Aggression is the most common reason pet owners seek professional help from dog trainers, behaviorists, and veterinarians. But what exactly is dog aggression? The term aggression refers to hostile or destructive behavior directed toward either humans or other animals. Aggression includes a variety of behaviors that usually begin with warnings and escalate into attacks.
Warning signs of aggression
The key to dealing with aggression is recognizing the warning signs before they escalate. A dog’s body language that can be displayed in a more intense order is:
- Avoid eye contact by moving your body or head away from the threat
- The body becomes very rigid or immobile
- Keeping the ears close to the head
- A compressed body and the tail tucked under the body
- Barking or growling
- Show teeth
- A quick click or click
- Bite with pressure
- Strong bite and head shaking
Dogs are not always able to follow the above sequence and many times they will exhibit several behaviors at the same time. Pet parents often don’t recognize the signals their dogs give before they bite, but dogs rarely bite without warning.
Why do dogs exhibit aggressive behavior?
Although there are many causes of dog aggression, including genetics and inheriting the instinct to fight when threatened, fear is the most common cause of dog aggression.
Usually, when a dog is afraid or feels threatened, it will choose to run away from whatever is threatening it. However, when a dog is faced with a situation where it cannot escape, it may fight to protect itself.
Sometimes when we approach or stand over a dog, it can be threatening and scary to him. Lack of socialization is also a common cause of fear in some dogs. That’s why it’s so important to expose your dog to positive experiences with different types of people, places and noises at an early age so that he becomes less fearful.
Aggression in young puppies is most often related to fear, while aggression in adolescence can be social, sexual, or related to territorial/guardian threats. Dogs tend to keep things they think are of great value: toys, food, bones, and even people. Teaching dogs behaviors such as “leave” or “off” can help curb this type of behavior.
Reactive dog vs aggressive dog
Reactive dogs are often confused with aggressive dogs. Dogs that are reactive will overreact in certain situations or when certain triggers appear. Again, fear can be a driving force, but genetics, lack of socialization, or inadequate training can cause reactivity.
Identifying and recognizing your dog’s triggers is extremely important. There are unlimited triggers for dogs, however, some of the most common may be small children, bicycles or scooters, overstimulation, certain types of people, loud noises, or unusual objects. If you have a reactive dog, working with a dog trainer to try to address the cause and modify the behavior is the best way to prevent the aggression from escalating.
Keep in mind that certain medical conditions can cause your perfectly well-adjusted dog to act fearful or aggressive. Furthermore, some medications can alter mood and affect your dog’s susceptibility to aggression. If the aggressive form has suddenly developed, a veterinarian should be consulted to rule out chronic pain or other medical conditions that may cause or worsen the behavior.
Treats an aggressive dog
The incidence and frequency of some types of aggression can be reduced and sometimes eliminated through the successful use of behavioral modification techniques. However, there is no guarantee that an aggressive dog can be fully cured. In most cases, the only solution is to manage the problem by limiting the dog’s exposure to situations, people or things that trigger his aggression. Pet parents of aggressive dogs should be vigilant and always assume their dog is not being treated so they never let their guard down.
We are here to help
We may never fully understand what our amazing dogs are thinking, however, we can do our best to read their signals and seek professional dog training if necessary. Let 2 Paws Up Inc help give you the skills and knowledge to better manage your dog. We specialize in private home training for puppies to adult dogs, as well as dog training and dog training. Our programs are about teaching you, not just training your dog, and each program is customized. Every dog is as unique as your customized program. Contact us today for your initial consultation.