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Last Modified: June 2, 2023

Recognizing Your Dog’s Aggressive Behavior: Stop the Problem at the Start

Published on September 19, 2015 • Last updated June 2, 2023 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Dog Bites & Attacks

Young boy lays next to the family dog.

Young boy lays next to the family dog.A man’s best friend. There is good reason why we think of dogs as lifelong companions and protectors. They are extremely loyal and loving. Their puppy-dog eyes are enough to make anyone’s heart melt.

However, the special bond that you share with your canine companion could be blinding you to your dog’s aggressive behavior.

Recognizing the warning signs

A dog bares his teeth towards the camera.

Aggression in dogs is not all or nothing. Some dogs are easily provoked, while others take significantly more time to become violent. Just because your dog has never bitten or attacked anyone, does not mean that under the right circumstances your dog never will.

It is important for dog owners to read their dog’s reactions to different situations and people. Notice when your dog suddenly becomes nervous, stiff, or overprotective, and make note of it so you know in which situations you need to be more cautious in the future.

By doing this you will find patterns of how your dog reacts in stressful situations. Then you can make the necessary changes to keep your dog from situations that make them aggressive.

Here are the most common situations that dogs react aggressively to:

  • protecting their family or being hostile towards visitors
  • defending territory and fighting with other dogs
  • guarding possessions, snapping when someone tries to take their toys
  • getting scared, protecting themselves
  • getting frustrated and lashing out when teased repeatedly

You may notice that your dog often growls or shows his or her teeth when upset. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The ASPCA states that “dogs at the highest risk of being euthanized for aggression are those who give little or no warning before they bite and who are inconsistently, unpredictably aggressive.”

Dogs who give warning signs before biting are safer because owners can identify when their dog is becoming aggressive. They then have time to fix the problem before anyone gets hurt.

Being cautious in stressful situations

Though your dog may be pretty consistent in their behavior, there are still situations that could cause them to become violent without warning. Many dog owners do not know, or forget about these situations that trigger dog aggression.

  • Becoming a mom—maternal instinct kicks in
  • Being injured or in chronic pain—could bite to avoid getting touched
  • Adding to the family— dogs can become jealous or see babies as a threat
  • Meeting a new dog in the neighborhood—can become territorial and over protective

What you can do to prevent an attack

Recognizing your dog’s aggressive behavior is not enough. Now that you know the warning signs, you must either make changes so that your dog avoids situations that trigger violent responses, or get help from a professional to change their behavior.

Always keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior around new people, especially children. In these situations it is not only your dog you have to worry about, but your visitors as well. Many adults and children are unaware of how to play safely with dogs and may accidentally do something to hurt your dog. If your dog retaliates and causes harm, you could face a lawsuit.

In Utah, dog bite laws are especially strict. In other states a lawyer would have to prove that a dog was vicious before the attack to hold the owner at fault. However, in Utah it doesn’t matter if the dog has a history of aggressive behavior or not. The first bite or attack by a dog is enough to hold the owner liable, so long as the victim did not provoke the attack.

This means, as a dog owner, you have to be especially careful to avoid any situations that would cause your dog to become violent. Be a responsible dog owner and stop attacks before they happen.

Photo 1 copyright to CIA DE FOTO

Photo 2 courtesy of U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger

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