Pet Care


Understanding Canine Aggression

When a dog is confronted with a stressful situation, it has three choices: Avoidance, Appeasement or Aggression. For most dogs aggression occurs only when the first two options (running away or submitting) are not possible. Canine aggression takes several forms, each with different causes.

  • Maternal Aggression is the natural response of a monther trying to protect her pups.
  • Predatory Aggression is seen when a dog is catching prey, such as a lizard or a bird, or even when it is chasing a cat or a car.
  • Redirected Aggression occurs when a dog becomes over stimulated but can not get to the object of its aggression - it then turns on the animal or human nearest to it and might snap or even bite.
  • Trained Aggression happens when a dog has been trained to catch or attach people. If the training is done professionally, it is sparked only on command.
  • Territorial Aggression is caused by a natural canine instinct to protect its territory. "Territory" can also include food, toys, bed, etc.
  • Fear Aggression happens when a frightened dog does not have the option to escape whatever is frightening him.

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Dogs usually try to intimidate opponents with a display of aggressive behaviour, but will try to avoid full-blown conflict (hence the phrase "his bark is worse than his bite").

Dogs will defend their territory against other dogs, as well as against humans, and this behaviour is more common when a dog's owner is absent when the dog believes it is solely responsible for its territory. Some dogs will also defent its owners against any perceived threat, real or otherwise.

Dogs being harassed by children may bite because they misunderstand the child's behaviour. Children should be taught at a very early age to treat all animals with respect and gentleness.

Quite often, persistent aggression in male dogs can be solved by neutering.