bad days. It could be an isolated case and you just caught the pooch at the wrong time. However, if the behavior persists, that’s the time you have to tap the help of professionals –a veterinarian to rule out possible health conditions and a dog trainer.

-Poor leadership on the owner’s part

Aggression isn’t only your dog’s problem. Sometimes, it could be you, the owner, that’s causing the behavioral issue.

How’s your leadership? Do you use violence and punishment to correct a bad habit? Do you let the dog take over the household? If so, you’re letting your pooch unleash its ugly sides.

Poor leadership is problematic, especially for breeds with a bold personality and aggressive tendencies. As much as you want to fix your dog’s behavior, you should also revamp your behavior and attitude toward your pet.

Starting them young is essential

Socialization is a key component of raising a well-rounded dog. Also, for you to succeed, you need to start your doggo on the youngest possible age.

If you’re getting a puppy, socializing them with people and other dogs is crucial the moment that you get them from a breeder. Allow the pup to mingle with other puppies and humans. Still, make sure that they’re safe and they have received the core vaccines.

By doing this, you’re desensitizing your dog to possible triggers. As the pooch grows up, it becomes friendlier and used to various stimuli around them.  

Is it too late for adult canines?

Definitely not! All dogs, regardless of age, can be socialized and reformed. You can always find ways to correct bad behavior with consistency and the right methods.

But to be honest, it will be challenging to socialize an adult canine. Since these pooches have already established their fears, dispositions, and reactions to various stimuli, pet owners have a lot of work to do.

Just imagine dogs as humans. You can easily distract a kid from a toy by giving them another toy. However, you can’t change an adult’s opinion just because you insisted on yours.

Through this metaphor, you’ll know the weight of the task you have at hand. But then again, socialization can be challenging, but it’s never impossible for canines.


how to socialize an aggressive dog with humans

Now that you have determined the cause of aggression and other information about the behavior, it’s now time to correct it. Here’s a simple process that you can follow in dealing with the problem:

Where to start: know your dog’s triggers

To be one step ahead of your dog’s behavior, you should identify first what’s triggering their aggression. Your dog isn’t aggressive every minute of the day. For sure, some stimuli cause this behavior to unleash.

It could be a person, moving objects, a specific sound, or nuances that they finding threatening. By listing these triggers down, you can track your dog’s behavior and teach them that such stimuli aren’t harmful.

Even if you fail to address the problem, you can help professional trainers by telling them about your observations as well as your dog’s triggers.

Next step: Know your dog’s threshold

Next, you should identify your dog’s aggression threshold. This pertains to the tipping point on which your dog becomes neurotic. Usually, aggression thresholds are measured by distance.

 For example, your dog has a 10-meter threshold on its trigger. That means your dog will go crazy once it sees a trigger at a maximum distance of 10 meters.

If the sound is the trigger, you’ll measure it by loudness. It could be a 70-decibel siren and so on.

Take note that there’s a term called ‘trigger stacking’. It happens when several triggers are present within a close or far distance. With this, your dog may react more harshly.

Move forward: Mind your safety as well

Aggressive dogs can harm you and your family. So before and during the training, it’s important that you have safety measures in place.

We recommend that you separate your pooch from the rest of the household for the meantime. This way, they wouldn’t be a threat to other dogs and your kids. Baby gates are ideal here so you can segregate the pooch without making them feel trapped in an enclosed room.

Also, consider muzzle training your dog if it tends to bite at the sight of a trigger. Muzzles are accessories attached to the muzzle area of the canine, which prevents it from biting or nipping a person or object.

In addition, always train an aggressive dog on a leash. This will let you control their reach, especially if another person is around.

Get it going: Basic obedience

Now that you have the environment controlled, it’s time to teach your dog some obedience commands. These are the classic “Sit!”, “Stay!”, and “Leave it!”. These commands are the foundation of other drills that you’ll do in the future.

But what if my dog is so distracted and wired even to pay attention? Nothing beats a short run and playtime to drain the extra energy of your pooch.

Once your dog has mastered these skills, you can move on the advanced training. Just remember to take it slow and to have endless patience as some canines can be tough nuts to crack.

Sustain the progress: Use positive reinforcement

The key to success in every dog training drill is positive reinforcement. Rewarding positive behavior instead of punishing the negative will help reform your dog.

This way, your pooch will realize that aggression is an unacceptable behavior without the need to use violence. Also, your dog will know that behaving well gives them delicious treats while defying only leaves them with nothing.

However, you have to perform positive reinforcement drills repeatedly until you’re sure that your pooch has learned the process. Also, you should start reducing the treat until it’s no longer the driving force of your pooch to behave well. You can replace the edible treats with praises and affection instead.

Succeed: Fight the trigger

Now that you have laid the foundation, it’s now time to face your dog’s aggression triggers. For this part, we’re going to deal with two principles: desensitization and counterconditioning.


This is the process on which we expose our dogs to their triggers. If the pooch behaves and stays calm at the sight of the trigger, it will get a treat.

For this part, we will start at a farther distance than your dog’s threshold. This way, we can use the reward system successfully.

For example, if your dog is aggressive toward people with hats, you should ask a friend to stand at a distance with a hat on. Let your dog see it from afar. If your pooch becomes alert, call its name and try to calm the pooch down. If it settles, give it a treat.

Slowly move toward the trigger (friend with a hat). Again, try to calm your dog down and reward it with treats if it behaves well. Repeat the process in a few days until your dog is fully relaxed in the presence of the trigger.


Once you have succeeded on desensitizing your dog on its trigger, it’s now time to perform counterconditioning. Now that your dog can tolerate the presence of the trigger in close distance, ask the trigger (friend with the hat) to hand a treat to your pooch.

The goal here is to reverse the perception of your dog to the trigger. From being an enemy, the dog will now realize that the trigger is an ally.

Still, ask your friend to be as gentle as possible. If your dog bares its teeth and shows signs of aggression, said a firm “No!” and retreat. Repeat the process until your dog peacefully gets the treat from its trigger.

Additional precautions and tips

To keep you and the people around safe, keep the following tips in mind as well:

-Don’t let kids mingle with the dog for the meantime. Aggressive dogs don’t tolerate rough-housing, so it’s best to keep them away from the dog.

-Always protect your dog. As much as an aggressive dog could harm other people, they could also harm their selves. It’s best to put them on a leash while outdoors and to remove sharp objects that could injure them.

-Go as slowly as possible. Socializing and training an aggressive dog is a challenging task. Also, it will require patience as adult canines will take some time to reform.

Final words

Knowing how to socialize an aggressive dog with humans is essential to raise a disciplined dog. This way, your pooch will also become a safe member of your household. Patience, consistency, and knowledge are your foundation for this process.