Do I have an
Why is He?
Author, Noelle Dunn for Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
Did your dog hurt another dog? Nip at you? Bite hard enough to draw blood? Growl menacingly at you as you played tug-of-war?
I’ve lived with and raised dogs my entire life, and I can’t tell you how many other dog owners I’ve run into that have misdiagnosed their dog as being aggressive. It’s understandable why. Many owners completely forget their furry canine companions are animals, that they don’t actually understand a word you say unless properly trained or that they have natural instincts and their own method of communication.
Before we talk about the possible causes of aggression, are you sure your dog is acting aggressive? It can be easy to mistake a dog’s play for aggression. They’ll growl, put their mouths around your arm or another dog’s neck and jump all over everyone and everything. It’s easy to tell when some dogs are just playing around, while others may seem quite aggressive even though they don’t mean to be.
Believe it or not, dogs actually signal when they’re just playing around. Most will do a bow before initiating play, lowering their head with both front paws stretch out and their rear end up in the air – like the downward facing dog yoga pose, only looking ahead instead of down. Some dogs do this multiple times, pouncing to and fro as if looking for an opening to attack, while others may just do it once or ever so slightly before charging after their play target.
When dogs are at play their body language is loose and relaxed, but that doesn’t mean misunderstandings can happen with dogs just like with humans. An outgoing, playful dog can elicit a yelp or other signs of distress when it tries to play with a dog that doesn’t respond in kind. Most dogs will back off when this happens, getting the “stop playing” message – and again, this isn’t cause for concern for aggression.
When Is a Dog Being Aggressive?
The following are signs of direct aggression:
- Rigid, withdrawn posture
- Biting hard enough to draw blood with their canines
- Prolonged direct eye contact without movement
- Punching with their muzzle
If you see these behaviors, something is wrong. Dogs look very calculating when they’re being aggressive, not the bouncy, loose attitude they exhibit when they’re playing.
Generally when a dog is being aggressive, it’s incredibly clear to all involved. Dogs don’t try to hide that they’re mad or upset.
Why Is My Dog Aggressive?
Some dogs are just naturally more aggressive than others – no, I’m not talking about various breeds; I’m talking about individual animals. That being said, usually dogs become aggressive when they haven’t been raised properly by their owners.
Dogs that aren’t properly socialized are more likely to be aggressive. As they develop, dogs need to be introduced to other dogs and people in order to naturally develop social skills. Keeping your dog locked up and away from the world is one of the worst things you can do to him/her.
Aggression can also be a sign of medical issues. The only way dogs can be ornery is through aggressive means, and wouldn’t you be upset if people were messing with you when you had a serious medical condition or were just not generally feeling well?
If your normally happy-go-lucky dog is suddenly acting abnormally aggressive, take him/her to the vet immediately. It’s likely a symptom of a deeper issue, and if it is then your dog will go back to normal once he/she feels better. Treat and raise your dog right, remember your furry friend is still an animal after all, and everything will be alright.
Hope we have shed some light on your dog’s behavior.
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Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
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