My dog is aggressive with strangers or some people! My dog is aggressive with me! My dog is aggressive towards other dogs! My dog is aggressive with males! My dog is aggressive on a leash! My dog is aggressive when he’s scared! My dog becomes aggressive as I get older! How to calm or rehabilitate an aggressive dog? How to prevent a dog from biting? Should we euthanize an aggressive dog?
You will surely recognize your words in these frequently mentioned situations. In the dog, aggression is rightly regarded as troublesome or dangerous. However, it must be known that aggressive behavior is an integral part of the dog’s regular behavioral repertoire.
Difference between aggression and aggression
Aggression in dogs
Aggressiveness is a condition in which a dog will produce a large number of assaults. This state depends on many parameters that can be original:
• Behavioral: for example, the dog is anxious.
• Organic: the dog has a disease affecting the body. For instance, he suffers from a particularly painful otitis.
Aggression in dogs
An aggression is a sequence produced by the dog, to threaten another individual or physically reach him.
It is a response mode implemented in case of conflict when the dog has exhausted the other possibilities of response (for example, escape or avoidance).
The aggressions are classified according to their context of appearance, that is to say of their triggering element. We thus recognize 6 major types of aggression:
• Predatory aggression.
• “Hierarchical” aggression.
• Aggression by irritation.
• Territorial and maternal aggression.
• Aggression by fear.
The 6 types of aggression in dogs
Depending on the triggering cause, we recognize different types of aggression detailed below.
But be careful not to take the examples cited in this article!
For example, a child may be attacked by a dog that has not been adequately socialized to children, it will be in this case a predatory aggression as in the example below, but it can also be to be for any other reason. So if the child disturbs a dog deeply asleep in his basket, this time it will be an aggression by irritation …
The context is, therefore, crucial to know what we are talking about!
Predatory aggression in dogs
It is an aggression whose purpose is the hunt for prey. It results in the killing of the latter.
This is the only aggression that is not relational because it responds exclusively to food motivation.
My dog is attacking children!
Predation is not exerted on the species to which the animal is socialized, that is why human socialization is a condition sine qua non for the integration of a dog into a family.
When the sequence exists, it is incurable. Euthanasia remains the only solution when humans are the target.
My dog attacks small dogs!
Some dogs poorly socialized to their fellow dogs, for example, a German Shepherd to a Yorkshire Terrier, may also have predation aggression towards them.
“Hierarchical” aggression in dogs
My dog grunts at me! My dog is biting me! My dog attacks other dogs!
The purpose of hierarchical aggression is to allow the dog to manage and regulate social relationships in the group.
It appears in “hierarchical conflicts” between two dogs or between a human and a dog, especially during competition for access to:
• A privileged place like the bed, the sofa, a precise seat of the car …
• An individual from the group, to be in touch with him.
Irritative aggression in dogs
Irritation aggression occurs when the dog’s tolerance is exceeded.
The aggressive sequence produced by the aggressed dog makes it possible to locate its hierarchical position (more dominant or rather dominated) compared to the aggressor individual (dog or human).
There are many triggering factors for irritation:
• Pain: my dog bites when I treat him!
A dog with pain can grunt and bite his master if the dog continues to touch him while the dog has issued threatening grunts to stop the contact. This is frequently the case of dogs suffering from joint diseases such as osteoarthritis, for example, gingivitis of chronic otitis … In the latter, the local care of the ears become progressively more and more challenging to achieve!
Indeed, aggression by irritation is common in dogs during care. When it becomes instrumental, that is to say, that the dog does not prevent before biting, which is common, it quickly becomes an obstacle to the realization of care.
• Frustration: my dog bites when he is frustrated!
A master who replaces a usual reward with punishment can trigger aggression in his dog by frustration!
• Deprivation: my dog bites when he is thirsty or hungry!
A dog deprived of water or food to the point of triggering a thirst or an important hunger can attack his master!
• Physical restraint: my dog bites when I caress him!
A master who is in touch for caresses, cares, or brushing after signs of contact breakage, such as a grunt or a head diversion, has been emitted by the dog, maybe attacked!
• Handling in a context of fear: my dog bites at the vet!
A dog who goes to the vet for his vaccination visit can attack the veterinarian who examines it because the state of fear sharply lowers its triggering threshold!
Territorial and maternal aggression in dogs
The aim of territorial and maternal aggression is the protection of the territory or the little ones.
My dog is biting people who are coming home!
