If your dog is regularly growling, snapping, and biting at you or another pet in your house, you have a serious behavior problem on your hands.
Aggression towards people or other pets is probably the main reason dog owners take their dog to a professional trainer or veterinarian behaviorist. Aggression is not just seen in large dogs or those deemed dangerous; any dog can be aggressive under the right circumstances.
Aggression cannot be cured overnight, and there is no magic one-size-fits-all treatment. There are steps you can take to help stop these aggressive behaviors and keep your dog calm.
This article will explain what can be at the root of dog on dog aggression in the home and what you can do about it.
What Causes Aggressive Behaviors in Dogs?
Aggressive behavior is any behavior that can turn into an attack.
Growling, snarling, showing teeth, lunging, nipping, or biting is considered aggression.
The first step to stopping these behaviors is to figure out what is causing them. Some dogs will growl if you approach their food, and some will growl at children or strangers. Some dogs are even aggressive to certain objects such as a mop, mower, or ceiling fan.
You cannot start to fix your dog’s aggressive behaviors until you know what is triggering them.
These are some of the most common types of behaviors that could cause your dog could be aggressive:
- Territorial aggression: A dog who is territorial aggressive will defend their space or your home from what think is an intruder.
- Protective aggression: Some dogs are protective aggressive and will protect members of their “pack” or family from another animal or a person. Mother dogs will also be extremely protective of their puppies. They may become very hostile toward anyone who goes near them.
- Possessive aggression: Some dogs are very possessive of their things. These dogs will protect their food, chew toys, bones, or any other object that they value. This can also be called resource guarding.
- Food aggression: Some dogs are very aggressive over their food. They may attack you if you try to take food from their bowl or if another animal or child comes close to them while they are eating.
- Fear aggression: Some dogs are aggressive when they are afraid. If your dog is afraid and tries to hide during a scary situation if they get cornered during this time, they may attack.
- Defensive aggression: This is very similar to fear of aggression. Your dog may attack because they are scared of something rather than trying to hide first. These dogs will usually give a few other subtle hints that they want to be left alone before they bite, such as turning their head away from you.
- Social aggression: Your dog may react aggressively to other dogs in different social situations. If your dog is not socialized properly with other dogs and people, they may also show signs of aggression.
- Frustration-elicited aggression: Some dogs behave aggressively when they are kept on a leash or in a fenced yard. These dogs usually have been stimulated and cannot act on that stimulation and may act out. Sometimes a dog may become very excited before a walk and nip their owner.
- Redirected aggression: Some dogs will get aggressive towards a person who attempts to break up a dog fight. They may also bite when they cannot reach the target of their aggression, such as a neighbor’s dog on the other side of a fence. This type of aggression is most commonly seen in smaller dogs. When the owner is holding a small dog, they may get bit because they cannot reach the person or dog that they want to bite.
- Pain-elicited aggression: Your dog may show aggression when they are injured or in pain. Many times, you can obviously see that your dog is in pain and they are limping. Other times this pain may be something as simple as an upset stomach or some other internal problem.
- Sex-related aggression: If you have two male dogs or two female dogs, they may become aggressive when competing for the attention of a mate. This is usually only seen in intact animals and can be prevented by spaying and neutering your dogs.
- Predatory aggression: These dogs usually behave aggressively without any warning when they show predatory behavior. This can be seen when they are chasing wildlife. This behavior may become very serious when they are playing with a child. It may begin as an innocent game, but a dog with predatory aggression could quickly turn on your child and possibly bite them.
If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog, you need to start training them that these behaviors are not acceptable.
Signs That Your Dog May Become Aggressive
Any dog can have aggressive behaviors. Sometimes you can notice these behaviors starting and cut them off before they get out of hand. It is very important to watch for a pattern of warning sign, such as:
- A dog who is overzealous and pushy when greeting friends or strangers
- A dog who has exaggerated, or fearful reactions to new people or stimuli
- A pronounced and unyielding demand for affection
- A prolonged stare is used in an attempt to control unpredictable or wild family members or situations
- Raised hackles and fur standing up on their back and tail
- An arched body
- Walking stiff
- Their tail is lifted over their back or under their legs
- Quick tail wagging, indicating panic if the tail is tucked low, or imminent attack if raised high
- A Slow sweeping tail wag shows that a dog is analyzing the situation
- Ears pricked forward ears or lowered back
- Bared teeth
- Growling or snapping
- Avoiding eye contact
- Cowering and tucking their tail
- Eyes open very wide, so you can see the whites of their eyes
Not all dogs who show this type of behavior are aggressive. Many of these are just warning signs that could also indicate that your dog is anxious or scared.
