Aggression is a natural behavior in canids, especially in wild animals, but is generally unnecessary and even dangerous in domesticated dogs. Unfortunately, most dog owners don’t recognize the early signs of aggression. In fact, most professional dog trainers don’t get hired on until the aggression is extreme and the dog has bitten someone already. But there are ways to prevent your dog’s aggression from escalating and these tips will help you identify early indicators.
#1 – Growling
Growling developed as a warning signal to keep other animals away. A growl is a dog’s way of letting you know it’s going to bite. This is a defense mechanism, and by growling, dogs generally hope that the threat will go away. Dogs might growl in various scenarios, but none are acceptable for the family pet. If your dog is growling at you when you’re trying to approach him, it’s a good idea to take a long look at why. Your dog might be frightened and doesn’t want to be touched, or perhaps he’s guarding his favorite toy or treat from you, someone else, or another dog. Either way, dogs growling at anybody need to be assessed by a professional trainer.
#2 – Nipping & Snapping
Dogs don’t often go in for a full bite or attack without any warning signs, and growling is one of those signs. Nipping and snapping are generally the next step in the aggression progression. Dogs might lightly nip or even snap at the air without making contact as a threat. As with the growling, they are simply trying to warn others to stay away and leave them alone. Even if your dog doesn’t make contact or break skin with a snap, you want to make sure this behavior never happens again. These bites do escalate and can become very serious injuries.
#3 – Biting
Biting isn’t necessarily an early sign of aggression, but it is definitely a sign that you need to hire a professional trainer. Bites can vary from the above-mentioned snapping to very serious bites. Even if your dog just grabs someone’s clothing and tugs a little bit before letting go, you want to count that as a bite. Any attempt or instance of teeth meeting skin should be considered a bite and taken very seriously. Bites will escalate, and you will go from a scratch to needed sutures very quickly if the aggression is not addressed.
The important part in managing aggression is to take it very seriously. Even if your dog is growling, you want to be sure that it isn’t related to any aggressive behavior. Aggression escalates almost 100% of the time, and what starts as a slight growl can put somebody in the emergency room before you know it. Not only is this bad for the victim, it’s bad for you and your dog. Aggressive dogs are not treated well by the public and many are euthanized because their owner has waited too long to rehabilitate them. So if you notice any of these signs in your dog, please seek the help of a professional trainer as soon as possible. It’s the best for you and your pup!