Aggression is one of the most serious behavioral problems in dogs; it’s the main reason most of the pet owners usually seek help and ask professional dog trainers and vets.
The term indicates a violent behavior towards humans or other pets.
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Do you have aggressive Dogs? Signs of Aggression in Dogs
Learning the signs of aggression in dogs can help you detect if your dog is aggressive or not. You have to understand your dog’s body language and know if it’s a sign of an upcoming attack. Learning all these signs can help you understand and will stop it at the perfect timing.
The Most Common signs of Aggression:
- Baring Teeth
- Ears pointed back
- Stiff body posture
- Avoiding eye contact through squinting, turning the head or body away from the threat.
Causes of Dog Aggression
Medical problems are listed as one of the main reasons why dogs become aggressive.
For example, if a dog starts to show signs of aggression such as; growling or biting, this may be caused by medical problems.
Below are some of the common types of medical problems that cause dog aggression.
When your dog experiences chronic pain such as an underlying ear infection may cause a dog to growl or bite when being touched.
Spinal and neck problems can cause dog aggression when you try putting the leash on the collar due to the pain they feel.
Also, disorders that are chronic like arthritis and hip dysplasia can cause dog aggression when they are pushed by children.
There are seizures that affect the part of the dogs’ brain responsible for regulating aggression.
These seizures are called partial seizures and contribute to your dog being aggressive.
These seizures are found in certain dog breeds such as Cock Spaniels, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Springer Spaniels.
Hypothyroidism affects the endocrine system by causing a low number in thyroid hormones.
Dogs who have this condition tend to develop weight gain, low tolerance of cold, hair loss, lethargy.
Also they tend to have behavioral problems such as aggression, fear, and anxiety.
This condition can be detected using a simple blood test.
It is treated by giving your dog thyroid pills through first consulting your vet.
Certain brain conditions affected by trauma can cause aggressive behavior in dogs.
This often takes place after a dog has brain damage. Brain cancer , often found in senior dogs, is another cause of aggression.
These aren’t the only types of brain conditions that cause aggression in dogs.
There are many more conditions such as a condition known as Encephalitis where the dog’s brain becomes inflamed.
Low calcium levels in nursing dogs
There are some female dogs who are aggressive toward their puppies. This aggression may result from low calcium levels.
To know if this is the cause, you have to go the vet. The condition is known as Eclampsia and is often seen in the first three weeks of nursing.
Let the vet check your dog to determine if there’s any health issue that causes the aggression. The vet will treat your dog making so their health is restored.
This happens when your dog becomes possessive of food or any other object.
If your dog has a possessive aggression, you’ll notice them growling or barking fiercely when anyone approaches their belongings or even getting close to their favorite toy!
The worst scenario is that your dog may actually bite any stranger entering your house.
Signs of possession aggression
- Growling when a person or animal is near their food bowl.
- Snapping, growling, or biting when someone takes their bone or toy.
- Fighting with other dogs over favorite possessions and people.
Reasons why some dogs exhibit possession aggression
1.) Inherited predisposition
Some dogs are more genetically inclined to have possession aggression than others. It’s not their fault; it’s something they are born with.
2.) New dog in the house
When a new dog arrives in the house, they can take over your dog’s toys, territories, and food bowel.
A dog then may display possession aggression in response to your new dog taking their thing.
3.) Learned behavior
Some dogs , when they are puppies, learn to be possessive of their things. They learn this behavior from their mothers or litter mates.
4.) Shelter dog syndrome
A dog may be in a shelter for a long time where they learn that resources are limited.
They often view other dogs as competition making them more likely to be protective of their things from other dogs.
Give your dog a special reward
Don’t take your dog’s treasured object. Instead, introduce to them something new like a special treat or toy.
If your dog is still holding the item that they cherish, use the “drop it” command for them to leave it. But you got to have a valuable reward.
To teach your dog to stop being possessive of their things, there are certain steps to follow. First, ask your dog to “drop it” .
When your dog drops it, give them the other reward that you wanted to give them. Then, give them back their the item that they were guarding.
