Why Dogs Are Aggressive and How to Stop It

Tuesday, October 02, 2018


Why Dogs Are Aggressive and How to Stop It. The first thing is that every dog can show aggression at a certain moment and in a specific situation. What we mean: When a dog shows aggressiveness, broadly speaking we could say that it does so for one of the following reasons:

1.- Because he feels directly threatened - Aggressiveness as a result of fear.
2.- Because he considers that he must protect or earn something valuable for him (his bowl of food, a toy, the attention of his owner, his rest area, his puppy in the case of bitches that have just given birth, etc.) - Defensive aggression / Competitive aggression / Maternal aggression.

And finally.

3.- Because he is hunting - Predatory aggression.

However, classifying the different types of dog aggression is so difficult that ethologists (a qualified veterinary professional who has knowledge about behavior, needs, and communication of the dog), and trainers still have not agreed, on the subject.
However, aggression (except in the case of predatory, linked to hunting) is a way of expressing or channeling an emotion. Therefore, we can find aggressive dogs out of fear, frustration and a host of emotions that are, really, at the origin of aggressive behavior.
In this regard, there are two basic factors that affect canine aggression:

1.- GENETICS
The genetic load of a dog determines to a large extent its predisposition to aggressiveness. There are dogs genetically predisposed to be more reactive than others. This is a fact.

2.- ENVIRONMENT
The environment in which a dog lives, the way in which it is treated by its owners and its life experience influences in a decisive way the expression of aggressiveness.


What to do with an aggressive dog

Canine aggression directed at people is not a lesser evil and must be considered a public health problem. The bite of a dog can be very serious and it is important to be aware of the problem.

These are the guidelines to follow if your dog is aggressive with people:

1- Contact a canine ethologist
Only a professional can, really, help solve a problem of canine aggression directed at people. It is wrong to think that "everything will improve" if no means are put in place for it.

A canine ethologist will do the following:

1.1- Risk analysis
How is the dog and what potential does it have to hurt? Do you live with children, people with disabilities, the elderly or those at risk? How long has the problem started? Is the dog impulsive or throwing warning signals before biting? Have you ever bite? What was the true severity of the bite? Is it possible to start a treatment or will-the necessary conditions not be met? Can security measures be implemented for the duration of the treatment or will it not be possible?

1.2- Discard organic cause
Before beginning a behavior modification treatment, it must always be ruled out that there is an organic cause. If that were the case, the first thing would be to solve that organic cause.

1.3- Making a diagnosis
The ethologist must assess what is the target of aggression (the dog attacks the strangers, or only a specific person, or only certain people in a very specific situation, etc.), what is the position of the dog when shows aggressive (offensive, defensive or ambivalent) and what is the context in which aggressiveness occurs.

1.4- Schedule a treatment
Each case is particular and only an expert can assess, for each dog, which is the most indicated treatment. However, the following section summarizes in a general way what is any treatment for canine aggression.

2- Avoid confrontation and give the dog an alternative
The risk of a dog biting and hurting is so great that you should never tempt fate. Therefore, the basic idea when dealing with a case of canine aggression directed at people is:

2.1- Avoid putting the dog in the situation that triggers the aggression: if we do not want the dog to learn to attack, we should not give him opportunities to do so.

2.2- Offer an alternative: if the dog has learned to get what he wants or get away what he does not want through aggression, we will have to give him an alternative that works just as well.

That is, if, for example, a dog barks and growls at strangers and has learned that, when it does, they move away, it will be necessary to teach him another way to move them away, except by barking and snarling. For example, we can teach him to come to us and stand behind our body, so that we can act as a barrier.

Here is another good example of what to do if your dog growls at you when you approach your bowl of food.

3- Take security measures
The muzzle is the main safety measure in cases of canine aggression.
If the right muzzle is chosen and the dog is taught to tolerate it without bothering him, this safety tool is ideal to avoid accidents.

In conclusion, an aggressive dog towards people is never the same as another. There are always multiple factors that affect the problem. For that reason, it is not possible to give generic treatment guidelines.


Therefore, we recommend that, in the case of canine aggressiveness directed at people, the only way to solve the problem is to contact a professional ethologist who sets the guidelines to follow. With good treatment, problems of aggression can improve a lot and, consequently, also the life of the whole family that lives with the dog and the dog itself.

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