Aggression in dogs is a concern for one very important reason: Aggression can lead to bites. Aggression is a broad term that encompasses a multitude of behaviors. Dogs who snarl, bite, lunge, snap, and growl can be considered aggressive if they behave this way on a too frequent basis. When people understand what causes aggression in dogs, they may be able to avoid being bitten. At the very least, understanding aggression in their own dogs can assist owners in getting help for their pets. The following are the most common reasons that dogs display aggressive tendencies.
1. Medical Reasons
In some cases, a dog’s aggression is the result of a medical issue. Any aggression that is accompanied by a physical symptom could indicate an underlying condition. For example, hair loss increased weight and aggression could indicate hypothyroidism. Convulsions and aggression may indicate a seizure disorder. Because medical conditions can lead to aggression, any dog that displays aggressive tendencies should be taken to a veterinarian for a full medical workup before it is determined that behavior is the only issue.
2. Genetic Predisposition
There is an argument for and against this theory. To be on the safe side, we will include it among this list of reasons but caution that it may not be accurate. Some professionals believe that a dog may be predisposed to aggression. For example, a dog born to parents who display aggressiveness may be more apt to display the same behaviors. To help curb or prevent this, many responsible breeders will not breed from dogs who do not have sound temperaments.
Dogs, like other animals, have the fight or flight response to fear. In most cases, a dog will retreat if it is startled or afraid. When a dog does not have the ability to flea (flight), it may respond by biting (fight). Keep in mind that the fear response is due to a perceived threat. The dog may perceive something as frightening that you didn’t notice or weren’t aware of. For instance, you may move to grab your dog’s collar with no ill intent, but your dog may perceive your motion as a threat and react with aggression.
4. Resource Guarding
People protect their belongings. You may have an alarm system attached to your home. You may put your valuables in a safe. Dogs don’t have these capabilities. A dog may protect the things it considers valuable by reacting aggressively if a person tries to take it away. Most dogs will warn before they react. Growling, posturing, and snapping may all occur before an actual bite. When a dog gives warning, it is best to listen.
5. Territorial Aggression
Like resource guarding, a dog may believe that it is its job to protect its home, bed or crate. Some dogs may choose to protect a specific room in the house or the entire yard. Dogs who have issues with territorial aggression may bark excessively at people passing by the property, they may lunge at doors and windows, or they may bare their teeth when a perceived threat is near.
6. Predatory Aggression
Dogs with a particularly high prey drive may react with aggression when their senses are tuned into a running or quickly moving object. A dog may give chase and bite its “prey” when it is finally caught. Herding breeds are more apt to display this type of aggression than other breeds. This is why it is important to teach children to walk, not run, near dogs. It is also the reason experts suggest that anyone approached by a strange dog not run.
7. Frustration Aggression
Think about the last time you put money in the pop machine and nothing came out. Did you simply walk away or, like many people, did you strike the machine out of frustration? Dogs react with the same idea. When a dog is forced to do something or prevented from doing something, it may react out of frustration. Another form of this aggression is redirected aggression. For example, a dog may react to another animal running up and down your fence line. You make a move to grab your dog’s collar in an attempt to control it and it turns and bites your hand. The dog wasn’t attacking you but redirected its frustration onto you.
Any act of aggression could be considered a one-off event and does not necessarily make a dog aggressive. That said, even a single, serious attack can have a dog labeled as aggressive or dangerous in the eyes of the law. If your pet is showing any tendencies towards negative behaviors, a trip to the veterinarian and then a behaviorist is in order.
If you have been attacked by a dog in West Palm Beach or the surrounding area, please reach out to our team. We will review the details of the attack at no cost to you and advise you of your options. You may be entitled to compensation under current Florida law. Call us today.