Solving Aggression Problems in Dogs

Dogs express aggressive tendencies in the following ways:

  • growling,
  • snarling,
  • barking,
  • curling lips,
  • showing teeth,
  • wrinkling nose,
  • nipping,
  • snapping, and
  • biting.

If your dog is exhibiting any of these behaviors, you need to take action before someone gets hurt. Get some professional help from a reputable dog trainer or dog behaviorist.

Denial is not the right response. It is only a matter of time before someone - your spouse, your child, your neighbour - is hurt badly. You could find yourself at the wrong end of a lawsuit too.

There are many different circumstances that can cause aggressive behaviour in a dog, and a program to treat aggressiveness must start with an understanding of the underlying issues that are causing it and then by developing a plan to change the behavior.

Physical punishment is not the answer. It will only escalate the aggressive behavior.

Effective solutions that the dog trainer or behaviourist will employ will likely involving techniques for ensuring that your dog knows that he is in the lowest position in the family hierarchy; the requirement that you teach basic commands and consistently enforce obedience. The professional will also show you ways to divert aggressive behaviour. As you will see, rewarding good behaviour is key to effective behaviour change.

The videos in this section will give you insight into the underlying causes of aggressive behavior. You will also see training techniques for changing these behaviours and you will learn what makes them effective.

Types of Aggression

Dominance Aggression:
If a dog believes that he is higher up in the social hierarchy than you or your family members (the “pack”) – then trouble is brewing. A dog needs to be taught that he is at the bottom of the pack hierarchy; and as long as he knows his place, he'll be fine with it. If, on the other hand, the dog perceives that individuals in the family -- your children perhaps -- are lower in the pecking order, the dog will assert authority, and show his displeasure when he doesn't get what he wants in increasingly aggressive ways.

Fear-based Aggression:
Dogs can be aggressive because they are fearful – they may perceive danger where none exists and they will act to defend themselves. Sudden large movements, cornering a dog, or placing a hand on his head can be enough to cause fearful aggressive behaviour.

Protective, Territorial, and Possessive Aggression:
These type of aggressions are all related – all having to do with a dog wanting to protect what he believes is his – his pack, his property, his stuff. If the dog perceives that others are going to hurt any member of his pack, come uninvited onto his property or take his food or toys, he is going to lash out unless he is trained to do otherwise.

Re-directed Aggression:
This is what happens when a dog can't fight against an aggressor for some reason - maybe he's being jabbed through a fence or attacked by a unbeatable weapon - he may take his fury out on a nearby dog or person.

Pain and Sickness Aggression:
If a dog is in pain or ill, she might lash out at anybody who is bothering her, even if they are trying to help.

Sexual Aggression:
It is common male animal behaviour to fight for the right to mate with a targeted female if there is competition for her. NEUTERING and SPAYING your pets is essential as our canine friends are living in a human, civilized world.