Understanding dog aggression
Dogs are faithful companion animals. Their willingness to defend us, our property and our resources may endear them to us but can, at times, make life difficult. On occasion dogs may display a growl, a lunge, a bite or even a full-scale dog attack. This behaviour then becomes a problem for owners and for society to deal with.
Aggression - a natural behaviour
Aggressive behaviour may help you defend your hard earned resources. It may help you protect your young. It may help you put up a fight when attacked by a predator. It will also help you kill in order to eat and survive. Therefore aggression is a successful evolutionary strategy and without some level of anger, we probably would not survive.
Aggression - a learned experience
Anger is a normal animal emotion but dogs may also learn how to behave in situations that they feel angry.
People often enjoy the protection of a dog. It can get complicated, however, when partners and friends can't even sit down on the sofa due to the dog!" Dr Jo
Causes of the aggression problem
Reason to bite: Negative experience
Some dogs may be aggressive because of negative experiences in the past. Often these traumatising events have occurred during puppyhood.
Reason to bite: Pain and illness
Medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, neurological problems, brain tumours and seizures can all be responsible for aggressive behaviour in dogs. These are impossible to diagnose at home, so must be ruled out at your vet clinic prior to any behavioural therapy taking place.
Reason to bite: Limited resources
When resources are in short supply, demand increases. Dogs tend to value resources that they need to survive. Resources such as food, shelter and companionship are very valuable commodities Most dogs are generous in their sharing capacity. They allow their humans to share their resting spots – usually our sofas! A small number of dogs, however, refuse to share their resources. Often there will be one particular resource that they are particularly motivated to guard.
Reason to bite: Redirected aggression
A common cause of injury in canine aggression situations is redirected aggression, where the object of the dog’s aggression is not the intended recipient. Redirected aggression can occur in several situations and is likely to depend on your dog’s reactivity levels. Aggression is often redirected towards owners when a dog fight is interrupted.
Reason to bite: Attention
Attention can be a powerful reinforcer of behaviour. It may not be the cause of your dog showing aggression but it may contribute to your dog’s ongoing aggressive behaviour.