How to Recognize True Dog Aggression


Dog aggression represents one of the most pressing challenges faced by professional dog trainers and pet owners alike.

The challenge of resolving aggressive behaviors can seem overwhelming, especially when the problem disrupts the household. Aggression, more than any other pet training challenge, can generate significant levels of fear for the well-being of family members and other pets.

Resolving canine aggression problems requires assistance from a dog training professional. However, it can help the pet owner to understand the reasons behind the behavior.

The Basis of All Canine Behavior, Including Dog Aggression

Every behavior your pet exhibits is due to centuries of natural selection and the quest for the survival of the species. However, we must also consider the environmental factors that can influence behavior.

Most of your pet’s behaviors will remain consistent over time, despite environmental factors. However, the social structure of your household has the ability to create behavioral patterns.

For example, professional trainers recommend teaching your pet that using his teeth on humans is never acceptable. But, when your dogs play together, a rougher, more aggressive pattern may emerge. This behavior is a complex illustration of the pack social structure, ritualistic and deeply ingrained conduct rich with context and meaning.

Recognizing Agonistic Behavior Compared to Dog Aggression

The complex social interactions that dogs have with one another is known as agonistic behavior.

Agonistic behaviors include all your pet’s display of dominance, submission and conciliation. It also includes any conduct that arises out of fear, threat and competing for resources. Think of agonistic behavior as a non-aggressive form of fighting, in which dogs can resolve their social issues without truly harming one another.

Sometimes, however, it can be hard for pet owners to tell the difference between agonistic conduct and aggression. If one of your dogs attempts to steal the other’s bone, the put-upon dog may snarl or snap to tell her pack-mate to back off. It may look and sound aggressive but it’s not – it’s simply the way your pets communicate and establish boundaries.

The key to recognizing an agonistic interaction is that it is a form of two-way communication between your pets where no one gets hurt. Dog aggression, on the other hand, is antagonistic. It often does not include any two-way communication at all. And someone, human or animal, is at risk of harm.

Recognizing and Addressing Dog Aggression

Imagine you’re walking down the sidewalk with Fido on a leash when a stray dog appears suddenly. If the stray runs up and attacks your dog, unprovoked, you can safely assume that this is true dog aggression.

Dog aggression can result from intense hunger, pain or some other underlying medical reason. It is also a common caused of fear or extreme frustration. The mating instinct can also result in aggressive actions, as can a mother dog guarding her puppies. Dogs can become aggressive if they believe they or their territory is being threatened. And, as we know from the abhorrent practice of dog fighting, they can be taught to be aggressive.

Unfortunately, whatever the reason for dog aggression, it requires immediate attention because the problem will not resolve on its own. Start with a visit to your vet to rule out any possible medical causes. If your pet is healthy, contact a dog training professional for assistance.

At Innovative K9 Academy, our team of certified dog training professionals has extensive experience with correcting behavioral problems in dogs. Located in Salt Lake City, we offer dog and puppy boot camps as well as intensive personalized training to resolve behavioral problems. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with dog aggression issues.