Understanding aggressive behavior in dogs

Aggressive behavior in pets is often misunderstood. As much as we want all of our friends to be cuddly with our pets, it can be difficult, especially if our pets are exhibiting aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, this is also the common reason why most owners have come to a decision to rehome or surrender their dogs assuming that they are out of control. 

Aggression and hostility are not meant to hurt people. Your dog can suddenly become aggressive when they are sick, scared, possessive, frustrated, or want to display its dominance. Help your canine babies by learning more and understanding the true cause of aggression in dogs. 

Aggressive behavior in dogs

Aggressive action can be just a simple form of communication for dogs, these signs include staring, barking, or growling. Aggression in dogs can show up in stiff body posture, ears pinned back, baring teeth, snarling, or bites. Dogs will only resort to aggression when they feel like it is the only option they can choose to get rid of the threat. 

What causes aggression in dogs? 

The main cause behind aggression can stem from lack of training and socialization, but there are also common causes below: 

Illness or pain

Dogs can start to growl or be aggressive suddenly if they are experiencing discomfort or pain. If dogs have an internal injury or bone fractures, they are likely to show an aggressive action when pawrents hug or touch them. 

If an injury doesn’t seem to be found in your dog, some medical conditions can also be the cause of aggression in dogs. However, if you suspect that pain or sickness might be the reason, DO NOT try providing your dog any medical treatment, but always make sure to CHECK with your vet first. 


This is usually the main culprit for aggressive behavior. This is their defense mechanism to protect themselves from danger. Especially for dogs who have been abused or neglected before, are more likely to display aggressive behaviors when they see a raising hand above their heads – as if the hand means to hurt them. 

Possessiveness or resource guarding

It’s in their natural instinct to guard what they believe are valuable – food, toys, sleeping areas, or even their owners. You might have noticed their growls when someone or another animal tries to get too close to their toys, food, or bed. Especially when a stranger tries to enter your home, an aggressive dog is likely to bite or bark to protect their territory. 


You can see this type of aggression most occurs in dogs that get tied up, restrained, or chained up. The longer the dogs are restrained, the more frustrated they will be. If their frustration keeps piling up, dogs will bark and growl more, which will eventually lead to them lashing out. 

Showing dominance

Displaying aggressive behavior to show dominance is not very common and it should be NOTED that dominance is not from their personality trait but more of a behavior. In this case, dogs usually bark, bite, or snap when they want to feel like they are in charge and when being challenged by other animals. 

At the end of the day, our furry friends are just like us. As products of their surroundings, their past might have hurt them so they lost trust in humans or strangers. It’s important to understand this and be patient with friends that are exhibiting aggressive behavior. 

When you see your dog start to show signs of aggression, it is because they want to get rid of the threat and frustration, not because they want to hurt you. Our behavior sometimes can be misinterpreted and seen as an attempt to harm them, which will trigger aggressive behaviors that they use just to protect themselves.

A simple gesture of holding out a hand over a dog’s head can make them feel threatened or restrained. Contact your vet or dog trainer immediately for help if you start to notice any signs of aggression in dogs. 

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