If you have ever seen yours or another dog show aggressive behavior, it might be a little scary to witness and can be even more challenging to manage. Of course, when you have a family and children, the presence of an aggressive animal can be a big risk. However, before you take your dog away and put them up for adoption, it is important to understand their behavior and see if there is any way to manage it.
The first thing you will want to know is the cause of your dog’s aggressive behavior. From the outside, people usually assume that it is the owner’s fault or the dog is simply out of control, but when you start to explore deeper, you will see that everything is not as black and white as it seems:
Hormones: Like all other animals, dogs have hormones which change at certain times of the year, or according to certain stimulus. For example, when it comes to female dogs, they come on heat a few times each year. This means that they are at optimum time for mating and to give birth to pups. The issue with a female being on heat is that male dogs will be able to smell the pheromones she gives off, and this can make your male dog more aggressive for a short period as his testosterone levels spike. This is, of course, not an issue if your dog has been neutered, but if it hasn’t this is something to look out for.
Illness: When your dog is ill, it can cause them to become aggressive. There are a few different illnesses which can cause your dog to display aggressive behavior. Even the most friendly dog in the world can become aggressive when they are unwell or are in severe pain. Conditions such as a brain tumor, joint pain, and thyroid disease can be common causes of aggression in your pet. If you have a dog that suddenly shows signs of aggression such as growling, biting, or snarling you will need to get them checked out as they could be ill.
Fear: You may have heard of the concept of fight or flight; this concept applies to every living thing and is an innate action. When presented with a situation which is scary, you can either run away or stay and fight that fear until you beat it. Some dogs will cower away from other dogs, buses, or scary objects, but some dogs will stay and fight. If your animal is faced with a situation where they feel either trapped or afraid, they will lash out in self defense. This becomes a big issue if they bite somebody, because you may end up with a dog bite lawyer on your case.
Possession Aggression: There are a few instances where your dog may become possessive over its food, toys, or something else. It is mostly down to a dog’s personality. Some dogs don’t care if you sit next to them as they eat, whereas others will snap at you because they think you are going to steal it. Knowing your dog and taking precautions to stay away from them when they have food is the only way to deal with it.
You may also have the occurrence of your animal suddenly displaying possessive behavior when they have never done before. In this case you will want to take them to the vets because it could be if your dog is a young female, that they are suffering a phantom pregnancy. The toys your dog is being possessive over are actually her babies in her mind, which is why she is aggressive. This is nothing to worry about and will pass within a few weeks, however it is worth keeping toys away from her in this time.
Establishing Dominance: If you have more than one dog, you might notice them fighting each other every now and again. If this occurs frequently and the fighting starts becoming more aggressive it is most likely because they are fighting for dominance. All members of the canine family have a strict hierarchy which they live their lives by. There will always be an alpha male and alpha female. You will be able to tell which is which by the behavior they display as they eat and walk about.
An alpha male will always take their time with their food, whereas the lower ranks will wolf it down (pardon the pun) as quickly as they can. This is because alpha dogs have priority over food, so if they finish and another pack member still has food left, they can take it. The lower ranks will eat quickly so that they do not lose out on their food. Your dog may also display this behavior to you if they feel that their dominance is being challenged. If your dog barks as you try to move them off of the furniture or take them outside, this is a sign that they are asserting their dominance to you.
What to do: When your dog is displaying aggressive behavior, you may need help identifying the cause and helping them calm down. To do this you can do the following:
Call in a Professional: Call the vet and book an appointment to see if they are ill. If not, then you will need to look at contacting a dog behaviorist. Don’t try to fix the situation on your own because you could make matters worse and end up hurt. A professional will be able to see what’s happening with your pet and advise you on the way you should behave towards them to calm them down.
Avoid Situations That Aggravate Your Dog: If your dog hates buses or they don’t like other dogs, avoid these situations where they are put in front of them. If the behavior still continues you may need to use desensitization to teach the dog that these things are not scary and that other dogs are good to be around.
Be Patient & Positive: Don’t shout at your dog. It is the worst thing that you can do because they do not understand why you are shouting. In their mind, their aggression is for a reason, so they will not respond well to you punishing them for it. Instead, keep things positive, praise your dog for good behavior, and try to work through things in a positive way.
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