Understanding Aggression In Dogs

Understanding Aggression In Dogs

What is dog aggression? Aggression is a common canine behavioral issue. It is also the top reason that dog owners seek help from vets, trainers, and behaviorists. 

Here we shall tell you all about aggression in dogs, including its signs, causes, types, and treatment.

What Is Dog Aggression?

What is dog aggression? It refers to a range of canine behaviors you may see in various situations for different reasons.

Most wild animals become aggressive to protect themselves, their offspring, and their territories.

Animals that live in herds, like dogs, also harness aggression and threaten others to manage social interactions and maintain peace.

An aggressive dog displays behaviors that typically start with warnings and may result in a bite or an attack.

Signs Of Dog Aggression

How do dogs become aggressive? To understand canine aggression, you must recognize its warning signs that may indicate a potential bite or another form of attack. 

Dogs often display signs of dog aggression towards humans and animals before charging at them.

You may see fear-appeasing or conflict-appeasing signals, also known as calming signals, before a dog attacks.

Dogs usually display these signs to communicate their fear, discomfort, or other sensations and needs and manage social conflict.

Some common body language cues that your dog may show when it is aggressive include the following:

  • Avoiding eye contact with the source of the threat by moving the eyes, head, or body away from it
  • Yawning
  • Licking the lips
  • Flattening or pinning the ears tightly to the head
  • Lowering the body, crouching, or tucking the tail under the body
  • Freezing or stiffening
  • Growling
  • Snapping
  • Biting

Types Of Aggression In Dogs

Canine aggression has many types or categories. You can categorize it based on a dog’s reason for aggression, the situation involving the aggressive behavior, or the target of the behavior. 

Here are some popular types of dog aggression:

Territorial Aggression

Territorial aggression involves aggressively targeting a person or an animal that approaches or encroaches on a dog’s territory. This may typically be the dog owner’s house or property.

Predatory Aggression

Predatory aggression is when a dog directs its aggression, often toward another animal or sometimes even a person, to hunt, catch, kill, and eat them. 

This type of aggression is usually silent or lacks vocalizations. The bites are also typically uninhibited or damaging.

Possessive Aggression

Possessive aggression or resource guarding arises when a dog feels that a person or an animal will take its resources, such as food or toys, and feels threatened. This makes it aggressive toward that person or animal. 

For example, if they have something delicious like Sunday’s air-dried dog food, they might get protective of it. Check out Sundays – Review by The Upper Pawside to learn more about this innovative food.

Protective Or Maternal Aggression

Mostly female dogs direct this type of aggression toward a person or an animal to protect their puppies.

Irritable Or Pain-Related Aggression

Dogs direct irritable or pain-related aggression toward a target when they experience pain or discomfort.

Frustration-Elicited Or Redirected Aggression

Frustration-elicited or redirected aggression coincides with another type of aggression. It arises when a dog is unable to approach the target of its aggression or emotional arousal. It then changes its target to another person, animal, or object out of frustration.

Social Conflict-Related Aggression

This type of aggression is usually targeted toward a familiar person or animal. It is driven by internal conflict and displayed during social interactions.

Sexual Aggression

In sexual aggression, a dog targets its aggressive behavior toward another male or female dog when it wants to mate or is mating. It occurs when a male dog competes with another male dog for a female dog’s attention or a female dog fights with another female dog for a male dog.

Fear-Related Or Anxiety-Related Aggression

In fear-related or anxiety-related aggression, a dog directs its aggression toward a person or an animal when it feels scared. 

This form of aggression may occur if another animal or person approaches, corners, or traps the dog, or if it is anxious about an unpleasant or uncertain outcome.

Disease-Related Aggression

In this type of aggression, a dog directs its aggressive behavior toward a person or an animal when it is suffering from an infectious or non-infectious illness.

Genetic Predisposition

Certain dogs have a genetic predisposition to aggression. Dogs of any breed may be intentionally or unintentionally bred selectively for aggression.

Why Do Dogs Display Aggression?

What causes aggression in dogs? Dogs may have inherited a fight or flight instinct from their wild ancestors in the face of a threat.

Canine aggression may also be due to genetic factors or selective breeding. Breeders have selectively bred many dog breeds to display territorial, protective, or predatory aggression.

The most common reason for canine aggression is fear or anxiety. It may also be due to diseases causing pain or discomfort.

Some dogs may become aggressive due to fear or anxiety at a young age, say, three to four months old. Others may turn aggressive during adolescence or social maturity. This is usually in the form of territorial, sexual, or social aggression.

Should I Worry About My Dog’s Aggressive Behavior?

Yes, you should worry about your pet’s aggressive behavior, as it can be dangerous for other people and animals. It may also cause physical injuries to the dog’s target and itself.

If your pet displays aggression, it may also be experiencing problems with its  physical or mental health.

So, if your dog shows aggression, discuss it with your dog’s vet and seek treatment early on.

Treatment For Dog Aggression

Early treatment offers the best chance to improve your dog’s behavior and health. Treating your dog’s aggression will depend on the reason for its aggressive behavior.

Discussing your dog’s aggressive episodes with your vet will help them decide on the most suitable treatment plan. Your vet may refer you to a qualified animal behaviorist for faster, better results.

Your vet will also give your dog medication and combine it with behavioral and environmental modifications to treat its aggression.

Note that treating canine aggression may be difficult. Your vet may help you reduce the frequency or intensity of your dog’s aggressive behavior. But they may not be able to cure your dog’s aggression fully.

It is advisable to avoid things that will make your dog aggressive. This will help your dog avoid or reduce exposure to people, animals, or situations that trigger or induce its aggression.


Now, you have the answer to the question “What is dog aggression?”. Knowing its signs, causes, and types is an excellent way to deal with your pet’s aggressive behavior and help it recover faster. If you see aggression in your dog, consult a vet or a behaviorist right away and give it the help it needs.