Warning Signs and Causes of Dangerous and Aggressive Dogs
Dog Aggression Should Not Be Ignored
Sometimes, dogs display behaviors that are a far cry from what might be expected of ''man's best friend." The owners of such dogs might ignore or excuse those behaviors with phrases such as ''he'll grow out of it," ''it's just a phase,'' or ''he only does it every now and then." Sugar-coating these issues, however, is not helpful. In fact, in many cases, these behaviors are likely to increase and escalate if they are not addressed.
Two Behaviors That Could Be Warning Signs
Growling and biting are two general behaviors that could indicate problems. Neither one should be ignored.
While some people appreciate growling because it indicates that the dog is warning them before biting, a growl should not be underestimated because it may indicate that the dog has a low-level threshold or is weak-nerved.
Biting is, of course, the most obvious act of aggression that dogs express. The bite does not have to break the skin to be considered a significant threat. Often times, owners start seeking help once the dog has bit somebody, which is too late. In many cases, signs of increased aggression were ignored or they may have been too subtle to be noticed by the inexperienced eye.
Warning Signs of Dog Aggression
Related to Feeding
- Growl when eating
- Lift their lips and snarl while eating
- Get tense and tend to stop eating as you approach
- Growl when they are chewing a bone
- Steal food and get aggressive when trying to retrieve it
- Respond aggressively when they are found scavenging the trash. For more on this, read "Dog Resource Guarding."
Related to Sleeping
- Growl if forced off a bed or couch
- Growl if allowed on the bed and the owner moves too much
- Growl if awakened
- Growl if touched while sleeping
Related to Being Touched
- They do not allow children to touch them
- Growl when groomed or when nails are clipped
- Dislike being touched on the head/shoulder area
- Do not like to be touched from above
- Aggressive when given medicine or shots
Related to Playing
- Growl if their toys are touched
- Will not let children near their toys
- Get too rough when playing
Related to Being Disciplined
- React aggressively to being reprimanded
Related to Being Outside
- Chase cars, small animals, joggers, or bikers
- Lunge towards other dogs or people
- Act aggressively towards strangers
- Act overly protective of their owners
- Growl if owner shakes hands or hugs another person
- Bark aggressively at other people when in the car
- Act aggressively and are very territorial
As seen, the signs are all out there. It is very harmful to ignore them in the hopes that they will disappear. Unfortunately, these behaviors often return and grow in intensity if they are not nipped in the bud. If your dog displays any of these signs, please don't try to solve them on your own, but consult with a veterinary behaviorist or a certified applied animal behaviorist.
Possible Causes of Aggressive Behavior in Dogs
There are many possible causes of aggressive behavior in dogs. Some of these have to do with underlying medical or physical conditions.
Painful Medical Conditions
It is very important to have a veterinarian rule out any physical conditions that might be affecting such behavior, especially if the unwanted behavior is abnormal and/or sudden. Even the most docile dogs can sometimes become quite aggressive if they are in pain. An example of this that is quite common is when a very well-tempered dog suddenly snaps when its head is touched because of an underlying painful ear condition. For more on this, read "Medical Causes for Dog Aggression."
Another issue that may cause behavioral changes is a condition called 'hypothyroidism. It is certainly worth discussing with the vet to see if your dog has this condition. All it takes to rule it out is a thyroid blood panel.
Hormones also play a role in aggressiveness. Well-behaved male dogs suddenly become aggressive when they detect a female in heat nearby. While neutering may help a male dog have a better disposition, it is not really a ''cure-all'' for major behavioral problems that are not hormone-related. For more about this read "Pros and Cons of Neutering Dogs."
For Further Reading
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli