Aggression in dogs is a common issue that most dog owners will have to face at some point or another. There are more reasons wherefore dogs become aggressive, whether it is against yourself, family members or other dogs. It looks sudden, but it actually takes time for your pet to develop such a behavior. At this point, you probably ask yourself – why is my dog being aggressive all of a sudden?
The experience could be frightening, especially as you or a family member might get bitten. There are, however, a few ways to overcome this problem. It takes time and it implies identifying the potential causes of this dog aggression, but it can be done. The good news is you do not even need a dog trainer for it, as it can be done with lots of patience and a goodwill at home.
Knowing the causes behind your aggression in dog can pave the way to a successful process.
Certain medical conditions can cause aggression in dogs. If your dog has never shown any signs of aggression, a medical issue could be the main reason. Aggression can take more forms. Your dog might be snapping or growling. In more severe cases, it could start biting.
A medical issue will inevitably cause discomfort, as well as pain. If your dog is being aggressive out of nowhere, it might be wounded or injured. When stressed out or in pain, dogs tend to defend themselves, as they do not want any company. Some of these issues could include bone related problems, arthritis, tumors or internal injuries.
Many dogs may also have their brains affected. Certain illnesses target the brain – a tumor or perhaps cognitive dysfunction. At this point, the aggression seems to have no reason at all. Such issues are more likely to affect older dogs, yet younger dogs could also be targeted.
All in all, if this aggression seems to have no reason, you might want to seek help from a vet before attempting anything yourself. Pain could be the cause, but you are not a vet, so you have no clue. No matter how tempting it is to give your dog pain medication, refrain from it. You need to know precisely what is going on before starting a treatment.
Fear is another reason that could trigger a dog’s aggression. A fearful dog needs some defense and this is when aggression kicks in. Whether the dog feels trapped or threatened, it will show aggression. For example, being backed into a corner without a way out could be a danger. If you have a rescue dog that has been abused, raising your hand might make it believe you are going to hit it.
This issue is more common in rescue dogs. They have been neglected, abused or improperly socialized. The organization you got the dog from could provide some help regarding its past. If it has been abused, obedience training with a professional trainer might help – it is a common issue with rescue dogs. Talk to a vet first – there are times when goodwill and understanding can help you do it yourself, without a trainer.
In order to prevent this type of behavior, always approach your dog in a calm and friendly manner. In fact, it might be better to let the dog come to you first. Socialize continuously and let your furry friend understand that it is nothing to be worried about.
So, why is my dog being aggressive all of a sudden? Some dogs are quite possessive of their stuff – be it their toys or their owners. They guard their resources. Food may also trigger aggression. If your dog growls as you approach its food bowl, chances are your pet is possessive. At the same time, it might start growling if you approach it while it chews its favorite toy.
On the same note, the house is also a personal territory. In other words, a dog may try to bite someone stepping into the home, even if it is one of your friends. This sudden aggression has
Why is my dog being aggressive is not related to medical issues. Plus, it varies from one dog to another. Some dogs are alright with being touched while they chew their toys. Some others feel jealous and will step between you and your partner in a cute way. Finally, there are also situations when dogs snap at their owners if they try to move the food bowl.
Each object has a value in your dog’s eyes and that value affects the level of aggression. It is all about resource guarding.
Your dog may develop an aggressive behavior out of dominance as well. An aggressive dog will try to dominate another dog or its owners. It usually happens against other dogs though.
Unlike most expectations, dominance is not a trait of personality. Instead, it is a type of behavior. A dog will not be dominant naturally. Another dog will not be submissive in a natural way. There are, indeed, some tendencies. But then, everything is taught and learned according to the circumstances.
A dominant dog suddenly tries to prove that it can handle any situation. It is in charge of everything. If this dominant position is challenged by another dog or human, the dog might become aggressive. It could go aggressive toward you, your family members or random dogs.
Most people this is the main cause of aggressive dogs – only a misconception. In fact, it is one of the least common causes.
Frustration can make dogs aggressive too. Frustration can occur if the dog is not allowed to do something or it simply cannot get it. The frustration inevitably kicks in. Unfortunately, the dog sends it in the wrong direction and becomes aggressive toward you or another dog. This type of cause is more common in dogs that do not get the freedom they deserve. For example, tied up or restrained dogs will inevitably get frustrated.
