Causes of Aggressive Dog Behaviour | Tips on Calming a Dog

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Whether they act out towards other people, animals or even intimate objects, if your dog is showing signs of aggressive behaviour, it is important to tackle the problem as soon as possible.

Types of aggressive behaviour generally include things such as a baring teeth, biting or nipping, growling, snarling or lunging, all of which are generally warning signs that your dog will attack if they continue to be aggravated.

While aggression can be a difficult thing to deal with, it is something that can be resolved with the right training and socialisation. Even if you are adopting an adult dog with such issues, whether because they were not trained properly or the signs were either missed or ignored, while it may be a tricker and slower fix, consistent training can still turn things around.

Keeping an eye out for these signs as well as gaining an understanding of what triggers their aggressive behaviour is important to getting on top of the problem and treating the issue quickly and efficiently.


What Causes Dog Aggression?

When coming up with a plan to help treat and correct your dog’s aggressive behaviour, the first step is to understand what is causing them to act this way. There are generally a number of common reasons why a dog may act aggressive.


Protective Aggression

This is when a dog gets aggressive because they feel they need to protect members of it’s “pack” or family from other people or animals. It’s also common for mother dogs to start becoming overly protective and even aggressive when they have puppies and people try to approach them.

Territorial Aggression

This is when a dog gets aggressive because they feel they need to protect their space (your home) from intruders and unwanted visitors.

Possessive Aggression

This is when your dog becomes aggressive because they are trying to protect something of theirs, whether it’s food, a toy or bone. This is also often referred to a resource guarding.

Social Aggression

This is when your dog acts aggressive towards other dogs in a social setting. Typically this occurs in pooches that have not been properly socialised during their early years.

Fear Aggression

This is when your dog becomes aggressive because they feel scared in a situation and will lash out when they feel cornered.

Defense Aggression

This is when your dog becomes aggressive generally because they want to be left alone. Often your dog will exhibit other signs they aren’t interested in social interaction before becoming aggressive, such as turning their head away from you.

Pain-elicited Aggression

If your dog is injured or in pain they may respond by acting aggressive.

Frustration-elicited Aggression

This is when your dog begins acting aggressive when they are restricted in some form, such as within a fenced yard or on their leash. This tends to happen when they become overly excited and/or stimulated and are unable to act on this because of the restriction.

Redirected Aggression

This typically occurs when someone attempts to break up a dog fight and in the heat of the moment a dog may redirect their aggression towards that person.

Predatory Aggression

This type of aggression can often occur without any warning signs and tends to happen when they are acting in a more predatory way, such as chasing an animal. This form of aggression is particularly a problem if you have children around, as there is a chance they may act out while running around with a child and bite them as a result.


How To Manage and Treat Dog Aggression

Aggression is an issue that unfortunately cannot be solved over night. However with the right techniques and plenty of patience, you can take your dog from a snappy pooch to a well-behaved family member.


How To Stop Your Dog Being Aggressive Towards Strangers

If you notice your dog seems to mostly be aggressive towards strangers and those who visit your house, the first thing to look at is the type of people they are acting this way towards. Is it anyone and everyone or is specifically men, women or children? Are they only acting aggressive when these people come to your house or does it happen on the street as well? If it’s a certain type of person, it may dog that your dog has unfortunately experienced abuse or trauma in connection with this type of person. If it happens to anyone but mostly when out on walks, lead aggression may be the cause. In these instances things like lead training, positive reinforcement training and gradually desensitising them to the stress factor may help to calm the behaviour.


How To Stop Your Dog Being Aggressive Towards Other Animals

If you have other animals in your household, such as a cat, it is important to make sure they get along to ensure a safe environment for you and your pets. Making sure to socialise them when the new pet is first introduced into the house and doing it at the right times is an important step to preventing such behaviour. For example, cats can be moody creatures, so be sure to socialise them together when everyone seems to be in a good mood.


How To Stop Your Dog Being Aggressive Towards You

One of the hardest and worst forms of aggression is when they direct it towards you, their owner. However this behaviour isn’t something to be taken personally as often there will be an underlying reason why they are acting this way. There may be some resource guarding behaviour that needs correcting or even an underlying health issue may be the source, particularly if your dog seems to suddenly start acting this way without an prior history of this behaviour. Sometimes problems such as a painful injuries, hypothyroidism or neurological problems cause a dog to begin acting aggressively. Consult with your local vet about your concerns and they will be able to check for an issues and put together a treatment plan for anything they find.


How To Stop Your Dog Being Aggressive While Eating

If your dog is acting aggressive when someone goes near them at dinner time or when they have a treat, it’s important to eliminate this type of possessive behaviour. Generally your dog may be acting this way because they fear someone is going to take their food way from them, so it’s key to show them this isn’t the case. Start by standing near them while they eat and not doing anything else consistently, building up to being able to pat them while they eat. This slow desensitisation can help them understand someone being close to their food is not something to be concerned about.


Prevention and Positive Reinforcement

One of the key techniques is prevention and putting a stop to the problem before it evolves into a more severe issue. Often training them appropriately with positive reinforcement while they’re still a puppy or tackling the issue when those first early signs appear will make solving the problem easier.

One important note when training or trying to resolve the problem is to ensure you do not punish your dog when they do act aggressively. Avoid things like raising your voice or hitting your dog. This type of reaction can just cause their behaviour to escalate as they may feel, in the moment, that they need to defend themselves from you. Punishment can also make it harder to treat the issue as your dog may start hiding any warning signs before acting out.


Consider Medication

It’s also important to consider that training alone may not be enough for your dog. If your dog experiences high levels of stress, anxiety or fear, it may be that medication is needed to help them overcome and manage these feelings. In a lot of cases this medication is only needed temporarily. Consult with your local vet if you think this may apply to your dog.


Call In A Professional

If you feel the behaviour is a bit to much for you to manage or your at-home methods don’t seem to be working, it may be best to call in a professional. A professional dog trainer or behaviourist will be able to figure out the root cause of your pet’s problem and put together an effective plan to help manage and resolve the behaviour.

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