Territorial aggression appears during intrusion on the territory of the dog.
My dog growls when we approach his toys!
Maternal aggression appears in the presence of puppies, or during a nervous pregnancy – the bitch then protects her toys – especially in the dominant bitch.
Fear aggression in dogs
My dog bites when he’s scared!
The goal of fear aggression is survival. It appears when the dog’s escape is impossible.
This is an uncontrolled assault that can be responsible for particularly severe injuries.
It occurs especially if you try to catch a refugee dog in a corner or under a piece of furniture because the dog does not have the opportunity to flee.
In this case, it is best to get the dog out by calling him before touching him.
Why my dog becomes aggressive
Throughout his life, your dog will be subject to variations in his environment, whether physical or social, likely to trigger one or more aggressive reactions.
Without establishing an exhaustive list of these various factors, or promulgating an anti-aggression miracle recipe, following the following tips and a minimum of common sense will undoubtedly help you avoid big problems!
Because these remedies are the logical answers to the causes that trigger aggressive behavior.
Your dog’s education
To start without waiting for the training of your dog as soon as it is adopted constitutes your first duty towards him!
First of all, be aware that the right emotional balance acquired from an early age by your dog is fundamental to prevent aggression in adulthood. This depends mainly on the conditions in which your dog has developed, as well as the behavior of his mother! Thus the company of the mother and that of other balanced and unstressed adult dogs until the age of 2 months is also an essential pre-requisite for an excellent behavioral development of your dog!
So start by checking the breeding conditions of your dog and then make sure the continuity of these excellent conditions by taking things in hand from the arrival of your dog at home! Know that a proper socialization, a good tolerance of the noises of the city, an excellent capacity to control themselves are not innate skills in your dog!
It is, therefore, essential that your dog has been adequately socialized to humans and especially to children. He must have been accustomed from an early age to the sounds of the city! And must also be able to control and stop in all circumstances. In particular, it should not continue to chew or chew your skin or your clothes beyond the age of 2 to 3 months maximum.
Original orders must have been instilled in positive ways, excluding any coercion or physical punishment. In particular, from 3-4 months, it is forbidden to take your dog by the skin of the neck!
The integration of your dog in the family
Favoring a functional combination of your dog in the family by maintaining accomplices relations is a necessary prerequisite to limit the evolution of aggressive behavior.
Indeed, did you know that aggression in dogs is very often linked to communication errors that usually lead to an anxiety state?
How to avoid fatal mistakes
First, by promoting a quality attachment with your dog because it will allow you to develop links with it. This complicity will be favored by everyday activities such as walks or games.
Clear boundaries with permissions and prohibitions will allow your dog to find his place in the family. Ambiguous orders are the mortal enemy of an excellent and fluid communication! Rituals are also crucial for establishing a stable and peaceful relationship with your dog.
Thus from puberty, it is the return to the basket, which allows the master to manifest his reprobation in case of necessity. The back of your dog to the basket is done by looking at the rump, showing the basket and giving him the brief and firm order to go, preceding the order “basket” or “your place” of his first name.
In contrast, the reception of the dog is in a squatting position in a cheerful voice, calling him by his first name and looking at him in a friendly way to invite him to come. A hug, a congratulation, or even a treat can be used as a reward for coming.
Dogs with impulsive and robust temperament are particularly concerned by the need for early education, but always gentle! The master must be able to control his dog without ever harassing him or shouting at it but always adapting his posture and his gestures to the desired order.
What do you say to your dog with your body
Do you know that your posture and your gestures tell your dog a lot about your intentions?
What am I saying with my eyes to my dog
• The direction of my gaze
If I look my dog in the eyes and I’m in an invitation posture and the other signals that I send go in the same direction (I call it nicely crouching and patting my thigh), then it’s a friendly sign.
If I look at my dog in the eye, and the context is conflictual, my dog may interpret this as provocative.
If I look away or look at it, I tell my dog my neutrality or submission.
If I look at my dog on the rump giving him an order, I tell him my “superiority” and encourage him to obey me.
• The persistence of my eyes
If I look at my dog continuously, I tell him my “superiority,” and urge him to follow me, but in a conflictual context, he can interpret that as a provocation.
If my eyes are interrupted, he interprets this as a signal of appeasement or a sign of submission.
