Aggressive behavior in dogs can manifest in many ways. It is generally accepted that a dog is manifesting aggressive behavior if it behaves or acts in a manner that can harm or threaten to harm people and other animals.
Any dog can become aggressive. Contrary to popular belief it isn’t just large dogs that can become aggressive. Small dogs can also become aggressive. There may also be some breeds that are considered more prone to developing aggressive behavior but in reality, dogs of any breed can become aggressive.
The key is to be able to prevent this from developing by constantly monitoring any changes in your dog’s behavior. You may not know it but subtle changes in their behavior can slowly develop into aggression. Just like you, your dog goes through different experiences and they will respond in various ways to these experiences. Without knowing it, your dog may be responding in a manner that could lead to aggression. Sometimes owners are aware of the behavior but do not have the proper knowledge on how to deal with it. This lack of knowledge on the part of dog owners is what usually leads to dogs behaving badly.
Knowing how to tell the signs and how to put them in check can help you and your dog live happy lives together. Here are some of the signs that your dog could be developing aggressive behavior and what you can do to keep them in check:
There are some breeds of dogs that are normally easily excitable. These are usually the working breeds, such as those bred for hunting or herding. But even if your dog comes from such breeds you should not allow them to get into a highly excited state. Dogs can easily go from active play to aggressive fights. This usually occurs when they are at play with other dogs.
This does not mean that you should not allow them to play with other dogs. Just make sure they do not show signs of dominance or tension during play. As soon as you see such signs, take them away from the group play and keep them away for a few days from this kind of situation. Do not punish them or show disappointment for their behavior. More importantly, if they do act properly during such play activities, show them some love so that they know they have done good.
Showing signs of irritability especially in situation that were previously alright could may be a sign of aggressive behavior. Irritable behavior can be triggered by very specific situations or environments. For instance, your dog may enjoy playing with people but not with other dogs or with you and your family members but not with other people.
If you see signs of irritability, immediately remove them from the situation. Try to adapt them to the situations the irritates them subtly and slowly.
For example, if your dog barks at other dogs during walks, start by walking them where there are no other dogs. When they feel calm during walks with no other dogs around, begin introducing another dog but from afar. It is usually best to get your dog used to seeing one dog only. If possible, choose a dog to introduce that is calm. You can do this by walking your dog to a place where there is another dog nearby. You can probably ask a neighbor or relative to help you out for this one. When your dog gets used to this slowly allow it to move closer to the other dog during the walk until it feels comfortable being near the other dog. Move your dog slowly from meeting with one to meeting with a group of other dogs. Again, never punish them for bad behavior but always give positive feedback for good behavior.
Depending on the severity of their reaction though, it may be necessary to keep them totally away from these triggers. If you are unsure how to deal with this situation it is best to consult your vet.
Timid or Shy Behavior
You probably find it hard to believe that a shy or timid dog can develop aggressive behavior. On the contrary, it is their timid nature that makes them high candidates in become aggressive. Timid dogs usually try to stay away from highly active dogs. When they get in a situation where they have to deal with such dogs, they may snap at the other dogs to try and shoo them away. If this proves successful this will make a timid dog associate aggressive behavior as a positive response to keep other dogs away. This could then lead to higher levels of aggression.
For timid or shy dogs, you need to make them feel comfortable with being around other dogs or you can just make sure to control what other dogs they meet. To make them adapt to various situation, use the subtle and slow approach we explained earlier.
Bad behavior is not limited to the timid but also to the confident and highly active dogs. In a reversal of the situation above, a highly confident dog that deals with a timid dog could develop bullying behavior which could lead to aggression.
For Bullies you need to let them realize that you as their owner is the boss. In most cases, bullying behavior in dogs starts when they try to establish their dominance as the alpha of the pack. This includes you as a member of the pack. If you allow your dog to do this, you are actually giving him dominance over you. To stop such behavior, show your dog that you are in control. When going on walks, do not let your dog lead you. Do not allow your dog to take possession of certain areas of your home. Make them realize that you choose where they allowed and not allowed to go. This does not have to be permanent. As soon as you have established your status as the alpha, you can start giving your dog more freedom to do what they want and go where they want.
Always Ask Your Vet
When in doubt, it is best to go to your vet and ask for advice. Make sure to tell your vet in detail any and all changes in behavior you notice. In some cases, it may be necessary to take your dog to a dog trainer to prevent aggressive behavior. Ask your vet if this is a viable option. If a dog trainer is needed, ask your vet for a referral.