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Dog Aggressive Behaviors

Aggressive behaviors are natural and normal for dogs, but unacceptable for humans. Training is extremely beneficial to restraining and controlling aggressive behaviors. Proper socialization and puppy classes are also very helpful. Dogs depending on environment and genetics may require very little stimuli to respond aggressively. Proper training raises the threshold before a dog responds and acts aggressively. Dog training classes teach the owners more about training than training dogs to behave. Dog owners train dogs.

Nature is natural
Aggression by a dog is intentional and there is a reason for the behavior, at least from the dog’s perspective. Dogs communicate differently from humans. They closely observe posture, tail position, movement, facial expressions, eye contact and smell. Many problems occur because of communication problems between the 2 species. There are several different types of aggression by a dog. Aggression may be caused by fear, protection or their social standing.

Dominance Aggression
Dogs are social animals and dominance aggression is motivated by a challenge to its social standing among the family group. A pecking order is established, depending on the outcome of social challenges within a group or family. If your dog believes they are higher on the pecking order than you; you may be challenged in some circumstances. Growling when you disturb them or moving them away from their favorite spot or off the furniture indicates a dominant aggressive dog.

Hugging a dog or reaching over the shoulders of a dog is an aggressive action to a dog. So is grabbing a collar or otherwise restraining a dog may cause a dog to respond aggressively.

Dominance aggression may be directed at humans, dogs and even cats. Disputes or fight between dogs in the same home are generally caused by instability in the family hierarchy.

Fear Aggression
Fear aggression occurs when a dog is in danger of being harmed. The reaction depends on the dog’s perception, not reality. Fear aggression may occur when a dog is in an unfamiliar or unpleasant environment or an event reminds them of a previous unpleasant experience. It is not uncommon to find a Shelter dog that fears an arm raised to throw a ball. Dogs often respond to approaching dogs with fear aggression. Fear aggressive dogs may respond to fear with growling, barking or biting.

Protective, Territorial or Possession Aggression
These aggression types are very similar, but a dog that is Territorial aggressive may not be Possession aggressive. These behaviors arise from the desire to protect something of value to the dog and may be directed at humans and animals. Protective aggression comes from the desire to protect family members; humans and/or animals. Territorial aggression is associated with the protection of the house, the yard, the car, their crate or bed. A dog that takes regular walks around the neighborhood and marks its territory may consider the whole block part of its territory. Possession aggression is the desire to protect their food, their chew bones, their toys or an item stolen from the trash.

Predator Aggression
Predatory aggression is caused solely by desire to capture and/or to find a meal. It is not meant to intimidate. All dogs are predators, but some breeds may be considered more predator aggressive than others. A small terrier is a predator to a mouse, a large dog may be a predator to a cat or farm animal.

Redirected Aggression
This type of aggression is often misunderstood by humans and may occur more frequently than we may believe. A dog excited in an aggressive response and prevented from response may redirect their response to someone else. Two companion dogs restrained behind a fence from an intruder may attack each other. Redirected aggression starts with another form of aggression, so it is easier to deal with the initial cause than the redirected aggression.

Pain-induced Aggression
Even if there is no obvious medical condition, some medical condition may cause discomfort and irritation. Often this type is discovered when a perfectly happy dog becomes aggressive in unexpected situations. The aggressive behavior may continue after the pain no longer exists; so it may be necessary to desensitize a dog to gradually accept and enjoy the situation again.

Rage or Idiopathic Aggression
In rare circumstances, there is no identifiable reason or stimuli that initiate an aggressive behavior. It is suggested that this type of aggression is genetic and occurs more frequently in particular breeds. This is a very rare and should only be diagnosed by a professional.

Caution should be taken when training an adult dog with aggressive behaviors. Spay or neuter your dog; in-tact dogs tend to be display more Dominance, Territorial and Protective aggressive behaviors. Avoid situations that will cause your dog to be aggressive. A dog that is food aggressive should not be allowed to eat with visitors, cats or children in the same room. Feed them in their crate. Dogs that become aggressive over a rawhide should not be allowed to have a rawhide, unless locked in their kennel alone.

Seek professional from a Trainer or Animal Behaviorist
for help when coping with a severe aggression problem

What not to do
Do not respond with punishment or it will most likely create more aggression. Attempting to punish Territorial aggression is most likely to elicit the addition of fear aggression. The result may be a bite.

Do not encourage aggressive behaviors. Playing tug-of-war encourages Dominance aggression. Encouraging a dog to become excited and bark at outside noises is encouraging Territorial and Possession aggressive reactions.

Teach your children about their actions which can cause a dog to become aggressive. Your family dog may love a hug and accept a child looking into or staring into their eyes, but the dog next door may not respond positively to these threatening behaviors.

Do not encourage aggressive behaviors

Warning Signs
If you see any of these warning signs, you need help from a Professional Trainer or Animal Behaviorist.

  • Refusing to lie down on command
  • Bumping you or your children
  • Mounts you or your children
  • Refusing to move or get off the furniture
  • Stops eating or chewing as you approach
  • Growls for any reason, other than play


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