Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Is My Dog Becoming Aggressive?
"I adopted a German Shepherd dog about a year ago, and although he is friendly, he has growled at me and even bit. Recently we were chasing a lizard in play and he started growling. Why is he doing this?" —Rinita
Play Aggression in Dogs
Dogs do not always interpret a playful game of chase or wrestling the way we mean them to, and it is likely that your dog does not realize his role in your family. From your description of a few of the incidents, it sounds like your dog is suffering from play aggression. (1) It is impossible to evaluate him or make recommendations without a personal interaction.
See Your Vet to Rule Out Medical Causes
Make an appointment with your regular vet so that your dog can be seen, as aggression issues are sometimes due to medical problems. (2)
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See a Veterinary Behaviorist
If everything is okay physically, you need to consult a veterinary behaviorist before someone else in your family is bitten severely. If you are not able to find someone in your area, ask your veterinarian for a referral to the most qualified person in your city.
That person can also refer you to a qualified trainer. I urge you to deal with the aggression issue now while things are still under control.
- Warning Signs and Causes of Dangerous and Aggressive Dogs
This article discusses warning signs of aggression in dogs that should not be ignored. The possible causes of these behaviors are also covered.
- Horwitz, Debra, Dog Behavior Problems - Aggression Diagnosis and Overview, VCA. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/dog-behavior-problems-aggression-diagnosis-and-overview
- Kleszcz, A., Cholewińska, P., Front, G., Pacoń, J., Bodkowski, R., Janczak, M., & Dorobisz, T. (2022). Review on Selected Aggression Causes and the Role of Neurocognitive Science in the Diagnosis. Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, 12(3), 281. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8833765/
This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Dr Mark