Aggression in dogs can be a serious issue. If you notice unpredictable, aggressive behavior in your pet, you should consult a professional for guidance. Canines typically, like most other animals, give warning signals before they act. They might bark, growl, snarl or bare their teeth as warnings that they are about to respond. Learning how your dog expresses a warning is an important part of being able to appropriately respond to prevent bad behavior.
Dogs can behave aggressively for a number of reasons, but it is almost always an emotional response or reaction to something else that is happening. It could be as a result of feeling fear or trying to provide protection (for a pack/family member or home territory) or maybe to defend food or toys. It could be a result of frustration or pain stemming from an injury or medical issue. Your responsibility as a pet-owner is to help minimize the stressors to your pet so that they don’t get to the point of eliciting an aggressive response.
According to the ASPCA, stranger aggression is common – 60-70% of all pet dogs will bark threateningly at strangers or act unfriendly when around them. If your dog reacts with warning signals when you have a guest in your home, you can make it a habit to bring the dog to a comfortable place in another room along with a nice treat for the duration of the visit.
If you are out in public with your pet, you might be able to determine if their behavior changes depending on how close a person gets to them. Be aware of that comfort zone and use rewards or treats to associate other people with good things. Work closely with a trainer and be patient since behavioral changes will take time.
In addition to training and behavior motivations, we encourage a visit to a vet to determine if there might be an underlying medical issue that is causing the behavior, particularly if the animal escalates to aggressive behavior quickly or with little-to-no warning signs. A pet that behaves unpredictably or reacts in a confrontational manner without warning requires professional attention.
If you are in need of support, please schedule an appointment with us or contact a local trainer. Two trainers in our area are listed below.