What am I saying with my chest to my dog
If my torso is tilted forward, my dog interprets this as a sign of “superiority” and I urge him to obey me, provided that all signals transmitted in parallel (tone and intensity of the voice, direction, and persistence of gaze …) be congruent, that is, go in the same direction.
If my torso is held vertically, my dog interprets this as a posture of neutrality.
If my chest is tilted back, my dog interprets my approaching posture as dominated.
What do I say with my movements to my dog
• My traveling speed
If I move too fast towards my dog, he may feel assaulted.
If I approach my dog at constant speed, depending on the context, he interprets it either as a posture of neutrality or as a “superiority” that commits him to obey me.
If I approach my dog in a fast way, stopping several times, he interprets my approaching posture as dominated.
• My trajectory
Depending on whether I feel worried or confident, I take a detour or, on the contrary, head straight for my dog.
My dog interprets the bypass and the rump approach as a dominated approach.
The direct trajectory is, on the contrary, interpreted by my dog as an approach of “superiority.”
The contagion of emotions between you and your dog
Remember to keep calm and slow down your breathing. If you are stressed, it is essential to avoid transmitting your nervousness to your dog!
Remember that your dog is also a real emotional sponge. So be careful not to contaminate it with your negative emotions and your stress in particular. This one could also increase its stress and indicate to it the presence of a danger favoring a possible aggressive reaction!
Your dog’s language, canine signals
Learning how to decode the signs your dog sends you is fundamental to learning to communicate better with him!
A worried dog can emit different postures or attitudes that must alert you to his emotional state and the possible risk of aggression in case you do not understand his message! Indeed, a dog worried or fearful is a dog that can bite to seek to defend itself! Never force contact in these cases!
Also, be careful to keep young children away from your dog if he is worried because the threat signals emitted by dogs are not detected or interpreted as such by children. Hence the significant risk of bites in these situations!
My dog is yawning
A situation that worries your dog can make him yawn. Yawning is not necessarily a sign that your dog is sleepy!
My dog goes out and returns his tongue several times in a row
A dog who goes in and out his tongue several times in a row expresses in this way his anxiety or discomfort he feels at the moment.
My dog blinks
An uncomfortable situation can cause your dog to blink.
My dog diverts his head and look
The diversion of the gaze of the leader is frequent during stressful situations for the dog, but it is also a strong signal of appeasement during meeting between two congeners.
My dog puts his ears back
If your dog lowers his ears backward, it is a sign that he is worried.
My dog is bristling
A scared dog bristles the hair with his back. Attention is also a signal of intimidation (which allows us to appear more imposing) in certain situations.
My dog puts himself in submission posture on the back
Your dog can so request a break in contact with the adoption of the position of submission on end during an uncomfortable situation. This manifests a strong signal of appeasement.
My dog stands back n raising the front paw
This posture also sign of discomfort should not be confused with the stance of stopping hunting dogs.
My dog rolls up his lips
If your dog rolls up his lips, it is because he is worried, he can then growl.
My dog sits or goes to bed
During a stressful or conflictual situation, the sitting or lying posture of your dog also helps to defuse the tension of the interaction. It is a frequent signal of appeasement in a relation between congeners or during nervousness of the master.
My dog is scratching his body with a hind leg
The dog who scratches with his back leg is a sign frequently associated with a constraint exerted by the master on the dog.
My dog barks
If your dog is stressed, he can start barking.
My dog is putting himself in posture to play
If your dog comes to you in call-to-play position, that is to say, backed up gear and anterior tense on the ground, it means that he uses this means as a strategy of diversion.
My dog stops, avoids, slows his pace, bypasses, or approaches a congeners diagonally, blocks him, or turns his back on him …
All these ways to approach a congener by your dog show that it is not at all reassured
The character of your dog
Taking into account the nature of your dog is an essential element to predict his reactions without anticipating them with stress!
If genetics does not have a direct influence on the expression of aggressive behavior, it can, however, indirectly influence the reactions of your dog. In particular through its temperament and degree of impulsivity
Depending on whether your dog has a character more or less affirmed, for example, the events will not be perceived in the same way, and his reactions can radically vary! Thus in case of conflict, a dog with a stable temperament can easily manifest his disagreement grunting or biting, especially since he has many privileges!
A fearful dog can be predisposed to attack if he has learned that this is the only way to escape the danger!
Moreover, an aggressive reaction produced by an impulsive and reactive dog with racial predispositions, such as the Malinois, for example, will have consequences proportional to the level of reactivity of the dog!
