Aggressive behavior

“Aggressive behavior” refers to a wide variety of behaviors that occur for various reasons and circumstances. To say that a dog is “aggressive” can mean a whole host of things. Dogs don’t always follow a sequence, and often do several of the behaviors below simultaneously. Here are some of those behavioral warning signs:

  • Becoming very still and rigid
  • A guttural bark that sounds threatening
  • Lunging or charging at a person with no contact
  • Mouthing, as though to move or control the person without applying significant pressure
  • “Muzzle punch” (the dog literally punches the person with his/her nose)
  • Growling or showing teeth
  • Snarling, a combination of growling and showing teeth
  • Quick nips (leaving no marks) and/or snapping
  • Quick bites (tearing the skin)
  • Biting with enough pressure to cause a bruise
  • Biting that causes puncture wounds
  • Repeated bites in rapid succession
  • Biting and shaking

Aggression can be a dangerous behavioral problem; it is complex to diagnose and can be difficult to treat. A qualified professional can develop a treatment plan customized to your dog’s temperament and your family’s unique situation, and coach you through its implementation. As you can see from the many different categories of aggression below, it is essential to have a qualified professional be part of the treatment plan.

  • Territorial Aggression – Protective Aggression
  • Possessive Aggression – Fear Aggression
  • Defensive Aggression – Social Aggression
  • Frustration-Elicited Aggression
  • Redirected Aggression – Pain-Elicited Aggression
  • Sex-Related Aggression – Predatory Aggression

Even if a dog has been well behaved for years, it is not possible to predict when all the necessary circumstances might come together to create “the perfect storm” that triggers aggression. Dogs, who have a history of resorting to aggression as a way of dealing with stressful situations, can resort back to that strategy. Pet parents of aggressive dogs should be prudent and always assume that their dog is NOT cured, so that they never let their guard down.


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