In the dog world, it is normal behavior for a dog to be aggressive at times. When dogs interact in human society, aggressive dog behaviors are unacceptable. In this two part series we will review some different ways dogs show aggressive behavior, and next what we can do about it. So let’s start with the 7 main kinds of aggressive dog behavior.
This is MY house (or food, or toy, or master)
Territorial aggression is displayed when a dog is protecting its domain. Possession aggression is when a dog is protecting its stuff, like a big dog toy or a food bowl. Protection aggression is displayed when protecting the pack, including you or your kids. These 3 behaviors stem from very similar urges, but a dog that shows one may not show signs of the other two. A display of aggression in any of these cases is made to put some person or animal on notice – they are being watched.
Mommy, I’m scared
When a dog perceives danger, it may exhibit signs of fear aggression. New environments, people, or other animals may trigger this response. At times, fear aggression is a response to a painful memory. For example, I once met a dog who raged at any man that wore glasses. The owner explained that the dog’s previous owner wore glasses and was abusive, and they were working with the dog to break that association.
I’m more important than you
When a dog shows dominance aggression she is saying, “I’m the boss here”. Sometimes this is caused when a dog wants to ‘move up’ in the pack hierarchy, but it also occurs when a dog senses a challenge to her standing. This occurs with people too. If your big dog growls when you are approaching, this could signal that the dog perceives a challenge to its standing. At times, hugs are seen by the dog as dominance aggression on your part, or leading him by his collar, and it may respond in kind. The good news is this is easily trained out of a dog.
Man I’m hungry - Squirrel!
Predatory aggression is different from possession aggression, where a dog gets aggressive over its food bowl. Instead, it is caused by the most basic of urges, a desire to hunt. Dogs are hunters, but some breeds are more geared to this behavior than others. For example, terriers were bred to hunt small burrowing rodents.
Ow! Quit it.
When a dog snaps at you because you’ve just touched a hot spot you’ve just experienced pain aggression. This can rear itself at unexpected times, as a dog often experiences discomfort due to ailments not clearly visible, like arthritis. If your dog is lashing out unexpectedly at the slightest touch, consider a trip to the vet.
To sum up, these are the seven main kinds of aggressive dog behavior:
Next check out tips on how to stop aggressive dog behavior.
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Photo credit: JoF