Updated: Jul 24
There are approximately 380 fatal dog attacks per year in the United States. That's one for every 8.4 million Americans.
75-85% of these attacks were from feral dogs with no home or training. Owners who notice signs early can prevent their pets from lashing out.
Read on to learn the causes of aggression in dogs and what you can do about it.
Reasons/Types of Aggression
Aggression in dogs isn't a character trait, a breed characteristic, or usually even a failure on your part as an owner. It's a reaction to something in their body or environment that they can be trained to accept if you both understand what it is.
Another animal suffers abuse every 60 seconds in the US. 65% of them are dogs.
This may be why dog fear aggression is one of the most common types. Their fight-or-flight response is always to fight whenever they're frightened.
Learn about the history of your dog if you can to see if they've been abused and how. Pay attention to see what frightens them, whether it's a vacuum cleaner or a small space.
Dog resource guarding goes back to their wolf-like instincts where they'd have to protect food from other predators or their other pack members. They may show aggression if you try to grab their other favorite items, such as:
They can even guard their favorite sleeping areas or even humans. Their behavior can range from a warning growl to a full-on attack.
This type of aggression in dogs also comes from their ancestral connections to wolves or their instintual predatory drivers. Sudden movements or high-pitched sounds can trigger them to stalk or chase any moving thing, including:
This behavior isn't a problem when it's luring them to, say, go and catch a frisbee. It becomes an issue when it leads them to chase after and destroy local wildlife, household pets, or even babies.
Being on a leash and unable to move freely can lead to dog frustration. They may start lunging out at other dogs they see on their walk because they can't get to them to greet them properly.
They may also be improperly socialized and become afraid when they see them. Tension from owners on the leash can make it even worse or cause them pain.
A dog showing dominance can begin in puppyhood. This is why training needs to begin as soon as possible.
If play-biting or barking gets a puppy attention from their owners, they'll keep doing it. Certain dogs may not have enough early socialization with other dogs or humans to feel comfortable around them. This can escalate into more aggressive behaviors later on.
Aggression from Pain or Illness
Even humans may lash out at each other when they're hurt, and dogs are no different. They do everything they can to protect themselves from pain and get aggressive toward whatever or whoever is closest to them.
Cognitive conditions can also cause sudden aggression in dogs. These include cognitive dysfunction, brain diseases. or tumors.
25% of fatal dog attacks are inflicted by chained dogs. This is the result of their highly tuned senses of hearing and smell with frustration and limited options for escape.
Nothing's more frustrating for them than noticing a stimulus they can't get to, such as a dog or human passing by. They may redirect the aggression they would release on it to a closer source, such as their owner or a nearby animal.
Every dog has its territory that it feels it needs to protect from unfamiliar sources such as new humans or animals. If they walk into their yard or even by them on the street, your dog may begin barking, growling, lunging, chasing, or snapping at them.
Signs of Aggression
Look at your dog's posture. Is it calm and relaxed or still or rigid?
Look into their eyes. Are they making direct eye contact with you and holding it or lunging forward or snapping without looking back at you?
Check their ears. Are they calm and erect or flat against their head?
Look at their mouth. Is it closed or are they panting, licking their lips, showing their teeth, and snarling or growling?
Watch their tail. Is it down and wagging quickly or upright and wagging slowly?
Look at their nose. Do they keep it still or are they nudging you with it in a way that almost feels like a punch?
All of the latter of these behaviors are signs of aggression in dogs. They're warning you that they're uncomfortable and about to bite. If they start to show up often, you'll need to start training.
Handling an aggressive dog starts by analyzing what's making them aggressive. From there, you can work to keep them from lunging out.
Get a consultation from your vet first. They'll tell you if your pet is experiencing pain aggression or has medical issues that could be changing their behavior.
You may need to change your dog's environment or give them a more consistent routine. Check their food and see if they start to guard it or feel like they need to compete with other animals in the house. Make sure they get enough exercise for their breed to release all their energy.
Slowly expose them to whatever is making them aggressive. Give them positive rewards when they behave instead of negative ones such as yelling.
Get professional aggressive dog training as soon as possible. The sooner you take advantage of their experience and techniques, the better chance you'll have of preventing negative behaviors from becoming worse.
Where to Get Training for Aggression in Dogs
Training out aggression in dogs is a difficult and complicated task. You'll need to find out what's triggering them, whether it's fear, pain, or a specific stimulus.
Develop a routine of slowly exposing your dog to whatever causes their aggression and rewarding them when they stay calm. A professional trainer can help you get started.
K-9 Culture is a facility that uses positive reinforcement and impulse control to help you have a better relationship with your pet. Contact us for aggressive dog training today.
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