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A Complete Breakdown of Dog Aggression

Your playful companion, helper on the ranch, or cuddle buddy is one of your best friends. However, is your dog friendly with others?

Aggression in dogs doesn’t just happen and shows itself in many forms. Many dogs subdue their hostile behavior to only a growl, while others act out much more forcefully. A lack of socialization or improper obedience training commonly develops aggressive traits in pets.

Many so-called “aggressive” dog breeds, like pit bulls, rottweilers, and dobermans, have been hindered, but these breeds aren’t born with overly aggressive traits. If raised and trained a certain way, they can develop very aggressive characteristics.

Biological traits that predispose dogs to act hostile are age and sex. If you have a female dog that was never neutered, has not experienced much socialization, and is becoming sexually mature and thus, more dominant, she is likely to have increased aggressive outbursts as she ages.

Non-biological happenings that can lead to hostile pets are anxiety and fear, pain and illness, vulnerability, establishing dominance or protecting their territory or property.

Dog aggression signals

Apart from “idiopathic aggression,” a very uncommon syndrome the gives dogs fits of rage out of nowhere, there are noticeable signals that indicate when your or another dog is showing hostility. The common signs of aggression include:

  • A stiff body
  • Pinned back ears
  • Growling
  • Showing their teeth
  • Snarling
  • Biting of differed intensity levels

Dog aggression in different situations

Hostile behavior arises situationally. The following five aggression styles are most common.

  1. Possession of food aggression - A technical term you may hear for this kind of behavior is resource guarding.” Some dogs like their property to remain theirs, and could include their most coveted toy, their food and water bowls, their bed or safe space, their territory (yard, home) and sometimes, their owner. If your dog is protective of any property, the reaction of a growl is common and could lead to an attack.
  2. Fear-induced aggression - Fear is a reaction nearly every species on the planet deals with and can induce fighting or retreating. Most fearful dogs will choose to fight instead of flight. This aggressive reaction is because, in these instances, dogs don’t know any better and feel the only way to protect themselves is to fight and is most often due to past traumatic events.
  3. Leash aggression - This style of threatening behavior stems from your pooch being frustrated with the restriction of a leash. The reaction, whether barking or growling, is often directed at other dogs and rarely leads to an attack. This kind of aggressive behavior is more correctable than some on this list.
  4. Social aggression - This reaction is all about social dominance and animal instincts. Before domestication was common, dogs operated in packs, and still do in some parts of the world. This means that some are alphas, and some are betas. Sometimes, dogs will lash out at people or other dogs that they consider a beta. This could include a young or fearful person or a shy or fearful dog. To best avoid this, display confident traits around dogs.
  5. Pain-related aggression - It can be hard to tell if a dog is in pain. Most of the time, they hide it well, but when injured, externally, or internally, they become more sensitive and can act out. The action is more of a defense mechanism than a sustained aggressive trait. To best curb, this action, treat whatever is ailing the pooch.

It is smart to educate yourself on these behaviors, but dog attacks still happen. If you or someone you know has been attacked and is seeking legal representation, consider seeking the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.