Canine aggression

What is dog aggression?

Aggression is a normal part of the way animals behave. Often people only consider aggressive behaviour in dogs to be a problem when it reaches 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 through to inflicting serious injury.

Aggression is the outward expression of an emotion and can be used to communicate various intentions. 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 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 aren't 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.


For answers to the most common FAQ's about dog aggression see: Canine aggression FAQs (PDF 258 KB)

The information within these FAQs has been provided by David Ryan, a Clinical Animal Behaviourist certified by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. The advice offered in these FAQs is recognised by the ASAB Accreditation Committee as reflecting good practice by those in the field of clinical behaviour in companion animals. 

The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) is the leading professional society in the UK for the study of animal behaviour. Certification, which is administered by the ASAB Accreditation Committee, is the means by which ASAB demonstrates to the public and to other professions, that certain individuals meet the educational, experiential and ethical standards required by the Society of a professional clinical animal behaviourist.

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.

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