For instance, imagine a chained dog. It sees a dog in a nearby yard, so it tries to get to it. It cannot, so it starts barking. The impossibility to get there will make the dog growl and become frustrated. When the owner approaches the dog, its frustration is directed toward the owner.
What to do against your dog’s aggression
What you do against dogs aggression depends on the cause. Make sure you identify it the right way or you could aggravate the issue.
Get to a vet if you are not sure about the cause of aggression. The vet will perform a thorough investigation to identify potential medical issue. Anything that could cause pain may also get your dog to become aggressive.
Behavioral medication may also help, even if there are no medical affections. However, this option should complement behavior training. Otherwise, you are only treating the signs of the problem, rather than the initial roots.
There are more training solutions out there and each of them goes in a different direction.
For example, desensitization implies exposing the dog to its aggression trigger at a reasonable intensity. This is done in small steps and takes time and patience. For instance, if your dog growls as you get closer when it chews its toy, you can sit or stand at a decent distance. If your dog shows no interest, you are in the right place. Get closer and closer on a daily basis.
On another hand, counterconditioning is different. It involves working on the dog’s emotional reply. If your dog sees you as a threat while being nearby when chewing a toy, try having some treats around you. Throw your pet a treat every now and then. With time, you being nearby will have a different meaning – treats. No matter what the cause is, you need to associate it with a treat for your dog to relax.
There are times when an alternative way to deal with stress could be the optimal solution. Your dog gets aggressive when you do something in particular. Try to give it a command, such as going to its bed. Give your pet a treat if it does it. This way, it will learn to cope with whatever the trigger is in a different way. There will be an alternative to aggression. There will be a predictable result.
Finally, a bit of relaxation is not to be overlooked either. Dogs are like people – they can get stressed and annoyed. They also flip out at the people they love. No matter what your dog is anxious about, teach it to relax. You should know what helps your pet keep calm – a treat, petting or taking a nap.
Management solutions can be extremely diversified and they depend on what triggers aggression in your dog. It can prevent aggression, as well as problematic reactions out of nowhere. For instance, if your dog starts growling as you approach the food bowl, you can try feeding it in a different place. Once your pet is done eating, put the bowl away.
On the other hand, if your dog is scared by strangers or other dogs while being walked, you can get a muzzle. The muzzle will not just keep you safe, but also strangers and other dogs. Most other people and dog owners will keep away from a dog with a muzzle in order to prevent unpleasant situations, which will also create less anxiety for your furry friend.
Common misconceptions and myths regarding aggression in dogs
Your dog is not trying to gain some more rank while being aggressive. It is not trying to dominate you. Instead, aggression must be seen as the emotional reply to something that can cause scare or anxiety.
Other than that, punishing your dog for aggression or growling is not a good idea. Instead, you will most likely make it worse, as you will scare your pooch and increase the anxiety. It may work temporarily, but aggressive episodes will be more intense later on.
Is your dog growling? If you punish it for it, it may stop growling. Instead, it will bite you without this warning. Growling is practically a warning that you need in order to assess a problem correctly.
Frequently asked questions
There are obviously a few questions you may have while figuring out your dog’s aggression.
Why is my dog suddenly aggressive towards me?
There are more reasons behind it. The most common ones include a medical problem, pain, stress and discomfort. Anxiety and fear can also trigger aggression, not to mention a possessive personality. Identify the cause and fixing the issue will become a matter of time only.
Can an aggressive dog be cured?
Aggression is not a disease. More importantly, dogs are not born aggressive. They end up in this situation due to certain triggers in their lives. The good news is you can help your dog overcome aggression. Even if you have a rescue dog that has been abused or neglected, proper care and patience will help you overcome the problem.
Why do dogs suddenly attack their owners?
No dog will ever go to its owner out of nowhere and attack it. You will not be sitting on a sofa watching a movie and have your dog attack you. There is always a trigger. It could be fear or anxiety, but it could also be one of your actions. Touching your dog when it is in pain or being aggressive towards it could cause a similar response.
Bottom line, why is my dog being aggressive all of a sudden? Reasons are more diversified and they are all explained in small details. Simply pay attention to what you are doing. Identify the actions that trigger this behavior. Once you figure them out, you can simply work on them and help both yourself and your dog overcome such unpleasant episodes. One thing is for sure though – you do need patience.