Try a multi-step conditioning process
This process especially works with meals. Place several bowels around the room. Then, put some food in one bowel. After that, continue putting food in the other bowels to let your dog know that you are offering alternatives .
It is important to not get too close to your dog so they don’t become aggressive. Stop if they show signs of aggression.
Sometimes, dogs act in an aggressive way to show dominance. They do this usually towards other dogs but they might do this with people too.
They do so through growling and barking where they tend to show these signs of aggression to show they are dominant and to challenge those around them.
Dogs doing this because this is how they show they’re in charge.
Signs your dog is trying to establish dominance
- Don’t like being pushed away from sofas and beds
- Act in an aggressive way when stared at
- Become aggressive when corrected verbally and become more aggressive when physically punished
- Don’t like having their shoulders and back pushed on
- Aggressively reacts when a person reaches over their head
Why do dogs want to establish dominance
When dogs aren’t sure of their place in the hierarchy, they become anxious and show dominance aggression.
Set rules and boundaries
To treat your dog firmly but softly with fair and enforced rules. Never punish your dog physically as this will make your dog more aggressive.
Be calm assertive
Dominant dogs sense energies and they will do what they can to correct it. So when dealing with a dominant aggression, you must be calm and assertive so your dog follows what you tell them with no problems.
You must not be anxious or afraid as your dog will take charge when they see you so.
Stop forcing affection
Dogs with dominant aggression are aloof so forcing affection puts the dog in a leadership position. This is due to the fact that followers are the ones who come to the leader and not the other way around.
So your best option is to ignore your dog . Give only attention when your dog wants you to take care of them.
A fearful dog is more likely to be aggressive.
When they feel they are in danger, cornered, and feel a need to escape, they will start showing signs of aggression toward those who come close.
There are also dogs who have been rescued but experience aggression when they are in fear. This is a result of abuse that they experienced in the past.
Also , dogs who are trained with punishment techniques tend to develop fear aggression.
Another cause of fear in dogs is lack of socialization. Socialization is important because it lets your dog know how to act and not be afraid of situations.
When they aren’t socialized properly, they will end up being afraid and have fear aggression.
How do you know if your dog is fear aggressive?
- Dogs will tend to have body postures that signal fear such as retreating, lip licking, cowering, and bare teeth.
- When they are corned, they will growl, lunge, snap, or bite to get the threat to stay away.
- Dogs with fear aggression may retreat when someone approaches them but will turn and bite the person as that person walks away.
- The bite of fear-aggressive dogs is often shallow and doesn’t cause serious injury. Dogs do so as a way to get the threat to move away rather than causing serious harm.
A Dog trainer
The best solution to help eliminate fear aggression in dogs is through a dog instructor who can train them in obedience training.
These trainers can also help to minimize the fear that dogs feel from people. Also it is important to talk to your vet about the best course of action.
Don’t use crate
Crates cause your dog to become even more fearful especially when you close the door. Just leave it open and use treats to lure your dog out.
Approach a fearful dog carefully
When approaching a fearful dog, you have to squat , turn sideways, and avoid eye contact so your dog doesn’t feel threatened and become afraid.
Provide them a safe place
Provide your dog with a safe place such as a dog house that they can hide in when they are afraid.
Dogs frustration is also referred to as redirected aggression or barrier frustration.
It happens when a dog is frustrated at not getting something and takes this frustration out on something.
This type of aggression happens when dogs tied up, restrained, behind a chain-link fence, or on a leash.
An example would be a dog that’s chained in a yard who has a dog friend that they want to go too across the street.
As they are restrained, the dog barks and growls fiercely. When the dog parent comes, the dog may redirect their frustration and bite the parent.
Scenarios that cause dog frustration
- Feeling trapped
- Personal space not respected
- Being blocked from getting desired object
- Redirected aggression, leash aggression, and Fence aggression
- When your dog is forced to do something against their will
The best solutions
Let your dog wait
Begin with the least valuable thing that your dog wants. An example would be when your dog wants to walk through the door, ask them to wait. If they don’t wait, then don’t speak to them or look at them and keep the door closed.
When they are calm, you can proceed.
