Aggressive Dog/Dog Aggression

Learn about causes and corrective actions for aggressive behavior.

agressive dog behavior - dog agression behavior

Signs of Possible Aggression

  • Stiff body posture
  • Hard stare
  • Rigid stance with lip curled to show teeth
  • Growling or snapping in air
  • Snapping at body, hard nip, biting or outright attack

Causes and Corrective Actions for Aggressive Behavior

Note: All aggression issues should be addressed under guidance of a professional trainer/behaviorist to prevent potential injury to people, dogs, or other animals.


Inadequate exposure to people and/or other dogs results in a dog unaccustomed and uncomfortable with normal behavior, mannerisms and attention from humans and/or other dogs, and uses aggressive actions to drive others away.

SOCIALIZATION Corrective Actions: Work with trainer to introduce your dogs to new situations and individuals. Begin a slow socialization schedule to raise dog's comfort level around people and/or dogs. Employ ongoing positive method obedience training to increase dog's confidence and teach definite behaviors, such as Sit, for dog to perform and focus on. Avoid "cooing" tones dog interprets as praise.


Inheritance factors such as weak nerves, fearful tendencies or aggressive inclinations can predispose a dog to display fear based or hostile reactions in what are considered unwarranted and unprovoked situations.

GENETICS Corrective Actions: Work with trainer to assume a kind but strong leadership role so dog looks to you to handle all situations. Start a schedule to slowly socialize the dog and to raise the dog's comfort level around dogs and people. Teach specific and definite behaviors, such as Down or Sit using positive method obedience training. This will help increase the dog's confidence and teach the dog to perform and focus instead of worrying. Avoid using "cooing" tones as dogs may interpret this as praise.


Dogs naturally develop a "pecking order" based on social standing within a pack. An assertive dog may test an owner who lacks leadership status or challenge another dog, usually of the same sex, for rank within their social order. Dogs naturally develop a "pecking order" based on social standing within a pack. An assertive dog may test an owner who lacks leadership status or challenge another dog, usually of the same sex, for rank within their social order.

DOMINANCE Corrective Actions: Work with trainer to establish leadership status through positive obedience training. Insist dog comply when given a command — say commands once, not repetitively like "Sit, Sit, Sit." Require dog to earn dinner, petting, going outside, all good things by obeying a command first. Spay or neuter to reduce hormone driven rank issues. Dogs respect height so keep dog off couch, bed or other elevated furnishings.

Prey Drive

Sometimes pronounced behavior derived from dog's natural desire to chase, grab and possibly kill smaller animals, often by shaking prey from side to side.

PREY DRIVE Corrective Actions: Work with trainer to instill reliable obedience, including a strong "Leave it" command. Redirect dog's prey drive into suitable outlets such as fetch and controlled tug. Begin schedule of slow, careful socialization around small dogs. Properly control mature prey-driven dog to prevent harming of cats or other prey type animals.


Dogs punished unfairly, such as for urinating in a crate when confined too long, may ultimately react aggressively to stop unjust attacks or show aggression in self defense when punishment continues despite repeated displays of submissive behavior.

PUNISHMENT Corrective Actions: Work with trainer to establish and train using fair, consistent rules. Build or repair relationship with positive obedience training and play.

Territorial Instinct

Many dogs instinctively guard their territories, including the yard, home and vehicle, from any intruder, whether human, canine or other.

TERRITORIAL INSTINCT Corrective Actions: Work with trainer on training dog to accept people coming into the yard or residence with your or another family member's approval. Establish reliable obedience with solid "Come" command. Do not leave a territorial dog unattended outside other than in a tall privacy fenced area with a locked gate. Crate dog in vehicle or use doggie window grates to prevent people reaching in with windows down.


The physically abused dog often becomes wary of people and may turn to aggression to keep them at a distance or drive away their attentions.

ABUSE Corrective Actions: Work with trainer to safely obedience train. Build relationship with and slowly socialize a previously abused dog, this may involve use of a muzzle and head collar. Teach fun, confidence building lessons like tricks or beginning agility training.


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4 of 5 Comments View All 5 Comments

Give us your opinion Give us your opinion on Aggressive Dog/Dog Aggression

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liantsim   Waterloo, IA

1/26/2013 8:50:38 AM

I have an adopted dog that I suspect wasn't socialized properly as a puppy. She can be aggressive towards other dogs and people she doesn't know. I agree that more specific suggestions would be helpful. It's such a long process to help a dog like this; a trainer can't be there everyday.

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Dale   Tampa, FL

10/6/2011 10:30:56 AM

Sorry, the book's title is How To Right a Dog Gone Wrong.

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Dale   Tampa, FL

10/6/2011 10:28:56 AM

Aggression in dogs is a serious issue and can require years of training to get under control. The best book I have found on the subject is How To Right A Dog Gone Wild by Pamela Dennison. Basically it teaches how to watch out for the things that trigger your dog's aggression and how to deal with it. I didn't find the advice on this site very useful.

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Galadriel   Lothlorien, ME

9/30/2011 11:33:24 PM

It's a good start but I would like to see more extensive directions. "Work with trainer" isn't really helpful. If we could work with a trainer we wouldn't need to read this!

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