Did you know that your dog’s aggressive behavior is natural? Today, dogs are domesticated animals that, over the years, have adapted to live with people. Dogs have been very successful loyal companions and, in exchange, were welcomed to live next to us in comfortable conditions. They have a permanent roof over their heads and do not have to worry about food.
However, it was not always that way. Their ancestors, untamed dog predecessors, had to take care of their own survival. They often fought with each other for territory or food. Their primary weapons were aggressive messages such as barking, growling, snarling. The ability to stand and defend their territory kept them safe. These are behaviors that are still deeply rooted in dog communication to this day. However, used excessively and in the wrong situations, they should be a cause for concern. Read more to understands the reasons for dog aggression.
Is Every Dog Aggressive?
Every pup is familiar with aggressive messages, but not everyone tends to overuse them. It all depends on the character, genetics, self-esteem, and more frequently on the four-legged friend’s life experiences.
Types of Aggression
Offensive aggression – when the dog is imposing their will, taking control. This type of aggression is often seen in alpha dogs.
Defensive aggression – it is the result of the dog’s fear. This type of aggression is common in dogs that have not been socialized properly.
Displaced aggression – usually involves redirecting the aggression towards bystanders/animals trying to stop the dog who is displaying aggression (e.g., attacking an owner trying to pull their pet away from another dog they are currently biting). This type of aggression can be dangerous, as it can result in innocent people or animals getting hurt.
It is important to note that the type of aggression displayed by a dog can differ from situation to situation. For example, a dog may display offensive aggression towards another dog when it comes to food or toys but may show defensive aggression towards unfamiliar people. Understanding the different types of aggression and how they manifest can help dog owners identify and address aggressive behavior effectively.
Reasons for Aggression
1. Poor Socialization or No Socialization
This type of aggression appears to other dogs, animals, people, and objects. A poorly socialized dog does not know how to behave towards others. If they haven’t been exposed to them before, they don’t know what to expect from them. Often in these situations, the dog becomes fearful and uncomfortable. The dog’s fear can lead to a simple conclusion: “the best defense is to attack.”
For males, too much testosterone can lead to aggression towards other dogs. Aggression can, for example, manifest itself towards another male when a female is nearby. This way, the dog proves their strength and dominance. They might also want to defend their territory and objects, such as a bowl, toys, etc.
Nursing bitches, taking care of their young can become protective over their children and display aggressive behavior towards other people or animals.
3. Survival Instinct
The dog is a hunter by nature, so they are driven to get food and win over potential competitors. Survival aggression usually develops towards other animals, mostly smaller ones. It can also be directed at other dogs. It is much less often displayed towards children and adults.
4. Maternal Instinct
These are aggressive behaviors meant to defend the puppies in the litter. Mostly displayed by the bitch when she senses danger. It can also be triggered when she is pregnant or experiencing a pseudo-pregnancy.
Unpleasant experiences and traumas are the most common reason for canine aggression. Aggressive behavior can occur in any situation and towards any person, animal, or object that brings back bad memories. For example, if a tall man severely hurt a canine, they may react aggressively to any tall man they encounter. If a white dog injured them, they might attack every white dog on the walk. If they choked on the water while being bathed, they might react with aggression at every other bath out of fear. It is important to understand that aggression caused by trauma is not the dog’s fault and should be addressed with patience and understanding. Dog owners can work with a professional trainer or behaviorist to help their dog overcome their fear and aggression.
6. Low Self-Esteem
This type of aggression manifests itself toward people and other animals. This is how dogs chase away potential threats. Sometimes dogs with low self-esteem deliberately make themselves appear threatening. Very often, they use their surroundings for that. They choose an object to defend. They can also protect a man or another dog from the pack. They threaten any individual who wants to get close to the chosen object or a person. In this way, they maintain the appearance of being strong and confident.
7. Lack of Clear Rules
This type of aggression is mainly directed at humans. It is most often the result of a lack of confidence from the dog’s parent. It is often seen in clever and self-confident dogs. It can also be observed in adolescent dogs entering the rebellious phase of life.
When feeling ill, your dog may feel weak and more threatened. Because of this, they may tend to behave aggressively. A sick dog will usually keep people and other animals away. They may also growl, bark, and show their teeth if you try to touch a sore or injured spot on their body.
How to Identify the Cause of Dog Aggression
It is important to remember that finding the aggression source is the first step to dealing with it. Its cause can be complex, and that is why it is so difficult to diagnose. So what you should do is carefully analyze every aspect of your dog’s life. Look at the situations and objects where your dog exhibits aggressive behavior. Put yourself in their shoes, try to understand what they are feeling and thinking.