What causes canine aggression?

Canine aggression‚ÄĒtwo words no pet parent ever wants to hear, think about, or experience.

Frankly, it evokes fear, apprehension, and worry.

Not just for yourself but for the safety and well-being of our loved ones, other companion animals, and the community as a whole, since dog aggression can lead to physical injuries, psychological distress, and legal ramifications.

As responsible pet owners, we must be familiar with dog body language, signs of canine stress, and how to handle such situations if confronted by them.

It begins with awareness of the types of canine aggression or things that will make your dog aggressive.

What makes dogs aggressive?

Let's explore common causes and triggers.


Did you know that, like their humans, dogs experience a fight-or-flight response to scary situations?

In the best-case scenario, the dog successfully creates distance between itself and the threat. In the worst-case scenario, there's no escaping.

The only way to protect itself is by showing aggression, which is why fear aggression is a defensive behaviour that often has ties to anxiety disorders in dogs.

We can't stress this enough: Socialisation during puppyhood is crucial for a confident dog.


Does your dog go nuts at the sight of the postman?

What you're witnessing is territorial aggression in action!

It's either offensive or defensive, triggered by perceived threats (strangers, other animals) infringing on the doggo's "home turf". (Which, by the way, can extend down the street!)

Aside from barking, territorial dogs can also lunge, snap, and urine mark to make boundaries crystal clear. ūüėČ Fortunately, obedience training can help manage this behaviour.


Dogs in a pack are either dominant or submissive‚ÄĒit's one of the unwritten rules of the canine world. So, when more than one dog wants to be head honcho, you get conflict-induced aggression.

It's most common in multi-dog households and at the dog park, where Good Boys meet and suddenly want to establish their hierarchy. Go figure!

Older dogs are typically the aggressors, but dynamics can change, making this a complex type of aggression.

It can be hard to handle since everyone lives under the same roof. To achieve peace (and order) at home, you‚ÄĒas the dog's owner‚ÄĒmust be seen as the alpha.


You know this better as resource-guarding behaviour.

It's like territorialism, except it's triggered by high-value belongings (food, toys, pet beds, plush throw blankets) and can intensify fast!

The aggression can be directed at people or other fur babies, so it's best to take preventive measures like storing away toys after use.


Whether dog or human, we will move mountains to protect our kids.

That's why pregnant and nursing mothers can exhibit varying degrees of this hormone-related, mother's love-driven type of defensive aggression to keep threats away from her puppies.

It's a short-term aggression that decreases in intensity over time. Nevertheless, keep non-family members away from the mother dog during this sensitive period.


Injured dogs and those feeling unwell can also display aggression.

Fido's protecting himself from (further) harm and/or not in a great mood right now, so please back off.

That's the gist of it.

Unfortunately, pet parents are in the line of fire, so it goes without saying: Seek vet attention.

Frustration or prey drive

Does your friendly and well-behaved pup turn into a monster around other dogs when he's on a leash?

You could be dealing with leash aggression.

This one isn't just embarrassing ("I swear my dog's not normally like this!"), it can be alarming in the presence of other people.

Leash reactivity is triggered by fear, frustration, or prey drive. Training is the best prevention!


You know what they say: Idle hands are the devil's workshop.

Similarly, canine boredom can lead to naughty behaviours like digging holes in your backyard and barking like there's no tomorrow.

Your pup may frequently jump on you, grab you with his mouth, or generally be "all up in your face" in a way that some pet parents mistake for aggression‚ÄĒbut it's not.

It's heightened arousal brought about by leaving your dog alone for extended periods without social interaction.

Doggy training courses, walks, and having a selection of dog toys on hand can resolve the problem.


Self-explanatory, really. Male dogs, especially unneutered ones, can become aggressive in the quest for a mate.

Let's conclude with a sobering fact: Canine aggression is one of the leading factors behind dog abandonment and euthanasia. However, it's important to note that aggression can be prevented and even "corrected" with the help of certified dog behaviourists, trainers, and your trusted vet. Thank God for speed dial! ūüėČ

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It is not and does not intend to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information on this website is at your own risk. Always consult with your veterinarian.


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