Types of Aggression in Dogs

There are several types of aggression in dogs.  Some are easier to understand and treat than others.  It is important to note that if your dog is aggressive, you need to consult a veterinarian or a dog trainer for help.  Do not attempt to work through the aggression by yourself without an expert guiding you.  Aggressive dogs can injure a human severely and must be dealt with cautiously.

There are four common types of aggression in dogs:  maternal aggression, food aggression, fear aggression, and dominance aggression.  Of the four, maternal aggression is the most easily understood and dealt with.  Some bitches become very aggressive when humans, especially unknown humans, try to handle their puppies.  Generally, it is best to limit the handling of the puppies to people the bitch knows and trusts.  Sometimes maternal aggression extends to the children of the household, with the bitch biting anyone she perceives as a threat to the humans in her family.

Food aggression can become a major problem is there are multiple dogs in the household, small children, or other situations where someone might attempt to take the food away from the dog.  While dogs should be trained from puppyhood that the human can take their food away, dogs that are food aggressive should be feed away from other dogs or children.

Fear aggression is a very common cause of dog bites.  The dog is fearful of a situation or feels trapped, so bites to escape the situation.  This is the type of bite you might receive if you try to haul a fearful dog out from behind a piece of furniture.  The treatment for fear aggression is to increase the self confidence of the dog until it is not afraid all the time.  Dog obedience lessons are crucial to this process.  You should pick a trainer that will use positive reinforcement to build the dog up.  Never use a trainer that uses force or punishment to deal with a fearful dog.

Dominance aggression is the most dangerous type of aggression and the hardest to deal with.  The dog believes he is the head of the pack and can do what he wants.  If a human tries to tell him what to do, or does not obey him, the dog will bite.  This type of dog is put on a  “no free lunch” training regimen.  This means that before the dog gets food, water, access to the outside, access to the inside, or walks, he must perform some act of obedience.  For example, the dog must sit and remain sitting while his food is put on the floor, and can only eat it when given a command to do so.  It is important to understand that these dogs are dangerous and can only be rehabilitated by a skilled trainer.

Any dog will bite given the right circumstances.  However, some dogs bite when it is not reasonable, from our perspective, to do so.  These dogs must be worked with by a skilled trainer who can help to rehabilitate the dog so no one else is injured.