- Dogs show aggression in a number of different ways, forming a scale of progressively extreme behaviors. Humans tend to think aggression is a problem only when a dog bites, whereas this is part of a sequence of aggressive behavior. The other actions are:
1. Rigid body
2. Threatening bark
3. A lunge forward but no contact
4. Mouthing without force
5. The dog “punches” with its nose
6. A growl
7. Displaying teeth
8. Growl and displaying teeth at the same time
9. A snap
10. A small nip that leaves no blemish
11. A bite that breaks the skin
12. A bite that causes a bruise
13. A bite that leaves puncture wounds
14. Several bites, one after the other
15. A bite and shake
- The important first step toward stopping a dog from exhibiting aggressive behavior is to determine what is causing the dog to act this way. There are many different causes of aggression, and each needs to be approached slightly differently so as not to make the dog worse. The reasons include being protective, fearful, predatory, pain-induced, possessive and territorial. It is also important to consider who was the victim of the aggression, where and when it happened, what happened before the behavior and what stopped it.
- Take an aggressive dog to the veterinarian. If a previously friendly dog suddenly becomes aggressive, it could well be because of an infection or something else that is causing the dog to be in pain. A full physical examination will reveal any medical issues that may be affecting the behavior of the dog. If nothing comes of this, the next step is to seek help from a dog behaviorist or trainer.
- Aggression can be so hard to diagnose and treat that a well-meaning owner can make the problem worse. A professional dog behaviorist will be able to develop an action plan suited to the dog's temperament and your lifestyle. He will help you execute the plan, observe the development of the dog and make adjustments as necessary. He also is the best person to decide whether the dog poses too high a risk to its owners or is so unhappy that destroying it may be the best option.