What Is (and Isn’t) Aggression in Dogs
Encompassing a wide variety of behaviors, aggression in canines can be a foundational issue that is hard to overcome. Even as some dog owners have nightmares about their furry friend misbehaving, others are taking proactive steps to better understand what they are seeing. With dogs, once you can understand the proper signs of aggression, you can step in to address the issue.
Breaking Down Dog Aggression
Dogs that portray aggressive tendencies are often doing so as a result of stress. Aggression is truly some combination of consequential and emotional learning, leading to an act that is performed out of desperation — often a bite, bark, or growl. Understanding the triggering emotion is part and parcel of understanding and preventing further aggressive episodes in the future.
To best understand why your dog may be acting aggressively, break down the situation into separate components. Dogs typically work aggressively to protect themselves or others while also protecting their own resources, food, toys, and other treasured items. Using this understanding of canine aggression, we can understand that this behavior is almost always driven by emotional stress and compounded by repetitive history.
Identifying Signs of Aggression
Signs of aggression can be easy to identify once you understand and respect the animal in question. Dogs have a limited set of tools through which to communicate. To best prepare you for understanding your canine’s needs, let’s explore some of the most common signs of aggression as well as what other messages your dog may be trying to send.
Barking – Barking is normal behavior for dogs that are not acting with aggression. That being said, different kinds of barks can signify different meanings. What’s more, aggressive barking combined with another indicator, like a growl, can make it clear that the dog is upset, uncomfortable, or aggressive.
Snarling – A snarling dog is one best left alone as it is often an indicator of anger, discomfort, or outright aggression. A snarl is when a dog bares its teeth while growling, often culminating in a notable lip lift.
Growling – While growling is not always indicative of aggressive behavior, it is a vital mechanism utilized by dogs through which to communicate. Growling is a flexible vocalization technique that allows your dog to showcase its discomfort. Of course, some growling is more inherently aggressive than others.
Rigidity – A dog that goes physically rigid, including short and fast tail wags, may indicate caution bordering on aggression.
To learn more about dog behavioral training, contact the German Dog Training Center of Northern California!