No animal is inherently evil. And yet hardly a week goes by without a so-called “problem dog” making the headlines somewhere. Again and again people – often completely uninvolved – get hurt. But attacks on other dogs and pets or general intimidation in the neighborhood also fuel the idea of the four-legged beast. But how exactly does the problem arise – and what can you do about it, both as the owner and as the person affected? Read here what you should know about the sensitive topic.
What are the reasons for aggressiveness in dogs?
To start with, aggression in itself is not misconduct, but a survival instinct. Aggression is necessary for enforcement, defense, and ultimately for survival. The problem arises when aggressive behavior of any form is either excessive or directed against inappropriate targets.
It becomes dangerous when the aggressor is also more dominant than his environment and therefore cannot be called to order by him. A dog as a defensive animal, which is often physically superior to humans, but is always “armed” with sharp teeth, therefore represents a real danger. Because domestic dogs normally have no existential reason for aggressive behavior – for example, if they hunt for food or themselves defend against attackers – the behavior is promoted by various secondary factors.
Reasons for aggressive behavior
- Unsuccessful socialization: The early training of the dogs by conspecifics or a human has been disrupted or has not happened at all
- Faulty training: Inappropriate training methods, lack of subordination to humans, confusing feedback from a dog’s perspective, or misguided behavior create the potential for conflict between humans and dogs.
- Targeted “arming”: abuse of the dog as a substitute for a weapon or as a vehicle for self-esteem by the owner
- Anxiety disorder: The dog is in a (perhaps only supposedly) threatening situation and wants to defend itself.
- Misguided hunting instinct: Some dogs interpret fast movements in such a way that the hunting reflex is triggered. Then joggers or cyclists are pursued as “prey”.
- Neurological problems: Rarely, but not least, aggressive behavior in the animal can also be triggered by pathological changes in the brain.
Fortunately, extremely rare in our latitudes, but still worth mentioning, are infectious diseases such as rabies, which can trigger aggressive behavior in dogs and other animals.
How does the dog signal aggression?
An aggressive dog shows clear warning signs through its body language. Be careful if the dog growls or glares at you menacingly, puckers its lips, and bares its teeth. If these ranged warnings are unsuccessful, the dog may snap or make mock attacks before attacking in earnest.
The dog’s posture is tense, the neck fur raised. If the aggression is out of fear, the animal buckles its hind legs, rounds its back, and flattens its ears and tail. Always take the animal’s vocalizations and body communication seriously: a dog attack rarely comes out of the blue.
How do I deal with my problem dog?
If your own dog suddenly shows signs of aggressiveness, a lot of sensitivity is required. Try to figure out what may be triggering the argumentative behavior.
Important questions about the trigger:
- Have there been any changes in the dog’s life?
- Has he had a particular experience that scares him?
- Does he have to defend resources like food or toys?
- Are there new people or more dominant dogs in his environment?
Are there particularly aggressive breeds?
In principle, there are more excitable and completely relaxed animals in every breed of dog. Nevertheless, the assumption applies that different dog breeds tend to have a higher potential for aggression due to their history.
How do I behave towards an aggressive dog?
If you find yourself unprepared for an aggressive dog, try to de-escalate the situation if possible. Stand still – Running away fuels the pursuit instinct. If necessary, put a large object between you and the dog. Avert your gaze and stand sideways, not facing or with your back to him. standstill Don’t yell or wave your arms. Behave as unobtrusively as possible — there’s a good chance the dog will lose interest. If none of this helps and the dog is determined to bite, hold out a substitute object, such as a handbag.