Dogs are a lot like humans. They all possess unique personality traits, emotions and behaviors. No two dogs will react the same in any given situation or when around other dogs. Here are some common triggers to watch for aggressive behavior in dogs.
Many dogs take guarding their home and owners very seriously! Territoriality is an extension of resource guarding, when the entire home and property become a valuable resource which the dog wants to guard from intruders at any cost. Resource guarding is natural behavior. Dogs that resource guard will view approach by other dogs or humans as a threat to what they perceive to be valuable. This may be it’s home property, the owner, a meal or a toy, or a preferred sleeping space.
Other dogs can trigger aggression in your dog for a variety of causes. Inter-sex aggression is aggression toward dogs of the same sex. This tends to be most common in dogs that are sexually intact and are generally resource guarding for reproductive advantage.
Type-specific aggression can occur when a dog has a socialization deficit with dogs of a particular body type (large, black dogs for instance) or a history of negative experiences with a dog of particular body type. Or, behavior-specific aggression. Dogs, like people, cannot be expected to indefinitely tolerate even the rudest behavior of other dogs. Many dogs will not hesitate to use their voices, body or teeth to tell a rude dog to “back off!”
Movement can trigger aggression in dogs. Because dogs are predators, they are hard-wired to chase after and bite at things that move quickly and unpredictably. Animals which move quickly (squirrels, birds, cats, etc.) are frequent triggers. Human triggers for motion reactivity include biking, jogging, skateboarding, or moving automobiles.
Frustration is another common cause of dog aggression. Frustration creates stress, which contributes to aggression. Frustration aggression often shows in relation to barriers including leashes or fences. The dog may want to check out a person or dog on the other side of the fence but becomes frustrated because he cannot. He may redirect his aggression toward a familiar human or animal as a result. If barking always worked to get attention but suddenly the owner begins ignoring the barking, the dog may experiment to find out if nipping is a more effective way of getting attention.
Dogs can be aggressive to specific groups of people with certain common characteristics such as men with beards, small children, people in walkers or wheelchairs, individuals with altered mobility, even individuals wearing a certain cologne or perfume.
The predictors of dog aggression vary widely. The most important thing to remember is a dog’s response to a stimulus will be effected positively (create a positive, happy response) by the number of positive experiences the dog has in the presence of that trigger, particularly during critical periods of development such as when they’re a new puppy!
Aggressive behavior is always a good opportunity for teaching a dog new tricks! Positive ones!