Aggression in dogs can occur in a number of different situations and for a variety of reasons. Some examples of fairly common aggression include:
- On-leash aggression towards other dogs
- Off-leash aggression toward other dogs
- Aggression toward people on moving vehicles such as bikes, skates, skateboards and scooters
- Food guarding
- Toy guarding
- Aggression toward children or strangers
- Aggression in cars directed at people and/or dogs walking by.
Why Aggression Occurs
There are several primary causes of aggression in dogs. For instance, shy or scared dogs may use aggression to drive away those that frighten them. This aggression frequently starts with barking but will progress to growling and eventually biting if the dog is trapped and the person or animal approaching the dog does not stop moving forward.
Aggression involving food or toys is called resource guarding and is an attempt by the dog to keep others from stealing a valued resource. These dogs will also frequently bite if the person or dog attempting to steal the resource does not stop.
Some dogs love to chase moving things – bikes, scooters, skateboarders – and may escalate from simply chasing to nipping and biting over time.
Finally, some dogs are taught to be aggressive or simply use aggression to establish themselves as “top dog.”
As these examples indicate, aggression does not necessarily mean that a dog has been abused although abuse can certainly result in aggressive behavior in dogs.
Fortunately aggression in many cases is treatable. The treatment depends on the kind of aggression exhibited and the underlying reasons for the aggression. Although aggression rarely disappears entirely, there are many ways to manage and reduce aggression. The primary purpose of treatment in cases of aggression is to teach both the dog and the owner management techniques that lower the dog’s perceived need to use aggression and equip the human to properly respond so that everyone, including the dog, remain safe and protected.