IS MY DOG AGGRESSIVE?

Is my dog aggressive or is he normal?

Is my dog aggressive or is he normal?

Is my dog aggressive?

All dogs have the capability to be aggressive.  Probably what you really want to know is at what stage do you have a problem. Read the information below and then take the quiz at the bottom the page to see if your dog is at risk.

First it is important to know that dog aggression is often a normal behaviour[1]. Surprisingly, abnormal canine behaviour is often over-diagnosed.[2] All dogs have the potential to behave aggressively or show aggressive signalling.  Aggressive signalling such as growling, snapping, etc. often occurs in contexts where aggressive behaviour may be considered appropriate.

For example, any situation where a dog is threatened is certainly an occasion where a dog might behave aggressively.  A situation where a dog is trapped and cannot escape something that is frightening or irritating may also be normal behaviour.  However we would hope that the aggression is controlled and doesn’t actually cause harm. However, even in cases where your dog is not behaving appropriately, we shouldn’t look at aggressive behaviour as being nasty or wrong.  Dogs always have a reason for acting the way they do.

However, just because your dog is not considered to be abnormal, doesn’t mean a situation can’t develop.  Normal dogs are often put into situations they can’t handle and this can cause a problem to develop.

When is dog aggression a problem?

When aggression starts to interfere with the relationship between the pet and the owner, other people, or other animals, it becomes a problem. When dogs perceive a threat when there clearly is none, or the dog is clearly over-reacting, he or she is not behaving normally. Often when this happens, most dogs with behavior problems are not just misbehaving: they are not normal. To treat them as normal, but misbehaving and to expect a normal response to corrections can be dangerous.[3] Read more on the right treatment methods.

Does your dog have an aggression problem? Take the quiz below:

Select the most appropriate answers from the 9 questions.

Question:

The aggression your dog has been showing seems to have gotten worse over time. What started out as lunging or growling has progressed.  Your dog seems more upset, louder, or faster to act.  Or your dog seems to be getting aggressive in more situations.

 
 
 

Question:

Your dog’s response seems to be extreme given what was going on at the time.

 
 
 

Question:

Your dog behaved aggressively when there was no threat or challenge to him or her.

 
 
 

Question:

Your dog behaves aggressively rather than to resolve any conflict.  For example, a dog who continues to behave aggressively to a dog that is clearly submitting, may not be trying to resolve the conflict.  A dog who bites rather than growls to get someone to back off may be trying to cause harm (assuming that the growl would have been effective at causing the person to back off).

 
 
 

Question:

You feel there is a possibility that your dog will hurt the person or animal that your dog is being aggressive towards (or your dog has already hurt another person or dog).

 
 
 

Question:

You feel frightened or anxious about your dog’s behaviour.

 
 
 

Question:

Your dog doesn’t give any warning signs before they behave aggressively.

 
 
 

Question:

The bite(s) your dog caused resulted in puncture(s) or bleeding.
(Select “False” if your dog did not bite.)

 
 
 

Question:

Your dog shows other behaviour problems. This could be anything such as separation anxiety, hot spots, obsessive compulsive tendencies, excessive drinking, licking or any other unusual behaviour habits.

 
 
 


References

[1]Canine Aggression: Neurobiology, Behavior and Management, Ilana R. Reisner, DVM, Phd, DACVB, Originally appeared on : http://www.vetshow.com/friskies/cani.htm
[2]Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr 1991 Jan;98:15-9 [Behavior disorders on Dogs — study of their classification] [Article in German] Feddersen-Petersen D. Institut fur Haustierkunde, Universität Kiel
[3] Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, Karen L. Overall, M.A., V.M.D., Ph.D. Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behavior, Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Pennsylvania, Mosby, Inc. 1997