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It can be a scary experience when your dog suddenly snaps. It is even frightening when it is a pit bull, a dog breed that is blamed for over 65% of the overall dog bites and related deaths in the United States. A snap is usually a warning that something is becoming intolerable to your dog and should never be taken lightly.
If anything, snapping, biting, and other aggressive behaviors are some of the main reasons why dogs are often relinquished to shelters. So, if your pit bull snaps, don’t add him to these statistics. Try to find out why he snaps and see what you can do about this aggressive behavior.
Why Pit Bulls Snap
There are a lot of myths about pit bulls suddenly snapping or attacking without warning. The truth is, any dog can snap (not just pit bulls) and when this happens, there is a reason. A happy and healthy dog will seldom snap or attack.
Knowing why your pit bull is snapping or acting aggressively is, therefore, critical to figuring out the best strategy to make him stop this creepy behavior. There are several reasons why pit bulls snap:
1.Reaction to pain
If your pit bull is injured or experiencing some discomfort, he may lash out at you when you try to touch him, thinking that you are the cause of the pain. Even for human beings, whenever someone reaches for an injured part of your body, you will automatically push them away. Your pit bull may also display similar sort of reflex when he has sustained some injuries.
Besides injury, some conditions such as brain tumors and cognitive dysfunction may affect your dog’s brain, causing him to display unreasonable aggressive behaviors like snapping. Although such issues are more likely to occur in older pit bulls, they can happen at any age.
A pit bull is likely to snap when he senses that he is in danger and feels that he needs to defend himself. If your pit bull finds himself in a small space or thinks that a raised hand over his head is meant to hit him, he is likely to snap.
Your pit bull may also snap to guard a resource like toys, food, or any other objects of value. If your pit bull exhibits possession aggression, he may snap if you approach his food or get so close when he is chewing a bone.
Like other dogs, pit bulls may snap when they are frustrated because of not being given whatever they want at a particular time. This type of aggression is common in pit bulls that are restrained on leashes or those that spend a lot of their time tied up.
If your dog starts snapping at everything around him the moment you put a leash in him, just know that he is frustrated by the leash. This may also be called leash aggression and is usually caused by a dog feeling to restrained or frustrated by their leash.
Recent changes in your pit bull’s environment might make them a bit anxious, prompting them to exhibit aggressive behaviors like snapping. Common causes of such anxieties include moving to a new home or arrival of a new member of the family.
7. Show of Dominance
Like other dogs, pit bulls may snap or behave aggressively as a show of dominance. While it is usually directed to other dogs, it can be directed to you or other people as well. There are instances when your pit bull may feel that he is in charge of a situation. The snapping or growling occurs when he feels that his position is being challenged. Challenging his position could mean a wide range of things, including trying to pick him or walking through a door at the same time as him.
8. Maternal Instincts
A pit bull mother may also snap simply because she doesn’t want you near her puppies. This is because her maternal instincts are stronger than her love for you. Consult your vet about this or have her spayed because this type of aggression may persist even after the litter is gone.
What to Do When Your Pit Bull Snaps
After knowing why your pit bull snaps, you need to address the behavior. Here is a quick overview of what you can do:
- Steer Clear of Potential Triggers: The first step to take when your pit bull snaps at you is to keep him away from whatever you suspect is causing this sudden burst in aggression. If he doesn’t like you touching him, stop it and give him some time to cool down. If he is snapping at your guest, use sturdy baby gates or crate to keep him safely confined until you see your guests off.
- Try Desensitization Exercises: If you suspect that your pit bull is snapping because of territorial reasons, consider bringing new people to the house frequently. As he gradually adjusts to new stimuli and stops the snapping behavior, you may start bringing more people over.
- Maintain a Calm Environment For Him: Try to stick to a fixed routine so that your dog is always aware of what to expect for the day. It is also critical to stay calm. Your dog can sense when you are stressed and your stress may be rubbing him off the wrong way, making him to show aggression. Consider putting a few chew toys or getting him a calming bed to make him feel more comfortable.
- Try Supplements: Try giving him natural, calming supplements to help him stay calm. Avoid sedatives as they may worsen the situation and even increase your dog’s risk of seizure or low blood pressure. When he manages to calm down after taking the supplements, give him nutritious treats and take him on a walk to keep him healthy.
- See A Vet: Consult a vet to help you figure what could be causing the aggressive behavior. If your dog has sustained an injury or suffering from a medical condition, a vet will conduct an examination to try and discover the root cause of the injury and sudden aggression.
- Get A Professional Dog Trainer: Once your dog has been examined by a vet and medical conditions ruled out, you may consider finding a professional dog trainer, especially those who specialize in dog aggression, to help you correct the aggressive behavior.
So, why do pit bulls snap? As you can see, there are several reasons why your pit bull or any other dog may snap. But snapping behavior is not rare in dogs and shouldn’t worry you so much. Although it can be scary, especially if your dog has been quiet and calm over the years, it is more of a behavioral issue that can be solved by proper training and socialization.
Depending on the severity of your pit bull’s snapping behavior, the solution can be anything from a simple change in his environment, daily routine, getting rid of stressors, to working with a vet or professional dog trainer. Whatever step you decide to take to correct the snapping behavior, just remember that it is a worthwhile effort.