dog behind fence

Non-genetic Reasons Dogs Can Become Aggressive

Aggressive behavior is one of the top reasons dogs wind up in animal shelters and eventually get euthanized. However, while some can be prone to such behavior, it always has a root cause.

Fortunately, with patience and persistence, you can help correct this behavior through dog behavior modification training. Digging deeper into the reasons can also ensure that you know where to start.

1. Environment

There’s no denying that genetics can play a big role in whether a dog will become aggressive, but it’s not the only factor. Several environmental factors like poor socialization and abuse can also contribute to an aggressive dog even if they weren’t present from birth.

For example, if your dog is trying to bite you during play, it’s probably because he wasn’t properly socialized at a young age. If your dog becomes aggressive when he feels threatened, it probably has to do with the abuse he endured on the streets before coming into your care.

While some breeds are more prone to become aggressive than others (like pit bulls), remember that genetics is not always destiny. With that being said, if your dog is of one of the strong-willed breeds, proceed with extra caution and perhaps consider getting professional help from a qualified trainer.

2. Health Problems

Dogs that suffer from certain health conditions are also more likely to be aggressive (idiopathic epilepsy and hip dysplasia, for example). This is especially true if the aggression is sudden and feels out of character of the dog. This change in behavior can be a strong sign that the pet is in pain.

If your dog starts growling when you want to touch it, take the time to examine the pet’s health thoroughly. To rule out infection, have your pup checked from nose to tail for issues such as fleas, ticks, and ear mites. These can all cause a variety of symptoms, including irritability.

Also, the dog might develop a sore paw after running around too much on pavement or another hard surface, so check under the feet for signs of wear and tear. Keep an eye on your dog’s weight and see to it that it gets regular checkups.

3. Dominance

The pack mentality is a complex relationship these canines can exhibit among their species. Often, they band together not only for socialization but also for protection.

Thus, some dogs can become aggressive when their pack position is threatened. It can be as simple as growling, barking unceasingly, or even fighting another dominant dog in the park.

Pack dogs can also become territorial even with human strangers. Dogs that protect their territory (i.e., the house, yard) will bark or even bite if someone comes near.

naughty Pug eating shoe on tiled floor

4. Fear

If your dog is afraid of something (i.e., new people, loud noises), it might try to protect itself by becoming aggressive. But where does this fear come from?

Often, this emotion appears when the dog has experienced trauma or abuse for a while. They might have been physically hurt or abandoned by their previous owners, thrown into an unknown place or situation like animal shelters, or met other aggressive dogs that might have tried to hurt them.

5. Boredom

If home alone too long without frequent exercise and/or enrichment, your dog could easily become bored and, as a result, turn to destructive or otherwise problematic behaviors. In fact, many dogs will develop anxiety if left alone for a while.

To help release their pent-up energy, consider walking the dog even for 30 minutes or less a day. This activity can also help keep them in shape and reduce the risks of chronic conditions such as obesity.

If your dog cannot go out for whatever reason, create a play space for your pet while you’re out. Provide it with chew toys and balls. If you can afford it and have enough space, giving it a companion can also be a lovely way to end its boredom.

6. Curiosity

Sometimes people associate aggression with chewing everything from shoes to electrical wires. Why do dogs love to chew on things anyway? There are a couple of reasons:

  • The dogs are bored.
  • The puppies are still exploring their surroundings.
  • Dogs, which have sensitive noses, actually like the smell of humans. They might bite on things with a human scent like shoes.

7. Resource Guarding

If your pup is a picky eater or a canine goodie-two-shoes, then it might guard resources (i.e., food, toys, people), which can result in aggression towards other dogs and/or humans.

While resource guarding is common in many dogs, you should never tolerate it since it could lead to problems down the line, like biting someone’s hand when they reach for the dog’s food bowl.

Aggressive behavior in dogs is a serious issue but one that can be resolved with the right training. If you’re wondering how to get started or what might have led your dog down this path, don’t worry, many people are willing to help.



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