10 Signs Your Dog Has Aggression Issues

Apr 15 2021

Aggression is the most common and most serious behavior problem in dogs. Not only is it the reason why most owners seek professional help, it’s why thousands of dogs are surrendered to animal shelters every year. Aggression is more than just biting or threatening to bite. It can include destructive behavior, unhealthy dominance or territorialism in the family. This territorial behavior can include “resource guarding,” such as growling or snapping at anyone who gets near a toy, food bowl, or bedding. Aggression can also show up in fearful or timid dogs who suddenly bite, lunge, or attack out of fear.

There are many reasons for why dogs develop aggressive behaviors, and most causes can be identified by a professional trainer, and the behavior fixed. The important thing is to identify aggression in your dog and seek professional help with it before someone, including you and your dog, gets hurt.

Types of Aggression in Dogs
There are many types of aggression in dogs, including leash aggression, pain aggression, social aggression, and breed aggression.

Leash Aggression. Dogs who are happy-go-lucky, life of the party dogs until put on a leash, have leash aggression. It’s one of the easiest aggressions to fix. What happens is that once on leash your dog suddenly becomes a snarling, snapping, lunging animal. They may not be able to bite anyone because they’re on a leash, but their straining, barking, growling and aggressive behavior can be unnerving and embarrassing.  Most leash aggression is a reaction to being restrained. Their aggression is usually directed at other dogs, especially those not on a leash, but they can lunge at anyone or anything.

Chain Aggression. Dogs kept on chains or long leashes tend to be more aggressive than dogs left to roam in a fenced in yard. Who wouldn’t be angrier if tethered to a chain?

Pain Aggression. Normally peaceful dogs can become aggressive if they’re injured or in pain. They can’t tell us they’re hurting. By nature animals hide their pain so other species can’t see they’re weaker and more vulnerable. By the time you spot signs of pain in your dog they’ve probably been hurting for a while. If your dog is starting to show signs of aggression, take them to your vet for a check up first to rule out pain.

Social Aggression. Dogs can be aggressive towards other dogs, but not people; or vice versa. In social-dog aggression your dog may display these signs when around another dog or animal:

  • Direct eye contact
  • Lunging
  • Posturing
  • Raised hackles
  • Pricked ears
  • Exposing their teeth – with or without growling or snarling

10 signs your dog needs professional help with their aggression.

The average dog owner is simply not equipped or trained to deal with aggression in their pet. You probably already know, or suspect, your dog has anger and aggression issues. But you may be thinking they’re just excitable. Just to reassure you, here are the top 10 signs of aggression you should look for in your pet. The more signs you see, the more likely you should seek professional help for your dog before they become a liability for you and themselves. Signs your dog may have aggression issues or is developing one. Some of these behaviors are “cute” in a puppy, but become serious as the dog gets older and the behavior doesn’t go away:

  1. They bark, growl, strain, and lunch at other dogs and people. This may happen when in the yard or home, or especially when put on a leash.
  2. They bare their teeth when approached by family members, friends, or even strangers.
  3. They have stiff body language – ears pinned back, growling, snarling, eyes widen
  4. He/she blocks people’s or other dog’s path
  5. Bites, nips, and jumps up on you
  6. Barges through doors or gates ahead of you
  7. Demanding attention even when told “no,”
  8. Resource guarding – such as protecting their sleep area; or dog food bowl or water source. They may stop eating when approached – or actually growl
  9. Mounting or “humping,” people’s legs or mounting other dogs that aren’t in heat, or mounting a same sex as them dog
  10. Approaching another dog from the side and putting his head on the other dogs back/shoulder; inserting himself between you and another person or dog (e.g. when you and your significant other hug); and lunging at people.

Any one of these behaviors may not be a big deal, but still notice and watch for additional behaviors. If your dog becomes increasingly aggressive, rule out any pain or disease causes with a visit to your vet. Dogs in pain, like people in pain, can become grouchy, anxious, and aggressive until their pain is resolved. Injuries, disease, or other health issues can make even the most peaceful pup a snarling biter.

If you want to head off aggressive tendencies in your dog:

  • Socialize your dog early. Dogs are pack animals who learn from other dogs how to behave in acceptable ways. Training your dog early and exposing them to other, well-socialized dogs as often as possible can help a lot. Ideally you’d train them as puppies, but if you get an older dog who has not been socialized, it’s not too late.
  • Neuter or spay your dog as early as possible. A lot of aggression is hormone driven. By spaying or neutering your dog as early as safely possible, you can eliminate this very common cause of aggression.
  • Love, but discipline and punish your dog. Loving your dog doesn’t mean just giving them treats and spoiling them. It means training and disciplining, and yes, even punishing your dog when needed. Whether you need to crate them, use a rolled up newspaper to get their attention, or other physical means to correct your dog. Punishment is something an owner does when their dog is misbehaving and that the owner knows the dog does not like. It could be a loud noise, a shock or tightening a choke collar, isolating the dog, hitting it with something soft – like a rolled up newspaper, or other actions. You’ll know if the punishment worked because your dog will either stop the behavior, or do it less.