Educational Articles

Behavior

  • Conflict-induced aggression is a term that recently has been used to describe what was previously known as dominance motivated aggression, a term that is overused and may be an inaccurate diagnosis for why the dog is behaving aggressively toward family members.

  • If your dog has threatened or displayed any signs of aggression, then the problem is likely to continue until appropriate steps can be taken to identify the cause and modify the pet’s behavior. Therefore, a necessary first step is prevention and avoidance of further incidents. Not only is this essential to ensure safety, but each aggressive display may actually serve to increase the chances that the aggressive behavior will continue.

  • Dogs are social animals whose evolutionary history makes them willing and able to live in groups. Group living enabled the dog's ancestors, wolves, to work together to obtain food, raise their young and defend their territory. It would be counter-productive for members of a group to fight with each other and risk injury.

  • Aggression between household dogs can be difficult to treat. You will need to identify the situations in which aggression arises and ensure that you are not encouraging a more subordinate dog to challenge the more confident dog. Similarly, you would not want to encourage the dog that is less interested in a resource to challenge the one with a higher motivation to hold on to that resource.

  • Aggression between unfamiliar dogs can be due to fear, hierarchal competition, possessive behavior or protective behavior over territory or owner. Aggression between dogs can result in injury to dogs and/or to the people trying to separate them.

  • Prevention starts with puppy training and socialization. Early and frequent association with other dogs will enable your pet to learn proper interactions and reactions to other dogs. This can be very helpful in prevention of aggression to other dogs. Socialization must occur with other dogs that are calm and able to communicate well with other dogs, and should progress to a variety of shapes, sizes and personalities of dogs.

  • Aggression is the most serious and dangerous behavior problem that dog owners may need to face. Since there are many different types of aggression, making a diagnosis, determining the prognosis (the chances of safe and effective correction) and developing an appropriate treatment plan are usually best handled with the help of a veterinary or applied animal behaviorist.

  • There are multiple reasons that a dog may exhibit aggression toward family members. The most common causes include conflict aggression, fear-based or defensive aggression, possessive aggression, food guarding aggression and redirected aggression. Fear-based, possessive and redirected aggressions are discussed in other handouts in this series.

  • For many dogs, jumping up on people is part of their greeting routine. Often, owners have tried to discourage this behavior using methods such as squeezing the front feet, stepping on the dog’s toes, or kneeing the dog in the chest.

  • Door charging and uncontrollable excitement when visitors arrive is extremely disconcerting and potentially dangerous. Without proper control of your dog he could charge out the door and into the street where he might get injured.

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The telephone number at the Emergency Veterinary Clinic is 905-495-9907.