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Top Tips for Understanding Aggression in Dogs

To the unsuspecting observer, dog aggression seems synonymous with confidence, brashness, and dominance. On the contrary, it’s often a fearful dog that behaves aggressively.


Aggression in dogs is a behavioral trait that evokes fear and anxiety in pet parents. Indeed, aggressive dogs are cause for concern because they can be unpredictable. Aggression is typically displayed towards strangers and other dogs. Many pet owners with hostile dogs get terribly distraught about their animals to the point where they avoid taking them out in public among people and other dogs. Safety and security are primary concerns.

Many folks mistakenly believe that aggressive dogs are trying to assert dominance, to stamp their authority around people and other animals. Quite the contrary. Aggressive-appearing dogs are more likely to be fearful, with low self-esteem, perhaps suffering from an injury or inflammation. Often what appears to be one thing is quite simply the manifestation of another thing. Make no mistake about it: aggression is real.

Anybody who encounters an aggressive dog isn’t likely to ruminate about the underlying causes of the canine’s aggression. Most people will make an abrupt detour away from the aggressive dogs for fear of being attacked. For illustrative purposes, it’s important to highlight the typical behaviors of a visibly aggressive dog, notably:

  • Rigid and menacing posture
  • Curled lips, baring teeth, with snarling and growling
  • Locked eye contact, dominant bullying behavior, and biting

It’s ugly, no doubt about it. Dealing with aggressive dogs can be challenging and exhausting. All types of treatments are suggested, including dog training, leash control, behavioral therapy, antidepressants/antianxiety medication, and alternative treatment regimens such as CBD oils and treats. The purpose of treatment is to relieve the stress, anxiety, and aggression the dog is feeling.

Despite our best intentions, certain dogs are simply angry, intolerant, or aggressive towards other dogs. However, even in extreme cases, palliative measures can greatly assist. Fortunately, there are online communities for pet parents with aggressive dogs to turn to. These include the Tempo & Tales Pet Parents Community forum where plenty of questions related to worrisome behavior are posted. It’s often the pet parents who need the help just as much the pets. 

Different Types of Aggression in Dogs

Aggression is a normal characteristic at times. When a person or an animal feels threatened, it may act aggressively to caution intruders, outsiders, or invaders to stay away. Female dogs protect their puppies, and male dogs protect their families. Sometimes dogs will act aggressively when they are protecting their toys, their treats, their food, or their owners. Protective aggression is for family members, possessive aggression is for possessions. Territorial aggression refers to a dog’s domain. While we may not agree with the animal’s behavior, we can certainly understand why the pet is behaving a certain way.

Of course, many unwanted aggressions are difficult to deal with. These include dogs that are going through sexual maturity. During the mating season when dogs are in heat, aggression can be pronounced. Certain vets may recommend having females spayed and males neutered. The jury is out on whether these invasive surgical procedures are warranted, and if they have the desired effects. Some pet parents believe that getting a dog fixed will change behavior, while others don’t. The scientific data does not support the notion of a calmer animal after getting fixed.  

There are also psychological elements at play when dogs try to assert their dominance in a social hierarchy in the home. This is known as social aggression. Fear-based aggression often rears its head when an animal feels threatened, trapped, or unable to move freely. Since dogs can’t speak for themselves, they behave in a certain way that lets us know how they are feeling. The clearest such indicator of that is aggressive behavior. It’s our cue as pet parents to know that something is amiss. 

Now that we know a little more about aggression, and its fear-based origins, it’s less about a dog trying to assert itself and more about the dog trying to avoid a stressful situation. Most dogs with fear-based aggression will try to slink away from whatever it is that is stressing them. All sorts of physiological changes present including an increased pulse, heavy breathing, and loss of bladder/bowel control. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between fear aggression and aggressive aggression. But look at the dog’s tail. If the tale is pointing down between the dog’s legs, he is scared. The dog will usually slink away, avoid eye contact and have his ears flat.

There is no easy solution to treating aggressive dogs, regardless of the underlying cause. A complete workup at your vet is a good place to start. Meds might be required to keep the dog calm during stressful times, as needed. We know that there is no cure for aggression; there are only ways to reduce it. Tinctures such as CBD oil and treats have shown efficacy in this regard. It’s always best to go with a tried and trusted provider of these types of products to ensure that your dog gets the safest, natural ingredients with limited or no noticeable side effects.

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