What to do if my dog is aggressive
Aggressiveness in dogs can occur for a multitude of reasons. Whether it’s a typical defense reaction or the manifestation of an anxious state …
Consult a behaviorist veterinarian
If you notice unusual or increasing signs of aggression in your dog, the wisest course is to consult a trained behavioral veterinarian or behavioral veterinarian to conduct a behavioral consultation.
During this, the veterinarian will examine your dog and ask you different questions to analyze all the elements allowing proper care of your dog.
Analyze the sequences of an aggressive dog
During the behavioral consultation, the veterinarian will focus on determining the types of assaults involved, identifying their circumstances of occurrence, and analyzing their course.
This analysis is essential for the implementation of the therapy.
Evaluate the dangerousness of an aggressive dog
The consultation of an aggressive dog is also to evaluate the dangerousness of the dog.
This evaluation is essential to define a prognosis.
The composition of the group in which the dog lives (family with children or single man, for example), his living conditions (family environment or isolated environment) are important factors to take into account when assessing the dangerousness of the dog. Dog and prognosis.
Thus, the risk represented by a very aggressive middle-breed dog in a family with small children is probably greater than that represented by a large-breed guard dog led by a dog master.
Re-educate an aggressive dog
When treatment is possible, the prescription of a drug by the veterinarian reduces the impulsivity of the dog to control the appearance of aggressive sequences.
The drug also reduces anxiety, often linked to the ambiguity of landmarks, and facilitates the implementation of new rituals and learning that the veterinarian will propose through behavioral therapy.
If necessary, the veterinarian will propose to the teacher the help of an educator to facilitate the setting up of the therapy.
The 3 frequent aggressive behaviors
As you can see, aggressive behavior that increases in frequency or intensity in a dog always requires behavioral analysis by a veterinarian behavior to understand the reason and adjust the treatment.
Among the aggressive behaviors in dogs, there are 3 frequent situations at the origin of a pressing request of the masters:
My dog is aggressive towards me
If your dog has become aggressive with you, no matter the cause, a succession of misunderstandings have probably ensued, and aggression has become the only possible answer for your dog. The communication between you has gradually degraded, and an anxious state has undoubtedly settled in your dog.
Without a personalized treatment of your dog by a behavioral veterinarian who has previously eliminated an organic cause, his malaise can intensify, and your relationship becomes a risk situation for you, if not for other members of your family!
My dog is aggressive towards other dogs or other males
Very often, because the masters fear the conflicts between dogs, they anticipate the situation! Thus, progressively, many dogs become socialized or associate an encounter with a congener to a danger.
But aggression between dogs can also be the result of a bad experience and the manifestation of a phobic state!
As it can also be a problem of no respect for the canine code of ethical behavior between two male dogs or of competition for access to a resource!
Whatever the reason, a re-socialization is necessary and can not be improvised; that’s why the call to a behavioral veterinarian is an essential step in the care!
My dog is aggressive with people or strangers
Fear towards strangers may have always been or appear in time. The age of onset, but also the triggering context, the age of your dog, its possible health problems are all factors to consider in the behavioral analysis.
Again, there is no miracle recipe. The veterinarian will be able to offer you appropriate care after excluding an organic disease.
Toys to calm my dog
An aggressive dog is a dog that needs to be channeled and soothed. To increase cooperation with your dog, meet his needs for activity, and promote his well-being, use, and abuse games! Do not hesitate to offer your dog all kinds of toys; they will reduce his stress and contribute to his re-education if he is aggressive. Your relationship will be even more harmonious
Food dispensing hollow toys
Hollow toys are used to deliver food rewards or to distribute the food ration. They have the advantage of slowing food intake (which is very good for bulimic or voracious dogs) while taking care of the dog and giving it pleasure and appeasement. The concentration of the dog is also favored. We distinguish :
Rubber and very resistant dog toys, such as kongs
Kongs that can be garnished with kibble or wet food or soft food:
• The toy can also be left in the freezer overnight and then offered to the animal when left alone. It will occupy him for a long time. In this case, we will think about adapting the food ration accordingly, by decreasing it.
• It is also possible to hang the kong in height so that it is accessible to the jaw of the dog; it will have the advantage of occupying the animal longer because the difficulty will be increased.
