Leadership is the answer!
Most dogs do not want to be aggressive or defensive. They are much more happy and content with having structure, and a clear submissive role in the family. What happens when this role is not clear in your dog’s mind? Any number of things could go wrong, and this is the leading cause for fear-aggression and anxiety. There are several things that you can start, which will help to re-establish you as the leader in your home. This will allow your dog to let his guard down, and RELAX!
Begin with a “Nothing in Life is Free” routine (NILF). This means all food, treats, toys, and affection, MUST be earned. Free-feeding is out of the question, and the dog must sit and wait for food, being released to eat. Treats should be given sparingly. Treats must be well-timed, and for something special- like a long down-stay under distraction, etc. Toys are allowed, and interactive toys are preferable- something that you can play with your dog (ball, tug, etc.). These should also be earned, and should be picked up at all other times. Even your affection should be earned- do not pet your dog when he demands attention. Rather, ignore this behavior, and give affection for appropriate, calm, submissive behavior. Last. . .if your dog is allowed on the furniture, STOP! Normally, dogs on the furniture is not the end of the world, when they’re invited, but when there is leadership confusion present, this is absolutely a no-go.
So, let’s say you’re consistently doing all of the above. Your dog is calm, more confident, and submissive. Hopefully this has resolved any problem behaviors that may have occured in the past. If not, it is VERY important to consult with a professional, as the behavior may have progressed into something habitual, and will need some training. All hope is not lost, and your dog can be rehabilitated, it may simply need some more intense work. Aja Harris, with Mutt Magic, has extensive experience with this, and can help you and your dog regain the relationship you’re meant to have.