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aggression in dogs

Aggression in Dogs

aggression in dogsYou are taking a leisurely walk with your dog when you come upon a stranger. Your dog stands high with it’s ears forward, tail held high and begins a low growl, exhibiting warning signs for aggression. Your dog is telling the person to stay away.

Aggression in dogs can be a serious problem and the reason many dog owners seek the help of a dog behavioral specialist. A specialist can show you what to do with your dog to change the behavior.

What is Dog Aggression?

Dog aggression can mean a variety of dog behaviors. Behaviors are not always a problem, depending on what the behavior is.

An aggressive dog’s body language will be confident, standing up with the ears forward, and wagging their tail high and slow in a sideways fashion, while they begin a low growl and show their teeth as they stare. These are warning signs.

Types of Aggression

There are many types of aggression in dogs as you will see below.

Territorial Aggression

Some dogs are territorial and will protect their territory when someone or something enters it. These dogs may bark, growl, and lunge to get rid of the intruder. A dog inside a fence may bark, growl, and lunge when an animal or someone walks by.

Protective Aggression

Protective aggression occurs when a member of their “pack” is in trouble or threatened. Many dogs become protective of their owners, just as wild dogs protect their pack.

Another example is when a dog has puppies. The mother will protect her puppies and she may become aggressive towards strangers in her effort to protect her puppies.

Possessive Aggression

Your dog may show aggression when protecting their possessions. Some dogs may even “guard” their possessions and growl if someone goes near them. Does your dog hide their toys or bones? They are hiding their possessions to keep them safe.

Fear Aggression

dog aggressionFear aggression usually occurs when a dog is cornered and feels trapped. They may cower at first, then attack because it is the only way to escape.

Their body language will show them lower their head with the ears flattened or back. When they can no longer back up, they will lunge and attack.

They are trying to avoid the fight as they are backing up. The aggression comes when they feel trapped and are scared.

Social Aggression

In the wild dogs live in packs with a hierarchical order. For example, the pack leader is at the top and they will eat first while the others wait.

Dogs that are pets living in a home may show social aggression towards other pets. One dog may become “bossy” towards another dog.

Frustration Aggression

Just as people may lash out due to frustration, dogs may do the same. If a dog sees something that makes them excited and if you are restraining them from reaching what they want, they may turn around and bite you out of frustration so you will release them.

Redirected Aggression

Redirected aggression occurs when a dog is being aggressive towards another animal or person and someone or another animal interferes. The aggressive dog may turn on the one that interferes.

Often when someone tries to break up a dog fight, they will get bitten due to redirected aggression.

Aggression From Pain

Whether a dog or a person, when we are in pain our first instinct is to protect ourselves from more pain. This is why an injured dog may bite you even though you are trying to help them.

Breeding Aggression

This dog aggression occurs when a female dog is in heat and there are two or more males competing for the female. The strongest dog will win the fight and father the offspring.

Predatory Aggression

Many dogs love to chase things, whether it be a moving car, a person running, another animal, or bicycles.

In the wild, dogs must be quick to catch their prey to survive. Chasing is a natural instinct that occurs suddenly without warning.

I was walking my dog, Freckles, one day at the park and she saw a squirrel. She stopped and was still, staring at the squirrel, until the it ran towards a tree. Freckles took off after the squirrel.

Without warning and pulling me along, she only stopped once she reached the tree that the squirrel went up. It happened so fast that I didn’t see it coming.

Seek Professional Help

Dogs that display aggression need to be corrected in their behavior. Do not use negative punishments as this can cause more aggressive behavior.

A professional dog behavioral specialist will be able to evaluate your dog and teach you and your dog how to correct the behavior.

Leave a comment below or share a story about your dog. The information on this website is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian, dog trainer, or dog behavioral specialist.






  1. This an awesome post. There are too many people who think they want a dog that doesn’t know what they are getting into. After all, they are a descendant of a wild dog. That means they are prone to natural instinct. Even me myself didn’t know what I just read. Thank you very much.

    • Alice

      December 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad I could provide this information so people can learn more about dogs. Dogs do have many natural instincts from their ancestors. We, as people, need to learn how to communicate with our dogs.

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