• You can even distribute meals in the kong instead of the bowl. In this case, we prepare a pot in which we mix the slightly moistened croquettes with a little mash. Ideally, we choose a pâté with a balanced formula, the same brand as croquettes. Then fill the kong with the mixture so that it sticks to the walls of the toy to increase the difficulty for your dog. It will last longer and will keep your dog busy while tiring him
Elastomer dog toys, still durable but more flexible and more elastic
These toys will be especially recommended for dogs that are macho and destructive. They can be used in the same way as kongs.
Educational, cognitive games or dog strategy games
Still called puzzle feeders, they allow to combine playful activity and problem solving while stimulating the dog with the search for the food reward.
We can leave them to the dog to occupy him if we must be absent or use them in interaction with him calmly; it favors the link and the positive exchanges. There are generally 3 levels of difficulty for strategy games.
Bones to chew on, deer antlers for dogs
Do not give meat bones because of the risk of digestive +/- occlusive and prefer commercial bones specially designed for dogs or deer antlers that have a lifespan foolproof!
Dog search carpets
To buy in the trade or to realize oneself, it is a question of dissimulating in a mat of thick fibers of croquettes and to make them find by his dog. You can do the same thing in your garden if you have the chance to own one, “sprinkling,” a small area of turf with croquettes.
Other non-food toys for dogs
All kinds of non-food toys can also be used: throwing balls or with which the dog plays alone, knotted ropes to be left to the dog.
Ideas received about the aggressive dog
A dog that has attacked once will start again
This is wrong.
A dog is not condemned to assault repeatedly. Each case is unique and must be analyzed to find the cause of the aggression. A consultation with a veterinarian competent in behavioral medicine is essential to:
• Make a diagnosis that will guide the treatment.
• Treat the dog before the problem worsens, looking for a possible relationship disorder or other behavioral disorder.
Male dogs are more aggressive than bitches
This is true but to qualify.
It seems that males are more likely to trigger aggressive reactions than females.
But this remains to be qualified according to, in particular, the education received and the environment in which the animal has evolved. It may be more prudent to speak of tenacity than aggression.
An aggressive dog is a dominant dog
This is wrong.
An aggressive dog is not necessarily a dominant dog. There are many other forms of aggression than dominance aggression.
A 1st or 2nd category dog is a dangerous dog
This is wrong.
Categories 1 and 2 of dogs correspond to a breed ranking based on a morphological appearance (including jaw power and muscle power). They have been called “dangerous dogs,” but that does not mean they are more aggressive and bite more than other dogs of other breeds. There is no genetic or statistical study to prove it.
The public authorities have decided Their categorization following their use by some offenders. The Dangerous Dogs Act was promulgated in 1999 and strengthened in 2008.
Whatever the breed of the dog, the risk that it behaves dangerously (bringing the notion of potential danger) results from the probability that a bite will occur and the severity of it.
The danger takes into account the behavior presented by the dog (which depends on several parameters) and its context of custody. Indeed, an aggressive dog in a kennel is potentially less dangerous than a less aggressive dog who lives in a family with young children.
A dog bites because he has too much energy to spend
This is wrong.
Dogs do not need to bite to spend their energy too much. Mordant is not a practice to advise to maintain the emotional balance of a dog.
Any bite should not be taken lightly but should bring the owner of the biting dog to consult. This is even a legal obligation since 2008.
The dog asks for forgiveness by licking the hand of the person he has bitten
This is wrong.
Licking one’s hand or laying one’s paw is neither a request for forgiveness nor an excuse, two typically human behaviors that the dog’s brain does not allow him to produce.
This behavioral sequence is the last phase of aggression behavior during “hierarchical” conflict. The dog thus confirms his position of winner, near the person bitten.
Cut the hair in front of the eyes helps to reduce the aggressiveness of some dogs
This is true.
The bangs diminish the vision and thus prevents the dog from correctly apprehending its environment.
Communication with other dogs is disrupted, which can lead to aggressive behavior.
Do not intervene when two dogs are fighting in the house
This is true and false
If one speaks, it must be done from the very beginning of the conflict (first grunts) to prevent the fight breaks out. Also, this allows to establish his authority vis-à-vis dogs.
However, when the conflict has already broken out, it is best to leave the room and let the fight go to an end. Often moving the home defuses the conflict. However, be careful that there is not too much difference in format between dogs.
Dogs understand each other and allowing conflicts to come to an end (the outcome is a loser and a winner) helps to solve the hierarchy problems that may exist between them. It also allows the teacher to identify and respect the nature of the dog relationship (between the two, who is the leader?).