Of all dog behavioral issues, aggression is the one that most frustrates owners. It is very common, though canines display signs for very different reasons. Many owners observe hostile behavior in their pets, but are unaware regarding its trigger. Consequently, they are uncertain about how to respond.
First, it’s important to realize that aggressive behavior is natural to dogs. Though most are domesticated, they remain pack animals, and perceive the world around them accordingly.
Second, in order to properly address hostility in your canine, you must first be able to identify the different types of aggression. Once you can determine the trigger, you’ll be better prepared to “cure” the problem.
With this in mind, we’ll provide a brief overview of the most common reasons dogs become antagonistic. The following descriptions will offer a springboard from which you can remedy the problem.
Protect The Family
As pack animals, canines have traditionally protected those within their group from assailants. If an intruder threatens one member, the others will respond quickly to protect him or her.
In your home, your dog considers you and your family to be members of his “pack.” If he feels you, your family, or other pets under your roof are threatened by a perceived attacker, he will behave aggressively to warn the attacker away. The problem is, many canines become overly-protective, and consider any person outside their “pack” to represent a potential threat.
Protect The Home
Similar to guarding their families, dogs also guard their territories. If an intruder approaches their den, they will respond with hostility to discourage that person or animal from coming closer.
Your canine considers your home to be his den, and will respond aggressively to any person or animal he feels to be a threat. Here, too, he may become overly-protective of his home. If he does, he will treat everybody aggressively, even those you consider friends. Interestingly, this type of aggression is very rare in puppies since they have not yet learned to protect their “dens.”
Stemming From Fear
Canines react to elements that frighten them in the same way as humans: they retreat. However, if retreat is not an option, they will fight. In the wild, if a pair of wolves approach a dog, the dog will initially seek a path that provides him an escape route. If, however, such a path is unavailable, he will turn to face the wolves, despite his fear.
Fear aggression is dangerous. If a person unwittingly corners a canine, that person risks being bitten. Thus, always provide an unfamiliar dog a route through which he can escape.
Dogs are hard-wired to protect their possessions. While this trait stems from the need to fight for food outside the human-canine relationship, it has carried over to today’s pets. For example, when a person or animal approaches a dog’s food bowl, he may bare his teeth and growl to communicate his ownership.
Within your home, your canine may express possessive behavior over his food, toys, and even the area in which he likes to rest. This may become a problem if visitors – either people or animals – stumble upon your pet’s possessions without realizing they have done so.
Dogs have always functioned within groups according to their understanding of their pack’s hierarchy. As long as they know – and accept – those ranked above and below them, there is minimal conflict. Conflict arises when there is a bid for authority within the group.
This latter problem occasionally happens between canines and their owners, families, and other pets. The dog will compete for authority, and act aggressively when others confront him.
Canine aggression can only be addressed successfully after the behavior’s trigger has been identified. If you’re having difficulty doing so, consider working with your veterinarian or a professional trainer.