Next, go to the second least valuable thing such as your dog toy. Just throw the toy away in front of them and wait. Ignore anything that your dog makes and wait until they calm down.
When they are calm, give them the toy. By doing so, your dog learns that being calm gets them what they want. They also learn how to deal with disappointment.
Dealing with redirected aggression
If your dog is in the state of redirection aggression, you have to be prepared before the situation happens. Muzzle them before placing them in the situation that triggers them to prevent injury. Also try as much as possible to avoid the situations that makes them aggressive.
However, this is a temporary solution. The more effective solution is to treat the underlying problem so you can desensitise your dog to the situation through using certain techniques presented by your dog trainer.
- A dog whose hearing is impaired may get easily startled and bite when approached suddenly.
- A blind dog may become aggressive too because they don’t see and know what they are facing.
- A dog who has tooth pain may also become aggressive when you deal with them.
Types of Dog Aggression
Fear Aggression in Dogs
Fear aggression is one of the most famous types of aggression in dogs that don’t have a warning sign. They become aggressive out of fear when they believe there is no other way to defend themselves. In the most cases, fear aggression is caused by a trauma that happened in the dog’s past.
This type of aggression is focused on the dog’s obsession with food, toys, or some certain objects. Dogs are super protective animals and when it comes to their belongings, they can come in an aggressive way to prevent intruders.
By nature, dogs are protective of their territories. They don’t like anyone such as an intruder to enter their territory.
When an intruder does enter their territory, they begin to show aggressive signs as a way to protect themselves and their place.
In this type of aggression, a dog protects members of its pack against animals and people who get too close.
An example would be mother dogs who become hostile when anyone gets close to their puppies.
They do so as a kind of protection against the threats that they think exist.
This aggression is similar to fear aggression. In this type of aggression, a dog attacks in defense of something rather than trying to retreat.
Dogs who weren’t properly socialized may exhibit social aggression with other people and animals.
Also, They may be aggressive with other dogs as a way to determine the hierarchy.
This happens when the dog is feeling very frustrated.
When they can’t reach their target that they want to be aggressive, they redirect their aggression to the nearest person or animal.
An example would be when a person attempts to break up a dog fight, the dog may redirect their aggression toward that person.
The dog is aggressive when they are injured or in pain.
Thus, it is important to treat your dog right away from any illnesses or conditions that they have.
Predatory aggression happens when a dog is chasing and using their hunting instincts in wildlife. Dogs become aggressive and may end up hurting others.
Attention- getting aggression
There is aggression that can happen between two dogs when they try to get the attention of a female dog.
This can be avoided with spaying and neutering your dogs.
What makes dog aggression worse?
1.) Allowing the aggression to continue
Aggression is not a behavior, it is a coping response.
Thus, letting this coping response continue on will cause it to become strongly associated in your dog’s brain.
Every time your dog is aggressive, the brain rewires itself to make aggression continue happening.
2.) Ignoring signs of stress
There are signs of a stressful, fearful, or aggressive dogs. You , as a dog parent, must watch out for these signs.
When you see them, take an effective course of action ; don’t ignore them or your dog will be worse.
3.) Using harsh and cruel training methods
Aggressive methods such as intimidating your dog or using physical punishments will make your dog more aggressive than before.
It doesn’t help minimize aggression rather it fuels it. Some of these negatively frowned upon methods are:
- Dominance methods: These are actions that are aggressively dominant such as forcing your dog in their back, staring the dog down, and pushing and shoving your dog. The main reason of this method is to establish a leader position to your dog.
- Excessive isolation: This prolonged isolation isn’t good for your dog. Dogs are social and need these social interactions in order to maintain their psychological well being. If they are left for too long, they will suffer from stress.
- Punishment: Techniques such as scolding, hitting, and pushing will make your dog aggressive.
- Flooding: In flooding, a dog is exposed to the very thing that they are afraid. The goal is to get them to not feel afraid of what scares them. However, it always backfires and your dog is more likely to become stressed and aggressive.
4.) Not meeting dog’s needs
Dogs have needs to be met as any living being. They have needs for a proper diet, exercise, social experiences, and some freedom in their daily routines.
