What Are the Different Types of Dog Aggression?

If you’re a dog owner, your dog biting someone could be one of your worst fears. That includes your dog biting someone in your own home or biting someone when you’re out for a walk or in public.

If your dog bites someone, you may be legally liable and it can be traumatic for everyone involved.

If you’re a dog owner, and you believe your dog displays aggressive behavior, it’s important to understand what’s causing it. You can then try to remedy the problem, although you might need professional help to do so.

The foundation for remedying a dog’s aggression is understanding the type of aggressive behavior they display. The following are some of the types of aggression that dogs can exhibit.

Fear Aggression

With dogs, fear aggression is usually the most common type.

When a dog has fear aggression, they will usually behave in a certain way because they’re trying to stay on offense rather than defense. They will become offensive to whatever is triggering them, and that is done to give themselves distance from what they perceive as the threat.

A dog may display fear aggression toward other dogs or people, but also inanimate objects such as vacuum cleaners.

Fear aggression may occur along with avoidance, as the dog tries to escape from the trigger.

Sometimes when a dog has fear aggression, just getting more exercise may help with the issue. When dogs get enough exercise, it gets rid of their extra energy and helps them have a healthy mindset, much as is the case with humans.

Dogs may become aggressive if they feel they’re trapped or cornered. Something that can also trigger fear aggression is physical punishment. A dog might at first cower, and then attack if they think someone threatening is reaching for them.

Characteristics of fear aggression can include fast bites or nips.

Territorial Aggression

Territorial aggression is directed toward humans when a dog feels they are in their territory. A dog with territory aggression may seem fine outside of the zone they see as their territory.

This kind of aggression can be significant, and it usually happens either in their owner’s home or the property surrounding the home.

Protective Aggression

If a dog feels that someone in their family is hurt or is in danger, then protective aggression can occur.

A dog sees this as protecting one of their own. It can include not only protecting their human family but also other animals.

In a dog with no previous history of aggression, protective aggression can occur when she has puppies.

Another example can occur if you bring a human baby home. Your dog may want to protect the new baby aggressively.

Much like territorial behavior, with protective aggression, it usually appears as dogs turn anywhere from one to three years old.

Protective aggression is different from possessive aggression. Possessive aggression means that the dog becomes aggressive in an attempt to protect what they see as their possessions.

For example, signs of this aggression may occur when another animal gets near your dog’s food bowl.

Social Aggression

A dog who believes himself to have a higher status than other pets in the home, for example, might show social aggression. If a dog feels like another pet has done something that crosses the boundary they may react with aggression.

For example, if you have two dogs, one who feels it’s higher in status may behave aggressively when the other dog takes its food away or when you pay attention to the other dog.

It’s more common for male dogs to display social aggression than female dogs. It’s also more common in purebreds.

Frustration Aggression

Finally, if a dog wants to get something that it finds exciting or appealing, and it’s held back, it may exhibit signs of frustration aggression. Children often behave in the same way when they get frustrated — they lash out.

A dog who is held back from approaching what it wants may turn aggressive toward whatever it views as holding it back, or whoever.

Sometimes when dogs display frustration aggression, they might start to link any sense of restraint with frustration. That can lead to any situation involving restraint to then mean aggressive behaviors from the dog.

Knowing the type of aggression your dog displays isn’t going to cure the problem, but it gives you a starting point. You can start learning the triggers of your dog’s aggressive behavior so you can work toward solutions.

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