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Aggression in dogs: forms and reasons


If the dog shows aggression, owners often shy away. You think your pet is angry with you - aggression shows that your four-legged friend feels uncomfortable. Read here how to correctly interpret his behavior. An aggressive dog is not inherently malignant - Shutterstock / Art_man

Aggression in dogs is frightening to people and is often interpreted as malignancy. However, when a dog bares its teeth or threatens another dog, it's a normal part of social interaction - and shows that the other animal shouldn't get too close. It is therefore important to be able to interpret the signs correctly and not simply to scold the dog for his behavior.

Different forms of aggression in dogs

Compared to humans, dogs act much more originally and affect-controlled. If they show aggression, it does not necessarily mean that they want to hurt or even kill their counterpart. The different shapes make it clear what the reason behind the behavior of the animal could be. Firstly, there is self-defense. If a dog feels restricted in its freedom or finds the proximity of a member of its species uncomfortable, it tries to secure its physical well-being with aggressive behavior. The situation is similar with parental protection aggression, in which a protégé - puppy or family member - is to be protected from enemies.

The most common form of dog aggression is competition aggression. For example, if a four-legged friend has built a large bond with an object, such as a toy, he wants it to belong only to him. If it is used or even stolen by another animal, it wants to defend its own belongings - and this manifests itself in aggressive behavior. But also to secure their own status in the pack or to differentiate themselves from other same-sex conspecifics, dogs sometimes use their teeth or bark.

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Genes or education? Reasons for aggressive behavior

In some dogs, however, the inhibition threshold for aggression is lower than in others. This applies, for example, to certain hunting dog breeds, since some aggressive behavior is part of the breed norm and is desirable. These dogs, whose pedigree is considered to be particularly active and eager to hunt, are more likely to react aggressively than traditional family dogs if they are appropriately trained and stimulated.

Aggressive behavior is essentially based on learning experiences. The animals learn to live together peacefully, especially when dealing with fellow species. Especially in the first weeks and months of life, dogs socialize each other, while puppies learn a lot from their mother. They want to get out of situations unscathed. Even though playful biting and scuffling are the order of the day, dogs learn alternative behaviors to solve conflicts without a fight.

Aggression as a symptom of illness

But mental or physical factors can also play a role if otherwise peaceful dogs suddenly become aggressive. For example, if the four-legged friend suffers from a hormonal malfunction, injury, fear or stress, this increases the willingness to aggression. He realizes that he is more vulnerable than usual and wants to defend himself. If you notice a change in the behavior of your fur friend, talk to your veterinarian about it to look for possible reasons.


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