Dog Aggression Overview

Dog aggression.  It’s one of the earliest, hardest, and most durable of all canine behavioral problems.

Failure to correct hostility in your puppy will make general training much harder.

The following pages deal with canine aggression – including:

Use the free resources at the bottom of this page to train this behavior out of your puppy.  Or click here for professional dog training help.

What Is Dog Aggression?

Dog aggression is almost always a response to some external threat – imaginary or real.

This perceived threat triggers some type of hostility from the dog (i.e. growling, snapping, biting).  And in most cases, this hostility is preceded by signals that many dog owners miss.

So although dog aggression seems to come out of nowhere (all of a sudden), it is predictable – provided that you understand the warning signs and causes.

In other words, most aggression is a result of miscommunication between you and your dog.  Your canine friend is trying to express his thoughts, emotions, and intentions.  When you fail to interpret these signals, your dog appears to “suddenly” become aggressive.

But What Exactly Is This Aggression?

Dogs become aggressive in response to circumstances or unfolding events around them.  In most cases, a threat (or perceived threat) is the primary trigger for aggression.

That threat can exist in many different forms.  For example:

  • Personal threats to the dog (i.e. impending attacks or doom)
  • Threats to loved ones and pack members (dogs will defend you from strangers)
  • Loss of prized possessions (i.e. taking away toys, bones, or food)

For a longer and more detailed list of aggression types, click here.

Dogs use aggression to tell others to stop doing whatever they’re doing.  However, violence is not the normal resting state of dogs.  They prefer to resolve most conflicts peacefully if they can.  When your puppy starts to exhibit aggressive behavior, chances are, you’ve already missed the early warning signs.

The “perceived” threat doesn’t always have to be immediate.  Aggressive responses can be learned and reinforced over time.

For example, your dog may have learned that being hostile produces results.  If they growl until you feed them, they realize that growling works.  You can expect to see more of this behavior in the future.  It’s similar to children who throw tantrums in order to get their own way.

As a pet parent (and pack leader), your job is to:

  • Understand the different types of aggressive behavior out there
  • Isolate the most common triggers that normally lead to aggression
  • Recognize the early warning signs so you can stop the escalation
  • Help your dog redirect her energy, fear, or frustration more constructively

It’s also important to remember that no dog owner is completely off the hook.

Some breeds have a reputation for being more aggressive than others.  But all dogs, when pushed far enough, have the potential to become aggressive and attack.  A sick or aging dog, for example, might become aggressive simply due to pain.

So be sure to read the following articles to develop a deeper understanding of canine aggression and how to prevent it: