What is dog aggression?
Aggression is a normal part of the way all animals behave. Often people only consider aggressive behaviour in a dog to be a problem when it reaches the extremes of biting, but it can include lesser degrees, such as “grumbling”, growling, snarling, teeth baring and snapping at the air without making contact. Bites too can vary from light touches with the teeth right through to inflicting serious injury.
Aggression is the outward expression of an emotion and can be used to communicate various intentions by the dog. Rather than being something that switches on and off suddenly, aggression is part of a range of behaviours that dogs have available to them to deal with life’s everyday challenges. Many of these behaviours are passive and it is only when the dog changes from trying to avoid a situation, through things like moving away or showing that they are not happy, to actively trying to manage the situation, that we term it “aggression”. When a dog has to cope with a particular feature of its life it has a number of options available to it. Aggression is simply a part of some of those options.
- Why are dogs aggressive?
- Are some dogs naturally aggressive?
- Are some breeds of dog more aggressive than others?
- What are the signs of aggressive behaviour?
- My dog is aggressive, what should I do?
- Should I tell my dog off when it is aggressive?
- Are male dogs more aggressive than female dogs?
- Will neutering my dog make it less aggressive?
- Will playing rough games with my dog make it aggressive?
- My dog is aggressive and I’ve been told to assert my dominance over it. Should I do this?
- I have a new puppy. What should I do to prevent it from becoming aggressive?
- I have a new child in the family/on the way. Will my dog become aggressive?
- If a dog shows signs of aggression towards me, what should I do?
- Is it possible to predict if a dog will be aggressive in the future?
- How do I know if a dog is about to bite?
- What causes a dog to attack?
- What should I do if a dog attacks me?
- How can dog attacks be avoided? (See also FAQ Why do dogs bite children?)
- Why do dogs bite children?
- If a dog bites a person or another animal, should it be put to sleep?
- How will a professional pet behaviour counsellor stop my dog being aggressive?
- Where to go for help
For answers to the FAQ's as listed above please see:
Canine aggression FAQs (PDF 258 KB)
The information within these FAQs has been provided by David Ryan, Chairman of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC). The advice offered in these FAQs is recognised by the ASAB Accreditation Committee as reflecting what is accepted as good practise by those working in the field of clinical behaviour in companion animals.
The APBC, founded in 1989, is an international network of experienced and qualified pet behaviour counsellors who work on referral from veterinary surgeons to treat behaviour problems in dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses and other pets. APBC members are able to offer the time and expertise necessary to investigate the causes of unwanted behaviour in pets, and outline practical treatment plans that are suitable for their clients' circumstances.
The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) is the leading professional society in the United Kingdom for the study of animal behaviour. The Society recognises that the general public and others seek professional advice about the behavioural problems of animals. Certification, which is administered by the ASAB Accreditation Committee, is the means by which ASAB demonstrates to the public and to other professions, such as veterinarians, that certain individuals meet the educational, experiential and ethical standards required by the Society of a professional clinical animal behaviourist.