Category Archives: aggression in dogs

Medical and Behavioral Causes for Canine Aggression


By Ruthie Bently

Have you ever been growled at or bitten by a dog that as a rule is a calm, even-tempered animal? I have, and it was because I made a mistake. I had given my dog a bone and he kept trying to take it into the bedroom to chew it in his favorite place: my bed. I kept taking the bone into the kitchen and placing it on his rug where he was allowed to chew it. That just didn’t suit him.

I got bit when I approached him from behind and reached around him to take the bone away. The proper way to remedy the situation would have been to put him on a sit/stay, pick up his bone while facing him and crate him with his bone, so he could enjoy it in peace and my quilt wouldn’t get dirty. In his defense it was the first beef bone he’d ever been given and he was two years old. He had no idea who was behind him; he didn’t have eyes in the back of his head and was protecting his property. This aggression was caused by a behavior I was able to correct with patience, understanding, love and CANIDAE Snap Biscuit treats.

Behavioral causes for canine aggression can include protection of their persons, perceived property or other four-legged companions. Some dogs will show this aggression when being walked by their owners. They are walking happily down the sidewalk when all of a sudden there is a barking, snarling mass of fur at the end of a leash. If you are walking with or without your dog in the other direction, I suggest crossing the street before continuing on your walk.

A dog does not necessarily see property lines in the same manner that humans do. It doesn’t matter if they are behind or in front of a fence – in some dogs’ minds the property ends with their line of sight. If you have ever parked in a parking lot and been accosted by a dog in the car next to you showing teeth and/or growling, it may be because the dog sees you as a threat to the car they are in. They don’t know that you could care less; they were left there by the alpha family member and are doing their job.

Fear can cause aggression. A dog may be afraid of thunder, fireworks or other loud noises. They may be fearful of noises made during the normal running of appliances that they may not be used to (i.e., the dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer). A dog may be afraid of another dog, and may show aggression to make himself look more threatening to a dog that is approaching them with body language they don’t like.

Dominance can also cause aggression. Dogs may fight over territory, a female they both covet, food or even a family member. Jealousy can also cause dominance aggression. I had a client with a male Akita, and she began dating several years after she became a widow. The Akita did not like the new man in her life and made his feelings known. By involving her new beau in the dog’s day-to-day schedule which included feeding, walking and training, the problem was resolved and they became a happy family.

Canine aggression can also be caused by medical problems. One report mentioned over fifty different medical reasons for canine aggression. Hypothyroidism is one of the most common and occurs when there is too little thyroid in a dog’s system. Your vet can perform a test for hypothyroidism and may prescribe thyroid medication to remedy the situation. Hypothyroidism currently affects more than fifty dog breeds. Hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar, is another cause and may or may not be linked to canine diabetes.

A trauma caused by a blow to a dog’s head or a brain tumor, which can cause swelling, bleeding or injury to the brain, can result in canine aggression. Dogs can contract either viral or bacterial encephalitis. Rabies and distemper are both forms of viral encephalitis. Some studies show that dogs can contract distemper from a distemper vaccination. The lack of serotonin in a dog’s brain can cause them to become aggressive, as it is the neurochemical control for aggression. Epilepsy, which has many causes, has also been noted as a form of canine aggression. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome associated with aging canine seniors can also cause canine aggression.

Canine aggression can be due to either a behavioral or medical cause. If you have a regularly well-behaved dog that begins behaving oddly for no apparent reason, it is time to visit the vet for a checkup.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Understanding Aggressive Behavior in Dogs


By Linda Cole

Even the friendliest dog can demonstrate aggressive behavior at times. There’s a number of reasons why your dog can suddenly become aggressive towards you, another pet or a stranger. But what a dog considers to be normal behavior is certainly not acceptable to us. It’s important to remember that just because your dog is acting in an aggressive manner, it doesn’t mean he’s become aggressive. Before you can change your dog’s behavior or know if he even has a problem, you need to understand what caused the aggressive reaction in the first place.

Dogs are social animals and consider their people and other pets as members of the pack. It’s normal behavior for a dog to protect his family and he may, at times, show a protective aggressive behavior if he feels a threat from outside his family. It becomes a problem when the dog can’t distinguish between friend or foe. The dog guarding a new baby may be cute until no one is allowed to see the baby. It’s natural for a mother dog to protect her puppies, but not to the point where she refuses to let anyone close to them.

Possessive aggression is where the dog will protect whatever he considers important to him. It can be his food or even his empty bowl. A dog may feel he needs to protect toys, beds, treats and his owner. If he feels threatened, it will trigger aggressive behavior. Some dogs will even take their favorite things and stash them in hiding spots around their home. If another pet or human is unknowingly near one of his hiding spots, the dog can become aggressive if he thinks his “treasure” has been discovered. The dog protecting his human may lash out at anyone or other pets who get too close.

Dogs who are afraid will show fear aggression. Usually, this dog won’t attack someone or another animal unless they feel cornered or trapped. You can tell if a dog is fearful because they’ll try to not look at what’s causing their fear. Their tail is tucked between their legs and they may have a hunched back posture. Do not turn your back on a dog with fear aggression. There are different reasons why a dog is fearful and if one is showing fear, caution should be used because they can lash out in an aggressive attempt to get away from what’s scaring them. This kind of aggressive behavior can be sudden with no warning signs.

Territorial aggression is a bit like protective aggression. The dog feels a need to protect his home and yard from strangers or other animals who violate his space. Like the protective dog, this can be a problem when people come to visit or if other animals, wild or domestic, wander into the dog’s territory.

A dog who has been injured or is in pain for any reason can exhibit pain elicited aggression. Even the most loving, friendly dog can lash out at the person or animal who caused his pain. Many owners have been bitten while trying to treat a dog’s minor injury or while grooming a dog with painful hips or joints. Long haired dogs who need their coats combed to remove tangles can bite when a stuck tangle pulls too hard.

Predatory aggression is when the dog chases bikes, cars, people running down the street, the neighborhood cats, squirrels, rabbits or anything else he sees moving. When his prey drive is activated, the dog with a more aggressive behavior may act on his natural instinct to capture his prey and he may harm what he catches if it’s another animal. A dog showing predatory aggression is also apt to bite the person on the bike or the person jogging down the street.

Other types of aggressions include defensive aggression, social aggression, frustration elicited aggression, redirected aggression and sex related aggression.

A dog can show aggressive behavior at any time in their life. Any one of the above conditions can trigger a forceful response. Aggression can be reduced if you understand why they became that way in the first place. Any time your dog displays aggression towards you, another family member, other pets or outside people coming into your home or yard, it’s always best to speak with your vet, because medical conditions can spark an aggressive outburst. However, if there’s no medical reason for your dog’s behavior, your vet can recommend a qualified behaviorist who can help you and your dog deal with his aggression. There are different ways of dealing with different types of aggression, and some are more controversial than others. Always make sure you are comfortable with any recommendations given to you by a behaviorist.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.