Your dog may start to show these signs as early as a few months old.
When they are little, they are trying to figure out what is acceptable and what is not. You should never allow your puppy to bit you even if it is just playing, as this can lead to even more aggressive behaviors later.
How to Stop Dog on Dog Aggression in The Home
Look at what is causing your dog to be aggressive and what is going on when these aggressive behaviors happen. This will help determine your next steps.
You need to first deal with the underlying cause of the aggression. The aggressive behavior that you are seeing is a cause of the underlying problem.
There are many ways that you can correct your dog’s aggression and help them stay calm. This will take time and a lot of patience. You need to be consistent with their training and sometimes even seek the help of a professional dog trainer or veterinarian.
These are some things to consider when you are training your dog to not be aggressive.
Ask Your Veterinarian for Help
If your dog is not usually aggressive and then suddenly starts to show signs of an aggressive behavior, they may have an underlying medical problem. Health problems that can cause aggression in your dog are hypothyroid or neurological problems like encephalitis, seizures, or brain tumor.
If your dog has hurt themselves, they may also become aggressive, as this is their way of telling you that they are in pain.
Ask your vet to help you figure out if the aggression that you see in your dog is due to a medical problem. In these cases, medication can help your dog feel much better and improve their aggressive behaviors.
Get in Touch with a Professional
If your veterinarian has ruled out this being a medical problem, then it may be time to call a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist.
Since aggression can be a very serious problem, you should not try to fix their problem on your own. A professional trainer can help you figure out what is causing your dog to be aggressive and create a plan to help you correct these behaviors.
Some veterinary behaviorist or trainer will come to your home and help you train your dog. This is especially helpful if your dog only shows aggression in their own home.
Create a Training Plan
A behaviorist or trainer will help you figure out the best way to manage your dog’s aggressive behavior. Most of the time, you will use positive reinforcement training to teach your dog these new behaviors. You will reward them when they are not acting aggressively in certain situations.
If your dog is aggressive towards strangers, start off by standing far away from someone that your dog does not know. You need to be far enough away that your dog does not growl at them.
You will reward these good behaviors with a treat or praise. You will then continue to get a little closer. Each time you reward your dog by giving them a treat and praising them.
Eventually, your dog will learn that seeing a stranger and not growling will mean that they get a treat. Your dog will learn not to be aggressive towards strangers this way. Positive reinforcement can work in almost all situations.
DO NOT Punish Your Dog for Bad Behavior
If you punish your dog for dog on dog aggression in the home or other bad behavior, it will usually have the opposite effect and can even cause the aggression to be worse. If your response to your dog growling is to hit, yell, or use some other punishment, your dog may feel like they need to defend themselves and bite or attack you.
By punishing your dog, they may also feel that they need to bite other people who are yelling without warning.
If your dog growls at children, this is their way of warning you and them that they are uncomfortable in that situation. If you punish them for growling the next time, you may not get a warning sign before they just bite the child.
Consider Giving Your Dog Medication
Sometimes only using positive reinforcement training is not enough to stop dog on dog aggression in the home.
If your dog is aggressive because it is afraid, they may need some anxiety medication to help manage their problems. If your dog is afraid or stressed, they are not able to learn new things or even do well with training. Medication can help your dog remain calm, overcome their fears, and learn new things.
Most dogs will only need to take this medication for just a little bit while they are learning to not be aggressive, then you can slowly wean them off their medications.
Your veterinarian can discuss all the medical options with you. There are also some supplements that you can use to help with anxiety.
How to Handle Unavoidable Situations
You need to look at what your dog is aggressive towards and consider your lifestyle.
If you have children and your dog is always barking and growling at your kids, you need to realize that it may be impossible to have your dog around kids.
Usually, in these cases, you may need to rehome your dog to someone who does not have any children. Your dog should not have to constantly live in fear of your kids, and your kids do not need to live in fear that your dog is going to attack them.
If your dog is starting to show dog on dog aggression in the home that they have never shown before, first, see your veterinarian to make sure that there is nothing medically wrong with your dog. If your dog is healthy, you can start with positive reinforcement training.
If training your dog on your own is not helping with the problem, it is best to seek out a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. Also, trying anxiety medication to help keep your dog calm during training may be needed for a short period of time.
Many times, with a lot of training and a little bit of patience, you can train your dog to not be aggressive. The earlier you start this training in your dog, the quicker and better the outcome.
Depending on the circumstance causing your dog to become aggressive, sometimes it is best to rehome your dog to someone who can manage the dog’s aggressive issues.