"Recognising Different Types of Aggression in Dogs

"Recognising Different Types of Aggression in Dogs

Most dogs warn you when they are not happy about a situation or feel threatened in any way and they typically do so by growling or backing away. However, if a dog takes things to the next level showing more aggression than they should do, it could be time to seek professional help from an expert dog trainer before things get totally out of hand.

It could be that your dog is suffering some sort of discomfort and it's triggering their aggressive behaviour. The only way to determine if they are in pain is to take them along to the vet for a thorough examination. However, if the vet finds nothing wrong with them, then it's down to you to find out why and what is causing your dog’s aggression and to recognise the various types so you know how to deal with it. The most common reason for aggression in dogs is “fear” which could include them being afraid of the following things:

  • A fear of being hurt
  • Frightened their food will be taken away
  • A fear of being cornered and unable to get away from what they perceive as a threat

Any of the above will typically see a dog showing more aggressive behaviour because it's their only way of defending themselves. With this said aggression in dogs can be triggered by various things and is associated with specific things and situations they find themselves in which are listed below.

Aggression over Things and Possessions

It is perfectly normal for a dog to get possessive about things which includes food. Just like in humans, a dog will guard their food. A typical example of people guarding their food being when someone has a plate of chips and another person tries to take one. The person with the chips will react by placing the plate out of the reach of the second person especially when there is only one chip left! Our domestic furry friends feel they have to guard their “resources” just in case no food appears at a later date and they do so instinctively because it's one survival trait that's deeply engrained in their psyche.

However, if this possessive and aggressive behaviour gets out of hand, you have to do something about it before anyone or another animal gets injured, and the best people to talk to are animal behaviourists who deal with this type of problem in dogs on a regular basis.

Hemmed in Aggression

Dogs are really quite social creatures by nature and in the wild they live in packs, so when a dog finds they are “hemmed in” in a back garden but able to see and smell other dogs without being able to get near them, it can lead to them developing some unwanted aggressive behaviours. These typically manifest themselves every time a four-legged or two-legged person walks by their gate or along the fence line. The same can apply to dogs kept on leads in a park where other dogs are running free.

Aggressive Behaviour toward Other Dogs

This type of aggression typically happens when a dog has not been well socialised when they were puppies. However, dogs can also show aggression toward other dogs because of past traumatic experiences which includes having been attacked by another dog. It could also happen because an owner has trained them to be aggressive toward other dogs, something they should never be trained to do.

Redirected Aggressive Behaviour

Very often if a dog is not allowed to show aggression toward something they are focussed on, they will take it out on something or someone else. This redirected aggression can result in some dogs becoming quite destructive around the house or aggressive toward another animal that shares their environment.

Territorial Aggressive Behaviours

Dogs like to guard things and this includes their homes, their owners and if the behaviour is allowed to escalate, they can become too aggressive in the way they go about guarding things. Again, it's important to curb this type of behaviour and if necessary to seek professional help. You want your dog to bark when strangers are about, but you don't want them showing too much aggression because it could lead to them frightening someone or even biting them.

Maternal Aggressive Behaviour

When a female dog has pups, she will naturally and instinctively want to guard her litter against any perceived dangers and will as such show aggression. Very often this can be put down to her hormones being all over the place and even when her puppies are weaned she may still show a little aggressive behaviour. It can take a few weeks for her to settle back down to her old self again, so it's just a matter of being understanding and patience when you're around her when she still has the pups and when they are weaned!

Even the most placid of dogs may become a little aggressive when they are experiencing any sort of acute pain. If you think your pet is suffering, then you need to get them along to the vet for a thorough check over to find out what's wrong. Once treated, your usually friendly and loving canine companion should go back to their old selves again.

Aggressive Behaviour through Fear

When dogs are backed into a corner and feel they cannot escape something or someone they perceive to be a threat to them, they may just 'come out fighting”. The root cause of many types of aggressive behaviour is fear. A bitch is scared her pups might be hurt, pain causes dogs to be afraid and when guarding something or somebody a dog is afraid these will be taken away from them. It's important to teach a dog they can relax and feel confident in all sorts of situations to prevent this “fear” from taking over which often results in them being aggressive.

Aggressive Behaviour through Prey Drive

Some dogs have a very high prey drive and if anything or animal runs past them they instinctively want to chase after it often showing aggressive behaviour if they are prevented from doing so. The problem is they will run after cars, bicycles and ever people jogging by which can become a real issue that needs to be corrected sooner rather than later.


Dogs show aggression for all sorts of reasons and it's important to understand what's setting them off. Once you've established this, you can then go about correcting the problem and if necessary ask for professional help from an expert dog trainer. You may also find that a usually quiet and placid dog suddenly becomes more aggressive in which case you should take them along to the vet for a thorough check up because they chances are they are in pain. Dealing with aggressive behaviour in dogs can be a little frightening especially for first time dog owners. As such it’s best to rely on the professionals who know how to deal with aggressive behaviour in dogs rather than try to rectify things on your own.

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