How to Deal with an Aggressive Dog

Dec 01 , 2020

How to Deal with an Aggressive Dog

When a seemingly harmless dog suddenly attacks a passerby, or that new fur member turns out to be vicious, it becomes a terrifying experience not just to the unsuspecting victims, but also for the shocked owners.


What triggers their aggressive behaviors?


Is it because of their breed?


How can I train an aggressive dog?


Raising dogs underpins the responsibility of understanding their array of feelings, including dog aggression. Dogs can be playful, serious, or docile, but some situations can solicit undesirable responses. 


Dog aggression is a natural behavior that a canine display, which includes growling, baring of teeth, biting, or attacking. Their targets are people, animals, other dogs, or objects. In extreme cases, they might even attack their owners. These behaviors are due to various reasons like fear, conflict, territorial tendency, or possessive instinct. 


Classification of Aggressive Behaviors


  • Territorial Aggression. Dogs, in nature, are territorial. They would perceive a perimeter as their own and instinctively protect it. This aggression is often towards people or other animals coming near the place of their dwellings or property.


  • Protective Aggression. The protective tendency of dogs is triggered when they believe their owners or friends are being put in danger. A new mother dog is in her aggressive best when she is protecting her newborn and may exhibit the same for vulnerable family members. 


  • Fear Aggression. When a threatening stature of a person, an animal, or another dog or a prevailing situation arises, their initial response is to run away. In the absence of a flight option, a cornered dog would resort to an aggressive attack to defend himself by biting or charging.


  • Dominance (Social Aggression). Dogs are also social. There is a hierarchical ladder that exists between them that gives them the feeling of superiority over other members of the pack, or the presence of other dogs. This type of aggression triggers the dog to dog hostility.


  • Pain Aggression.  When a dog is suffering from an injury or discomfort, even little efforts of tenderness will cause them to lash out. Aggression caused by pain makes them more reactive and, therefore, not advisable for dog owners to push the offer to help alleviate their suffering. 


Causes of Aggression


  • The Sight of Strangers.  Dogs would exercise their innate territorial instinct when they encounter unfamiliar sightings of people or other animals within the perimeter of what they believe is their guarded vicinity.


  • Instinctive Belief of Loved Ones Being Exposed to Danger.  Dogs have a heightened level of alertness and can sense trouble surrounding them. They would react aggressively when they believe a person or thing that they protect is in imminent trouble.


  • Fear. This is the most common cause of aggression among dogs that could have stemmed from past experiences. Sometimes, the presence of a veterinarian alone can be enough to cause an irrational feeling of anxiety by insincere assurance they have felt from the past.


  • Exercise of Dominance. Dogs who had adopted a hierarchy among themselves are known to display aggression. They would think highly of themselves and enforce their superiority. This does not only limit to dog interaction but also to a human who they perceive are lower in status than them.


  • Illness or Injury. Dogs who have never behaved the way it did before could unbridle feral behavior if they are experiencing pain and distress. Pain-induced aggression is prone to eliciting bites.


  • Lack of Socialization. The social inclination of dogs may cause unruly behavior if they are deprived of exposure to their environment, human beings, or other dogs. When kept out, this might build up their fears due to unfamiliarity, loss of confidence, and insecurity.


  • Sex-related. Male dogs tend to compete for attention over females. Neutered and un-neutered dogs behave differently, though. Un-neutered dogs have the urgent need to breed and exercise their dominance over the female or other male dogs within their proximity.


  • Frustration. When they are being held back from something they desire, they tend to redirect their disappointment, often towards their handlers, especially when they are being put on a leash. When they are finally let loose, all those pent up frustrations may not wither immediately and still cause them to release an aggressive response.


Signs of Dog Aggression


Dog signals are not often exhibited sequentially but are useful in anticipating whether such body language is an antecedent for attacks. The most common signs of dog aggression are:


  • Snarling and Growling
  • Pricked ears and pinned tails
  • Raised Hackles
  • Baring of teeth
  • Guttural Bark
  • Charging/Lunging
  • Biting


How to Deal with Dog Aggression

Dealing with dog aggression can be simple or complicated, depending on its causes. Evaluating what triggers their behavior is a step closer to resolving it before they become an insurance liability. A dog in distress can be led away from triggers, and eventually trained to handle it. Those that are difficult to dispute, however, may need professional help.


How to Train an Aggressive Dog


So, is it possible to train an aggressive dog at home? The answer is yes.


If you are raising a pup, it is quite easy to provide proper nurturing and conditioning through basic training. But adopted dogs from the shelter that are manifesting hostile behaviors and might have been subjected to previous abuse may need the help of a trained professional. 


  • Socialize your dog. Introduce him to his environment and schedule for regular play dates to reduce his insecurity or superiority towards others. However, try limiting their exposure towards the things or instances that upsets them the most.


  • Walk him on lean hours where there are fewer and less busy passersby and traffic.


  • Desensitization. This is the idea of exposing them to the triggers from a distance and eventually decreasing the space between them until he could overcome and practice restraint.


  • Leave your possessive dog alone to his stuff. 


  • While trying to exercise these things, introduce them to the idea of reward and not punishments. 


Are some breeds aggressive than the others?


When someone says aggressive dogs, we would usually think of those breeds that are bigger and rude looking. Over the past, studies of dog aggressiveness in between breeds are coming up with mix results and tend to shift over time.


But let us consider the fact that some dog breeds are raised for different social functions than the others. Dogs undergo more stringent training when they are used as working-dogs than they do when they are being raised as pets. The genetic function may or may not at all play a role in determining the level of aggressiveness, but it is important to note that all dogs have the potential to bite and attack, regardless of the breed or size when they are being exposed to threats.


Dog Aggression is not a sickness nor a behavioral condition. It is an indication that they are experiencing something that their owners might be overlooking. Different trepidations would display undesirable body language to signal their discomforts. Dogs that bite would become a threat to public safety, so it is always wise to figure out the causes and possible solutions to deal with an aggressive dog.