You love your dog. They’re your best friend, your sidekick, your furry child.
And then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, your pup is growling at the postman. Or lunging at the cat. Or snapping at your toddler.
What did the heck happened?
Dogs are naturally carnivores and more prey-driven so it’s no surprise that they can be aggressive. It’s also not a surprise that it can be hard to understand what’s going on with your dog.
What causes aggression in dogs?
Aggression in dogs can be caused by a variety of things, from being a very young dog to feeling threatened or feeling the need to protect themselves. Many dog owners assume that their dog is acting aggressively because the dog is mad at them or some other person. While this is often the case, there are a number of reasons why your dog may be behaving aggressively including fear, territoriality, frustration, or instinct. The reasons are different and the aggression may be situational. Here are a few reasons why.
They could have been abused
If you have an adopted dog then this is a common reason. Dogs who underwent abuse as puppies often turn out to be aggressive later. Many were relinquished to animal shelters by their owners and, of course, adopted by families. Many times, the change in behavior will not arise until the canines reach adulthood.
They might be uncomfortable
It's normal for dogs to get stressed out when there's a change in their environment, like if they're boarding at a new place or trying out doggy daycare for the first time.
Or perhaps you left them alone for long periods without realizing it yourself and they may be going through separation anxiety. Discomfort due to emotional stress or major life changes will often be shown through aggression.
Some dogs are not socialized properly
This can lead to fear and anxiety when meeting new people or other animals. They might not come running to you or be as friendly as they should. The first thing you can do is a temperament and behavioural assessment session with a trainer. Identify the issues and then implement training, which will help immensely.
Lack of regular exercise
Often, highly playful dogs need regular exercise to stave off the jittery, nervous energy. Engaging them in longer play sessions and giving an outlet for that energy is a surefire way to keep their emotions balanced.
What can you do to stop your dog’s sudden aggression?
Knowing the root of the aggression and addressing it early on will allow the dog to learn healthy behaviors.
Did your dog have a change in routine? Was there a new dog in the household? Were the two dogs getting into trouble together? See where the aggression is coming from. Once the problem is identified, make a plan to change the behavior and find an effective way to eliminate it. As training methods go, keeping your dog on a leash or in a kennel during this time may be a good way to control their unpleasant behavior.
Being a dog owner is a life changing experience, and it is possible for all of it to be fun for both you and your dog. Aggression is often deeply emotional and treating your dog with more love and care is the best way to resolve the issue.