Canine aggression is defined as any type of threat or harmful behavior directed toward an individual or group of people. In dogs, such aggression manifests in the form of body language or threatening displays such as a hard stare, growling, barking, snarling, lunging, snapping or biting. While aggression is a normal form of communication among dogs, it can become a problem when it is directed toward another person or animal.
Whether you are a dog owner or happen to be in a community that has dogs (which includes almost everyone), it is a good idea to be aware of what causes aggression in dogs, as well as prevention tips. Such information can help dog owners better deal with their own pets and others look out for signs of aggression.
Top Causes of Aggression
Fear: This is a major cause of canine aggression. Fear isn't limited to just the most dangerous dog breeds. When dogs are afraid of something or someone, they act aggressively because they get into fight-or-flight mode. There may be a number of factors that arouse fear in a dog ranging from certain types of people or specific smells to loud noises. Sometimes, dogs also pick up on their owner's state of mind. If you are angry or fearful, they may respond aggressively as well.
Anxiety: Like humans, dogs can feel anxious when there are a lot of changes happening at home. Even the gentlest dogs may act out aggressively in such situations. Examples of changes that affect dogs include the birth of a baby, a move or a new pet. If your dog is showing signs of such anxiety, it would be a good idea to speak with your vet about anxiety-reducing supplements.
Territorial dominance: When dogs get possessive of people or territorial, it can become a serious safety issue. Professional dog training can help pets learn how to share spaces reducing the threat of a bite or attack.
Frustration: When frustrated, dogs can react with anger or aggression. A dog that is in an enclosure or restrained for extended periods of time could get frustrated because it is unable to get out. If you find your dog is more aggressive after spending a lot of time in an enclosure or the backyard, more walks might help ease that frustration and lower the possibility of aggression.
Aggression Caused by Medical Conditions
Canine aggression could be caused by several medical conditions including:
Hypothyroidism: This is one of the most common medical causes of canine aggression. Hypothyroidism refers to low levels of the thyroid hormone, which could affect mood. Thyroid replacement therapy often works well to relieve aggression in dogs that have low thyroid levels. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs include weight gain, lethargy and significant hair loss.
Brain inflammation: This occurs when dogs suffer from encephalitis such as rabies and distemper. When the brain is inflamed due to such infections or diseases, aggression manifests as a neurological reaction to brain inflammation.
Hypoglycemia: This refers to low blood sugar, which could also be another cause for canine aggression. Dogs that have low blood sugar may feel disoriented or strange. When they feel vulnerable, dogs may react with aggression to avoid appearing weak. Hypoglycemia can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.
If at any point you become the victim of a bite, it is important to treat your dog bite injury immediately.
Instinctive or Genetic Aggression
Dogs may also be prone by genetics or because of their natural instinct to be aggressive, especially when confronted with a threat. Genetics refers to the traits animals inherit from their parents. Often, these traits could have a strong influence on the dog's temperament and demeanor. While instinct and genetics of a dog could determine how aggressive they are, there are also other factors that have to do with animal instinct and aggression:
Instinct to dominate: Dogs are pack animals and could show aggression when they attempt to dominate other household members or pets.
Territorialism: This type of aggression may be directed toward other animals or people who are outside the pack, so to speak. This might also manifest in the form of aggression between adult male dogs or adult female dogs as they attempt to dominate and claim each other's territory.
Predatory instinct: Dogs may also show aggression toward anyone or anything they consider as prey. This might include smaller dogs and in some cases, even young children or infants.
Maternal aggression: A female dog with puppies has fierce maternal instincts to protect her litter. This could result in aggressive behavior as well.
Pain and fear: These are strong stimuli that could result in shows of aggression against the person or thing the dog believes is causing pain or fear.
Partial seizures that occur in the hypothalamus or limbic system of the brain could also result in unprovoked aggression in dogs. There are red flags in such situations including sudden mood changes before the seizure occurs; unexplained violent aggression; and assuming aggressive postures. Veterinarians will be able to run tests on dogs to determine the precise medical cause for canine aggression.
Is There a Cure for Canine Aggression?
While there are ways to help your dog, it is not a good idea to go about doing it yourself. It is best to leave it to the professionals who are adept at evaluating, training and sometimes, treating aggressive dogs. Aggression is a behavioral issue, which might call for a thoughtful approach. Dogs may need training, therapy or medication or all of those things. Dogs that have been mistreated or abused are also likely to be aggressive. It could take significant patience to help abused dogs with aggressive issues.
What Should You Do If You're Bitten By a Dog?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, it is important that you promptly contact an experienced LA dog bite lawyer. At the Vaziri Law Group Personal Injury Attorneys, we are committed to pursuing justice and maximum compensation for dog bite victims. We have successfully represented children and adults in dog attack cases
California has a strict liability statute when it comes to dog bite cases. This means that dog owners can be held financially liable for the injuries and damages their pets cause. The value or worth of your dog bite case often depends on the nature and extent of your injuries and losses, and the negligence of the dog owner.
Injured victims may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, cost of surgery, psychological counseling, permanent injuries, scarring and disfigurement, rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Call the Vaziri Law Group to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.
What is the most common cause of aggression in dogs?
Fear is the number one cause of dog aggression that could lead to dog attacks. Much like human beings, dogs have individual fears that could make little or no sense to others. Some of the things that could trigger fear in dogs include but are not limited to other dogs, children, people and visits to the vet's office. Dogs that are fearful are more likely to lunge, snarl, snap and possibly bite to make their source of fear go away.
What are the four forms of aggression?
There are four main forms of canine aggression:
- Fear aggression: This type of aggression could be directed at anything that rouses fear in the dog ranging from children and adults to fireworks, vacuum cleaners or cars.
- Territorial aggression: This type of aggression is often directed toward humans in the dog's designated territory. An example is a dog getting aggressive toward a mail carrier.
- Idiopathic aggression: This type of aggression could be caused by underlying medical conditions and could be extremely dangerous because it could lead to sudden and severe outbursts with little or no warning.
- Prey aggression: This occurs when dogs are pursuing animals or objects they perceive as “prey,” which could range from smaller animals to young children.