If a dog gets their needs met, they will continue growing up with little problems as possible.
While if a dog doesn’t get their needs met, they will face many problems including aggression.
5.) Not recognizing or addressing health conditions in dogs
Sometimes sudden aggression is the result of medical issues that result in your dog’s aggression.
Even though the dog’s aggression is a result of pain, you should use behavior modification to change the associations that your dog has with aggression.
Should you be concerned about dog aggression?
Yes, you should be concerned about your dog’s aggressive behavior.
As a dog’s aggressive behavior poses many threats and dangers to people and animals.
Aggression may result from infectious diseases such as rabies and other noninfectious diseases affecting the nervous system.
Even though aggression poses many dangers to other people and animals, aggressive dogs also cause harm to themselves both emotionally and physically.
How to deal with these changes?
In the beginning, we have to agree that aggression in dogs is not an illness or disease that can be medically treated.
It is an instinctive reaction towards some kind of threat; you need to know and understand this correctly.
It is totally normal the same way you do not treat your dog to love or defend you, you cannot change your dog’s instinct to protect itself as well.
Here are some tips that can help you deal with these aggressive changes
Dealing with Aggressive Dogs: Tips to Handle Aggression in Dogs:
See your vet
Dogs that aren’t aggressive but suddenly are might have an underlying medical problem.
These problems include , as mentioned above, hypothyroidism, injuries, and neurological problems.
Consult with your vet to determine whether this is the case with your dog.
If this is the case, then you might give your dog medication or treatment to improve your dog’s behavior.
Get in touch with a dog trainer or behaviorist
If your dog doesn’t have a medical problem, it’s time to get a credible and professional dog trainer.
Aggression is a serious problem that shouldn’t be treated by you alone as a dog parent.
Professional help is recommended when dealing with aggressive dogs.
A dog trainer can help you figure out what is the cause of dog aggression and develop a plan to eliminate it.
Create a plan
This plan is mainly created by your dog trainer. Over a period of time, you have to follow this plan when you are with your dog for the best results.
In most cases, you will be using positive reinforcement to create new healthy behaviors and responses and eliminate unwanted ones.
An example would be when your dog is afraid of strangers. First, stand with your dog far away from the stranger so your dog doesn’t growl or bark.
Then , gradually decrease the distance between your dog and the stranger while giving them a treat and lots of praise.
Your dog will begin to learn and associate positively the situation; they will understand in their mind that strangers equal treats.
In some situations, training alone doesn’t solve aggression. Dogs who experience stress, anxiety, fear are incapable of learning new things.
Medication is used as a tool to help your dog overcome their fear. In many instances, medication is used temporary until your dog is better.
So have no fear, your dog won’t continue these medications all life long.
Punishment is the worst method to dealing with your dog. It usually backfires and can make your dog aggressive.
A dog will bite you when you hit and yell at them. It can also lead to biting other people when punishing your dog for certain behaviors.
An example would be when a dog is growling at children and you punish them for doing so.
Your dog may snap and bite the children at any time.
Support Calm Behavior
If you’re walking your dog at the dog park, for example, and you notice your dog starts to bark fiercely, turn around and take your dog away.
Just walk your dog away from that place until they feel calm and relaxed again!
Avoid Super Exciting Playtime
If your dog can’t remain calm and play peacefully when surrounded by other pets or children, you have to avoid such situations.
Otherwise, your dog can get very aroused and react in an aggressive way without actually meaning to be aggressive but the play caused the reaction.
Teach Your Dog to Remain Calm
Train your dog to remain calm by putting a leash around their neck at home and if they start to jump on you or climb in your lap, just move them away with the leash.
If they start to bark, you have to totally ignore them.
The bottom line; it’s not about the breed!
The bottom line here is that it’s not about the breed, so never generalize it.
It could happen to any dog breed and no matter how expert you think you are; this might exceed your good experience.
Bear in mind, that understating the signs early can help you detect the aggression from the start.
It’s always good to consult expert vets and professional dog trainers in such situations and it’s never too late to ask.
Share this with all your friends and family of dog owners to help raise awareness and to show them a bigger picture about the aggression in dogs!