Aggressive behaviour

 Aggression in dogs is often misunderstood. It’s difficult not to take it personally if your dog growls at you. And it’s upsetting if he or she barks at another dog. In the past, it was thought that dogs became aggressive because they were trying to be ‘dominant’ or achieve social status. But we now know that aggression has nothing to do with status. In fact, in almost every case of aggression the behaviour starts through fear. Just like us, dogs have three options to deal with a scary social situation: indicate that they want to avoid conflict (showing behaviours known as ‘appeasement signals’), avoid contact by withdrawing or hiding, or get the other guy to move away with aggressive signals. Dogs learn which strategy ‘ works’ to avoid the threat, and will be more likely to do the same the next time they are in the same situation. Read the articles below to find out more about how aggressive behaviour develops, how to prevent it, and what to do if you have aggression problems with your dog. 

Understanding aggression: how does it develop?

By Admin | training, aggression, behaviour, problem, prevention

Aggression in dogs is often misunderstood. It’s difficult not to take it personally if your dog growls at you. And it’s upsetting if he or she barks at another dog. In the past, it was thought that dogs became aggressive because they were trying to be ‘dominant’ or achieve social status. But we now know that aggression has nothing to do with status. In fact, in almost every case of aggression the behaviour starts through fear. Just like us, dogs have three options to deal with a scary social situation: indicate that they want to avoid conflict (showing behaviours known as ‘appeasement signals’), avoid contact by withdrawing or hiding, or get the other guy to move away with aggressive signals. Dogs learn which strategy ‘ works’ to avoid the threat, and will be more likely to do the same the next time they are in the same situation.

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Preventing problems

By jessica.colson@dogstrust.org.uk | aggression, puppy, dog, behaviour, prevention

It is vitally important that every puppy has positive experiences of people during the first months of life. Research tells us that where puppies have a more varied social environment, they are less likely to be aggressive as adults. But for contact to be beneficial, it needs to be positive and introduced in a gradual controlled way. It also needs to involve as many different people as possible, in a range of situations – so each puppy knows that whoever they meet in whatever context, it’s always a good thing!

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What do I do if my dog is aggressive?

By jessica.colson@dogstrust.org.uk | aggression, dog, behaviour, problem

The treatment of aggression is entirely dependent on the specific reason that the behaviour has developed in each case. Like any problem behavour, the main part of treatment requires some detective work to work out the sequence of events that has led up to the current situation. In the short term, it is vital for safety to identify the specific situations which lead to an aggressive response and avoid these situations until you get professional help.

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