Dog Aggression Behavior

"Dog aggression behavior is a natural canine behavior that exists in all dogs. It is usually provoked by a specific circumstance such as confusion regarding the status of a stranger. Any sign of aggressive dog behavior should be addressed to ensure that it doesn't lead to an unacceptable dog behavior problem."

There are many signs of aggressive dog behavior. Theses include:

In most cases, there is a clear and identifiable reason for aggressive behavior in a dog, although it can be difficult to understand and diagnose.

There are five primary types of dog aggression behavior. These are listed and described below.

Most forms of aggression can be helped by following a training program that involves behavioral modification. This means simply that you reinforce positive behaviors with rewards and remove any actions on your part that can be confusing.

Dog Dominance Behavior

Dogs are pack animals, and your dog views you as a member of his pack. There is always a "pecking order" in the pack. If your dog views you as a step below him in the pecking order, he may respond to what he perceives as challenges to his position with what is called dominant dog behavior. If he is bothered while sleeping or if he is made to move off the bed or couch, he may perceive that as a threat to his dominance. He may also perceive physical restraint, even in the form of a hug, as threatening. Your dog may also be aggressive toward other dogs in order to establish his dominance.

Dogs who display dominance aggression are generally very nice and friendly when they do not feel they are being challenged and they are often described as having a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality.

Tips for dealing with dog dominance behavior involve behavior modification:

Fear-Motivated Dog Aggression Behavior

This occurs when your dog perceives a threat of being harmed. There may not actually be a risk, but your dog perceives it that way. For instance, if you raise your arm suddenly, your dog might be afraid of being hit. He may bite you to protect himself. This type of aggression is particularly common in dogs who have been abused in the past.

The key to helping your dog is to identify what is causing the fear and then using behavioral modification techniques to help him get over this fear. A typical situation is that your dog is nice to you, but barks at any visitors. Some dogs are only fearful of certain types of people such as children.

To help with this kind of behavior you will need to follow the steps for behavior modification. Be sure not to yell at your dog for exhibiting the wrong behavior as this will enhance his anxiety. Specifically:

Protective, Possessive, and Territorial Dog Behavior

These are all similar forms of dog aggression behavior. Being protective of your family or his space is a natural behavior of dogs. Protective aggression occurs when your dog perceives a threat towards you and becomes aggressive in order to protect you. Possessive aggressive dog behavior occurs when he feels the need to protect his food, toys, or other important things. Territorial aggression occurs when he feels the need to protect his territory. It's important to understand that he not only feel your house and yard is his territory, but other areas as well. If you walk your dog around the block and he urine marks the area, he may feel the whole block is his territory.

The key to treating territorial behavior is to change your dog's perception of what needs to be protected. Steps you can take include:

Exercise with your dog for an hour.

Dog Aggression Behavior Toward Owner

Complaints of aggressive behavior toward the dog owner is the most common behavioral problem brought to veterinarians. There can be several causes for your dog exhibiting this type of behavior:

Predatory Dog Aggression Behavior

Some dogs have a strong predatory drive. They might perceive a cat or squirrel as being possible prey. To prepare your dog for another pet in the house consider doing the following:

Dog Aggression Behavior and a New Baby

Babies can be confusing to dogs since they are different then the types of people they are used to. Your dog may not even consider your baby a person.

Introducing a baby starts before the baby actually comes home. Bring home a piece of the baby's clothing so your dog gets used to the scent. When you arrive home have one adult that is not holding the baby greet the dog first. Consider a head collar if your dog is acting aggressively.

Over time allow the dog to come closer to the baby when it is being held in your arms. Be sure that your dog is on a leash and only let him smell, not lick.

If your dog gets jealous provide a Toy by Kong which is a treat filled to keep him distracted and busy. Do not allow your baby and dog to be alone in the same room. Work with a dog behaviorist if their are any signs of aggression or if you are concerned.

Coping with Dog Aggression Behavior

* Visit your vet to rule out any medical problems that might be causing your dog to behave aggressively.

* Get professional help as soon as you realize your dog has a problem. Don't expect your dog to grow out of it. Dog aggression behavior will not go away by itself, and will likely get worse over time.

* Take safety precautions. Keep your dog confined as necessary. Don't expose him to people if he is at risk of biting them. Remember, you are liable for your dog's behavior.

* Avoid situations where your dog is more likely to become aggressive.

* Have your dog neutered or spayed. He or she will be less likely to be aggressive afterward.

* Don't punish your dog. It won't help, and will likely make matters worse. It will likely cause your dog to become more aggressive.

References for Dog Aggression Behavior:

A Behavioral View on Dog Aggression
Barbara Nibling


Owner-Directed Aggression in Dogs
J. Fat, M. Amat, X. Manteca.
Unitat de Fisiologia Animal, Facultat de Veterinaria

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