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What Causes Dog Aggression And What Can Be Done?


Witnessing aggressive behavior in a dog can be a frightening experience, especially if the behavior is new or unexpected. While the conduct may result from a temporary disorder in some circumstances, seeing a dog in this state can be scary. Learning common triggers for aggressive behaviors in dogs may help you to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation.


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Fear is a common cause for dogs to behave aggressively toward other dogs or people. Aggressiveness may be the animal's way of preparing for a flight or fight response to a perceived threat, and these threats can come in various forms. Fireworks, thunderstorms, or other loud noises are frequent sources of fear for dogs. Occasionally, rescue dogs display aggressive conduct due to abuse or other tragic events from their past. But, help is available if you were attacked by a pitbull or other canine. Obedience training with an experienced trainer can assist dogs in managing their fear response.

Displaying Dominance

Showing dominance over other dogs or people can lead to aggressive behavior in dogs. As pack animals, hierarchy determines feeding order, sleeping location, and many other daily activities in the wild. Pack position is an ingrained part of a dog's personality and will not change throughout its life. For pack leaders or alphas, their position can place them in a difficult spot by attempting to demonstrate dominance over human members of the pack. 

While the alpha will maintain control over other dogs in the home, training is crucial to establish yourself as the pack leader to avoid damaging and potentially dangerous behavior. Teaching the dog to obey simple commands and then rewarding them with attention helps it learn to trust your ability to provide for the pack and respect you as the leader. Giving the dog a daily physical outlet like a long walk or a run also helps improve this type of conduct.


Screen Shot 2022-08-24 at 14.04.37Changes in circumstances like moving to a new town or welcoming a new baby into the family can be confusing for dogs. Exposure to new sights and smells can make dogs anxious and more prone to aggressive behavior. But, more often than not, pacing, restlessness, and excessive barking are signs that your dog is feeling stressed, and taking steps to lessen their anxiety now helps keep things from escalating. 

Treating anxiety in dogs often requires a multi-faceted approach and attacking the problem from several angles. However, before attempting to deal with the anxiety issue on your own, it's best to schedule a check-up with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is healthy and that the problem is not due to a physical illness or ailment.

Physical Illness

Treating sick dogs and other animals would be more straightforward if they could verbalize when and where it hurts but, unfortunately, this isn't the case. However, dogs can, and frequently do, show us when they are hurting. When dogs are in pain, they often act aggressively with little to no warning. While external injuries are easier to spot, internal injuries are sometimes responsible for their pain. Toothaches, inner ear infections, and arthritis are all disorders that could cause a great deal of pain for your dog. 

If you notice a change in your dog's behavior and have questions about aggressive behavior, your dog's vet is a great place to start your search for finding the cause of the problem.