6 Factors that Contribute to Dog Aggression and How to Prevent It

Dog aggression is a behavior characterized by hostility towards other animals or people. It can manifest in various forms, such as growling, barking, biting, lunging, and snapping.

Common factors that cause aggression include fear, territoriality, protection of resources, or dominance. As this behavior affects many people, it becomes an issue that all pet owners should be aware of. 

Aggressive behavior has the potential to be harmful to other animals or people. As such, it’s critical for pet owners to spot its early warning signs and, if necessary, seek professional assistance to address and control the behavior. 

Responsible pet ownership involves proper training and supervision to minimize the risks. You must understand the causes and signs of dog aggression to effectively handle it, including handling dog bites and preventing them from happening.

This article will also explain dog aggression, what causes it, how to handle it, and how to keep your pet safe and healthy. 

6 Common Types of Dog Aggression 

As dog lovers, petting every dog you see can be tempting. But sometimes, even veteran dog owners should be careful when handling any dog. While dogs cannot speak, their actions tell you when to step back and avoid getting hurt. 

Among common signs of dog aggression include the following: 

  • Snarling or growling 
  • Baring teeth 
  • Ears pinned back 
  • Stiff body posture 
  • Pointed tail//not wagging

There are several types of dog aggression, some more common than others. Each type tells you the qualities that make it so and its difference from other types.

An aggressive dog does not always intend to bite or hurt people. Sometimes, several triggers could cause aggression, so it is vital to understand the triggers and how to deal with them easier and more efficiently. Here are a few of the most common types:

  1. Fear aggression

Dogs that are afraid of something or someone may become aggressive as a way to protect themselves. This can happen when they are in areas with loud noises, strange people or animals, or unfamiliar situations.

Like humans, fear also elicits a flight or fight response in dogs. In many cases, many dogs become aggressive out of fear. As such, humans must be extra careful because fear-induced aggression in dogs usually has no warning signs.

They won’t growl or bare their teeth and would go straight full-on attack, which such behavior is rooted in the dog’s traumatic past. 

  1. Territorial aggression

Territorial dogs may become aggressive when someone or something enters their territory. Their territories range from their home, yard, or even their owner.

Territorial aggression also happens due to a dog’s obsession with certain items, such as a toy, a bowl of food, or a bed. The aggressive dog immediately reacts when someone or another pet goes near their favorite things, from harmless growling to a possible full-on attack. 

  1. Leash aggression 

If your pet dog is calm and friendly most of the time but starts to become aggressive once the leash is on, it is a clear sign of leash aggression. This is mainly because the dog feels restrained when wearing a leash. 

While rarely a leash-aggressive dog ends up attacking another dog or person, it can be frustrating when your pet dog acts out in public. If you are planning to own a dog, make sure to train it also to get used to the leash.

  1. Dominance aggression

Dominant dogs may become aggressive in situations where they feel challenged or threatened. This can happen when they are around other dogs or when their owners try to control them.

This type of aggression can also be related to social aggression, where the “dominant” or the alpha dog “reminds” them who’s the boss through aggressive body language. If you are a dog owner and think you have a dog showing Alpha behavior, show them who’s the real boss!

  1. Protective aggression

Dogs that are protective of their owners or other family members may become aggressive when others threaten their loved ones. This can happen when someone they don’t know tries to approach their owner or when someone is acting aggressively toward their owner.

  1. Redirected aggression

This happens when a dog is agitated or aroused by one thing but cannot act on that aggression. Instead, dogs redirect their aggression towards something else, such as another dog or person that happens to be nearby.

Pain can also trigger aggression. Dogs tend to display aggressive behavior when hurt and could end in a full-on attack as a defense mechanism. So if you notice your dog suddenly becomes aggressive out of nowhere, it could be because of pain that they cannot voice out. 

Various factors, including genetics, early experiences, training, and medical conditions, can also cause aggressive dog behavior. If you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior, speaking with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer is vital to help identify the cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

How to Handle Dog Aggression 

Handling dog aggression can be challenging and potentially dangerous, so it’s essential to proceed cautiously and seek professional guidance if needed. In particular, dog owners should take note of the following to prevent the development of dog aggression: 

  • Using positive reinforcement training 
  • Paying attention to socialization both with humans and other animals 
  • Watching out for signs of resource guarding 
  • Discouraging dominant behaviors and nipping them in the bud

Training adult dogs with behavioral issues can lessen or stop aggression altogether. Here are some general tips that may help in handling dog aggression:

Manage the Environment

Keep your dog away from situations or stimuli that trigger their aggression. For example, if your dog is aggressive towards strangers, keep them in a separate room when visitors are present. Determine whether the dog acts out to every stranger or a particular person. 

Identifying their primary triggers will help find the solution and how to deal with it. In some cases, past traumatic experiences can’t be the root of this aggression. Either way, practicing positive reinforcement training and gradual desensitization to the primary triggers is best. 

If you can identify what triggers your dog’s aggression, remove it if possible. For example, if your dog is aggressive towards other dogs, avoid taking them to places where other dogs are present. It could be more heartbreaking if the trigger is you, the owner.

If your dog shows signs of aggression, do not try to punish or physically restrain them, as this can worsen the situation and potentially lead to injury. Best to check if the dog has signs of illness that could be causing the aggression before taking the following steps. 

Seek professional help

Aggressive behavior in dogs can be complex and often requires professional intervention. If you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior, seek the advice of a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer.

Consult a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer with experience working with aggressive dogs. They can help identify the cause of the aggression and develop a behavior modification plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs.

As a pet owner, you should also research and familiarize yourself with your dog and its breed. That way, you can know your dog’s temperament and whether it suits your lifestyle.

Final Thoughts 

Having an aggressive dog can be scary, and you might not know when it suddenly lashes out at you out of nowhere. However, since your dog cannot express its frustrations, fear, and pain, you, as its owner, must understand the root cause of the dog’s aggression. 

The good news is that you can solve this behavior with proper training, positive reinforcement, and socialization. Beyond that, aggressive behavior might be a scared or pained dog, so you should never hurt or hit your pet when acting out. 

Training an aggressive dog requires patience, persistence, and understanding of its behavior. You can reduce, manage, and even eliminate it with the proper training techniques and professional guidance.
By following the abovementioned tips, you and your dog can live harmoniously. All the training and patience you give your dog to correct the behavior will be worth it.