Understanding and Treating Canine Aggression

Grumpy little dog in a colorful backgroundOne of the worst scenarios for dog owners is knowing their cherished pet is prone to biting or other forms of aggression. Canine aggression is cause for concern and can result in one of the thousands of dog bite incidents that occur each year. Untreated, canine aggression can pose serious risks to the dogs themselves and other animals and people.

Pets living with behavioral problems typically suffer from fear, anxiety, and issues stemming from early development (e.g., lack of training and socialization). To effectively treat canine aggression, it’s imperative to understand the root causes.

Triggers and Underlying Problems

Aggression comes in many forms, including snapping, biting, chronic barking, resource guarding, and physical attacks. Some dogs target only other dogs or animals, while others may fear children or strangers.

Understanding your dog’s triggers and background provide insight about how to avoid dangerous encounters and how to redirect his or her behavior. Common reasons for aggression include:

  • Lack of socialization and obedience training
  • History of being abused or neglected
  • Territorial aggression
  • Protective aggression, such as a mother with her puppies
  • Aggression as a response to pain or fear
  • Social aggression (e.g., establishing order in a pack or vying for female attention)
  • Predatory aggression, such as chasing cats or smaller animals

When you know your dog’s triggers, you’re better prepared to avoid problematic situations while receiving professional help as well.

Contact Your Veterinarian

If your pet has displayed aggressive tendencies (even if it didn’t result in an injury or emergency), do not wait for things to escalate before seeking help.

At Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates, we can work with you to rule out any health issues that may be causing canine aggression. We can also help you develop a behavioral plan that includes training, counseling, and medications (if necessary). Please contact us for a behavioral consultation or to learn more.

Ways to Discourage Canine Aggression

Once your pet has been assessed for any medical issues and a behavioral plan is in place, consider any preventive measures you can take at home or in public. To discourage negative behaviors, try some of the following tips:

  • Minimize exposure to triggers until your pet has shown improvement (through professional training).
  • If you must take your pet out in public, consider using a cage-type muzzle.
  • Spay or neuter your pet.
  • Provide a safe place in your home for your dog, especially when there are underlying fears or phobias.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for exercise and playtime at home to avoid boredom or frustration.
  • Stay vigilant with your pet when supervising playtime at home or in the yard.
  • If your pet’s aggression is prompted by food, treats, or toys, keep these items out of sight when around other people and pets.

Canine aggression can be discouraging and even frightening. However, following the advice and treatment plan of your veterinarian and/or a professional trainer can do wonders. With time and patience, many forms of aggression can be assuaged, making life happier and safer for everyone.