Dog Aggression Towards People: Aggression Toward Individuals (Dogs)

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Why Do Dogs Become Aggressive?

Aggression is the most serious behavioral problem that dogs have, and it is unfortunately very common. It’s a symptom of a deeper issue that should always be taken seriously. Aggressive behavior can occur in dogs of any breed, size, age, or gender, and it can be motivated by a variety of factors. Among the most common are:
  • Fear/defense
  • Pain/discomfort
  • Possessiveness
  • Territoriality
  • Redirected

How Aggression Appears

  • A rigid, still body
  • Stiff, high tail that wags slowly (like a rattle snake giving warning)
  • A direct gaze
  • A threatening, deep-throated bark
  • Attacking or lunging at someone
  • Growling, snarling, and displaying teeth
  • Nipping and snapping
  • Biting, trembling
When mild forms of aggression are not properly addressed or punished, they can escalate into more serious forms of aggression. This is why any change in your dog’s behavior should be assessed and addressed right away. To deal with aggression, you should work with a professional who looks at the situation rather than just punishing the person.

Aggression Against Strangers (Aggression Against Strangers)

When a dog is nervous around strangers, especially specific strangers (such as men, children, or uniformed personnel), it’s usually because he hasn’t been properly socialized. A well-socialized dog is unconcerned about his surroundings. However, in order to become socialized, a dog must be exposed to enough positive experiences, particularly when they are young. Aggression occurs when a dog encounters something he is unfamiliar with and attempts to scare the “scared” person away by behaving aggressively. Fear is the driving force behind this behavior. (It doesn’t matter if the stranger is a nice, gentle person; an under-socialized dog doesn’t care.)

Aggression Against Families

Fear is the most common reason for dogs to threaten or bite family members. This is especially true when the dog is reached for or touched, even if the behavior appears to be offensive. Object guarding (possessiveness) and handling issues (discomfort, pain, frustration) are other possibilities.
In pet dogs, possessiveness of food, toys, and sleeping areas is common. They may become enraged over anything, including food dishes and bones, sofas and beds, tissues, and garbage! Problems with handling are also common. Many dogs are naturally averse to having their bodies touched or manipulated in specific places or ways. These dogs may threaten or bite in this context if they have not been taught to accept and enjoy handling and surrendering valuable items.

What Can You Do?

Consult your vet first. Aggression can be caused by a medical condition that causes your dog pain, discomfort, anxiety, insecurity, or confusion. You should always call your vet first to rule out a wide range of conditions, from arthritis to brain problems.
Avoidance is a good thing to do. At first, try to stay away from anything that causes your dog to become aggressive. In most cases, it is best to seek professional help and address the aggression with a non-confrontational treatment plan. When friends come over, you may need to cross the street, put your dog in a separate room, feed your dog alone in a separate room, or avoid certain toys entirely.
Make use of management software. You can use tools to help you manage your aggression issues. You can use baby gates in your home to keep your dog out of trouble spots. On-leash management is much easier with a head halter or harness. If you introduce a basket muzzle to your dog in a safe way, it will keep him from biting but still let him pant and drink water.
Punishment is rarely the best solution. Aggression of any kind can be exacerbated by ill-timed or ill-applied punishment. Read the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position statement on punishment at avsabonline.org/resources for more information.
Seek professional help. Aggression, especially when directed at children, can be dangerous. Always seek the help of a qualified professional for a well-designed behavior modification plan.

Tip

  • Spay or neuter your dog if you haven’t already done so.