If you clicked on this category then you have problems. This is the number one reason owners are forced to surrender their dog to a shelter, or even worse, to the county Animal Control where they are quickly euthanized. Not to mention the veterinarian bills and overall liability of a dog that bites.
It’s very important to learn to recognize signs of an aggressive dog and potential dog fight. It can mean the difference between a romp at the dog park or a day in the veterinary emergency room.
You have to be able to decode the body language of an aggressive dog. Here are a few signals dogs use to say, “Back off”:
AGGRESSIVE DOGS: BODY LANGUAGEAn intense stare.
Ears that are either laid back flat or standing straight up.
Bared teeth or curled lips. Some dogs do “smile” when excited, but their happy body language won’t be confused with aggression.
A slightly upturned nose, typically caused by the lifting of lips to bare teeth.
A guarding posture in which the dog’s neck is a bit lower than shoulder level and his head is lowered and stretched forward.
Hair standing up, starting in the neck area, as a result of the piloerector reflex.
A squared-off, tense, and very quiet stance.
A stiff and straight tail or one placed high over the dog’s back. Short, staccato wags, or wagging at just the tip, can be a threat gesture.
The instant you conclude that a dog is giving an aggressive signal, you must heed that warning. And you may have to help your dog heed it, if his social skills aren’t the best (meaning he can’t read the message the other dog is giving him). Remove your dog immediately and calmly from the situation.
This can be stopped, or, better yet, avoided all together. Below, I have described the different types of aggression. For you and your dog’s sake, please contact me as a first resort rather than a last resort…it may be too late by then.
Understanding Aggressive Behavior in Dogs
The word “aggression” can refer to a range of behaviors from barking and growling, snarling and snapping, to biting and attacking. Threats of aggression are one way dogs have of communicating and are often displayed as a means of avoiding outright aggression. However, a threat (growling or snapping) may escalate to outright aggression (biting) in any given situation. There are many different reasons for aggression. Because aggression is so complex, and because the potential consequences are so serious, it is recommend that you get professional in-home help from an animal behavior specialist if your dog is displaying aggressive behavior.
Fear-motivated aggression is a defensive reaction and occurs when a dog believes he is in danger of being harmed. It is the dog’s perception of the situation, not your intent, that determines his response. For example, you may raise your arm to throw a ball, but if your dog perceives this to be a threat,he may bite you to protect himself from being hit.
Protective, Territorial And Possessive Aggression
Protective, territorial and possessive aggression are all similar, and involve the defense of valuable resources.Territorial aggression is usually associated with defense of property or space.
Be aware that your dog’s sense of territory may extend well past the boundaries of his yard. For example, if you walk your dog regularly around the neighbor hood, to him, his territory may be the entire block. Protective aggression usually refers to aggression directed toward people or animals that a dog perceives as threats to his family or pack. One specific type of protective aggression is maternal aggression, where mother dogs become protective of their puppies. Dogs that are possessively aggressive may defend their food, toys or other valued objects, such as tissues or food scraps stolen from the trash.
Dogs are social animals and view their human families as their social groups. Based on the outcomes of social interactions among group members, a social hierarchy is established. This hierarchy determines each member’s access to valued things (food, toys, resting places, etc.) and minimizes the need for conflict. Social aggression may be directed at people or at other animals.
The most common reason for dogs in the same family to fight with each other is instability in the social hierarchy. Social aggression may occur if there is a challenge to a higher ranking dog’s social status or to his control of asocial interaction. Because people don’t always understand canine communication, you, a guest or child may inadvertently challenge your dog’s social position. If the dog perceives himself as higher ranking than the challenger, he may attempt to assert his status through aggressive displays. A socially aggressive dog may growl if he is disturbed when resting or sleeping, or if he is asked to give up a favorite spot, such as the couch or the bed. Physical restraint, even when done in a friendly manner, like hugging, may also cause your dog to respond aggressively. Reaching for your dog’s collar, trimming his nails, or even bending or reaching over him could also be interpreted as a challenge. A socially aggressive dog is often described as a”Jekyll and Hyde,” because he can be very friendly when not challenged. Social aggression is complex and best resolved by earning the dogs respect. Practicing “ Nothing in Life is Free” is a good way to ensure a stable social hierarchy with humans in control. “Positive Only” trainers often fail in rehabilitating these types of behaviors. Treats and positive reinforcement work primarily with teaching new behaviors. On the other hand, aggression is a behavior that requires modification through negative corrections in order to stop it. However, once stopped, positive praise can be highly effective for a redirected behavior. For these types of aggression behaviors, seek a trainer that is well versed in both positive reinforcement and negative corrections.