Canine Aggression

Canine aggression is among the biggest behavior problems that dogs display. All dogs can develop canine aggression, or can display signs of aggression when put into certain situations. It is up to the dog owner to mitigate the development of aggressive behavior. Anyone that comes in contact with dogs should have a basic understanding of what can trigger canine aggression, what signs to watch out for, and how best to handle a situation in which a dog is displaying aggression.

What Is Canine Aggression?

Aggression is a natural instinct that is present in nearly all animal species. Aggression is used in the wild to defend family, food, and territory. Canine aggression can manifest in different forms, but the most commonly recognized form of canine aggression is a dog attack. This is actually the culmination of canine aggression, in most cases the dog has displayed aggression and exhausted all warning signs before resorting to an attack.

Causes of Canine Aggression

Regardless of the situation that triggers canine aggression, excess energy can always amplify the possibility of aggression and the reaction that follows. By making sure that the dog gets plenty of exercise, the responsible dog owner severely decreases the likelihood of canine aggression or a dog attack. A dog that has had proper exercise is in a better state of mind and is more likely to respond to situations with patience.

Factors that may contribute to canine aggression include:

  • Lack of socialization with people and animals
  • Perceived threats
  • Abuse by the owners
  • Thyroid imbalance or other medical conditions
  • Lack of structure or routine
  • Perceived invasion of territory
  • Past traumatic experiences

Canine Aggression Warning signs

Dogs are pack animals by nature, and much of what dogs do as play can be misinterpreted as signs of canine aggression. Nipping other dogs, tackling, and chasing are not necessarily signs of aggression but are part of natural canine play. Dogs may be aggressive out of fear or dominance.

Warning signs of dominant aggression in canines include:

  • Excessive low range barking
  • Growling or snarling
  • Snapping
  • Standing tall with ears erect
  • Holding tail high and wagging with little body movement otherwise
  • Staring continuously

Warning signs of fearful aggression in canines include:

  • Holding ears back
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Tail tucked between legs
  • Head lowered
  • Submissive urination

Mitigating Canine Aggression

The best way to stop canine aggression from developing is to train the dog and ensure that the dog is properly fed and exercised each day. Spaying or neutering the dog and beginning to socialize the dog when it is a puppy will decrease the likelihood that the dog will develop canine aggression. Avoiding situations that obviously make the dog anxious or defensive will also help to reduce the likelihood of the dog displaying aggression or attacking people or animals.


Correcting Aggressive Behavior

If the dog has displayed aggression, a professional trainer should be contacted. A dog that has attacked can be ordered to be put down, so correcting aggressive behavior before it escalates can help to save the dog’s life. A professional trainer will work with the dog and the owners to correct the behavior and pinpoint the factors that are triggering the aggression. Punishing the dog for aggressive behavior or attempting to correct the behavior without the help of a professional can result in a dog attack, contacting a professional dog trainer is the safest way to mitigate canine aggression.




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“Dog Aggression.” The Humane Society of the United States. The Humane Society of the United States, 14 Jun 2013. Web. 10 Jan 2014. <>.

“Dog Bites.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Oct 2013. Web. 10 Jan 2014. <>.