Understanding Dog Aggression: A Quick Overview of Signs, Causes, and Prevention

dogs biting each other

At fortlauderdaledogtrainers.com, we often get calls about dog aggression.

Dogs are adorable pets that love attention and play sessions with their humans. And so, the notion of aggression in dogs you care so much about is fearful. But an aggressive dog can put their and the victim’s life in danger if left unchecked.

Aggression is often explained as a threat or harmful behavior towards another individual. It may be intented to cause physical or emotional harm mainly as a reaction to threat or danger. Dog aggression includes snarling, growling, lunging, baring teeth, standing rigid, and snapping.

However, some forms of aggressive behavior in dogs are considered common ways of canine communication and are not necessarily a threat to the other person or animal. Nonetheless, monitoring their behavior and ruling out any underlying issues, such as fear or anxiety, may help the dog.

To identify the problem triggering canine aggression and look for ways to prevent or treat it is critical.

1. Causes of Dog Aggression

When you understand that your dog is aggressive towards another individual, the next step would be knowing what triggers this behavior. Dogs get aggressive for various reasons, which is why aggression has different kinds.

2. Pain or Disease-associated Aggression

Pain or illness is mostly the cause of aggression in dogs. Your pup may be ill or have an injury that is causing discomfort. The pain could be because of bone fractures, arthritis, or internal injuries, where as other more serious medical problems may be hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia or neurological problems (epilepsy, brain tumors, or encephalitis).

3. Fear or Anxiety-based Aggression

When nervous or fearful dogs sense a dangerous situation with no way out, they react aggressively to defend themselves. Most rescue dogs show aggression because of past trauma.

4. Frustration-based or Redirected Aggression

Frustration may also cause canine aggression. It happens when a dog cannot get something and barks, growls, or progresses to bite another individual. It is commonly known as redirected aggression.

5. Possession Aggression

It happens when a dog is possessive of their belongings, such as toys or food. It is also called resource guarding, and the dog may exhibit such behavior if you get too close while it is munching on its food or playing with their favorite toy.

6. Territorial Aggression

It occurs when a dog believes their space (home or yard) is being attacked by another animal or a person. They feel the need to guard their territory and behave aggressively when a stranger or another animal approaches the fence.

7. Protective Aggression

Dogs also exhibit aggression to protect someone or something from potential threats. Female dogs mostly show this type of aggression as a reaction to guard their pups.

8. Predatory Aggression

Predatory aggression in dogs is shown with the intent of chasing and killing the victim and may end up biting another individual. This kind of aggressive behavior should be dealt in time and with caution.

9. Sex-Elicited Aggression

Dogs also show aggression when they cannot find a mate. Also, two male or female dogs get aggressive toward each other when fighting for the attention of a mate.

Signs of Aggression in Dogs

Dogs display subtle signs in the start, and if the causes triggering this behavior are left unaddressed, the signs become more aggressive.

More often, fear or intent to keep a distance from potential threats triggers aggression in dogs. It usually acts as a signal to communicate to end the conflict.

Look out for dog aggression signs that display intent to harm another individual.

  • Snarling
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Teeth-baring
  • Lunging
  • Growling
  • Licking the lips or yawning
  • Stiffening
  • Biting
  • Snapping

Dog Aggression towards Humans

Dog aggression toward people stems from multiple reasons, such as fear, defensive aggression, possessiveness, dominance, and frustration. Abuse at the hands of previous owners or past trauma may also lead to such behavior in dogs.

Aggression in dogs toward people can be unpredictable and dangerous. Dogs exhibit aggression toward humans through body language, which includes averting eyes, snarling, nipping or biting, tucking ears back, and lunging toward humans.

Dog Aggression towards Other Dogs

Imagine taking your dog out for a walk and encountering a horrible fight between the dogs because your pup suddenly became aggressive – a nightmare for a dog owner!

Dogs mostly behave aggressively towards dogs of the same gender as they hit puberty due to built up sex-related aggression. Other reasons may include intent to show dominance, abuse by previous owners, or a traumatic past with another dog, and may find it difficult to socialize with other animals.

The typical signs dogs display when behaving aggressively with other dogs include growling, lip lifting, snapping, and lunging toward another dog.

How to Treat, Manage, and Prevent Dog Aggression

It is essential to identify the cause inciting aggression in dogs to manage, treat, or prevent this behavior, and you can do that by:

Checking with Veterinarian

The first step is to get your pup checked with their veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issue. If the canine aggression occurs suddenly, your dog may have a medical problem such as injuries, bone fractures, hypothyroidism, or neurological problems (epilepsy, brain tumors, or encephalitis).

Managing and Preventing the Aggression in Dogs

If the aggression is not pain or disease-related, the effective solution would be to control the problem. You can manage by avoiding situations that trigger aggressive behavior in your dog. Start with keeping your dog away from its potential threat or victim.

Moreover, to prevent your dog’s aggression, you can get help from fortlauderdaledogtrainers.com to help you with the best approach to managing aggression in your dog. You can learn management techniques like keeping a distance from strangers when out with your dog so it does not react aggressively and gradually reduce distance. This approach is typically known as desensitizing the behavior.

OLK9 can also guide you to teach your dog against aggressive behavior. Ideally, using balanced training is the best way to go about it.

AVOID touching or punishing your dog for aggressive behavior because it only aggravates the aggression and causes more damage than controlling the situation.


Understanding canine aggression and its various kinds may help you find effective solutions for the behavior. It also aids in determining what triggers aggression in your dog so that you can get your pup away from harm.

Give us a call today to discuss how we can help you!


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