Dogs can exhibit behavior changes such as aggression stemming from a secondary emotion such as fear, genetic predispositions, or even undiagnosed health issues. While it is common for a dog to have the occasional aggressive episode, repeated aggressive behavior can make dog ownership difficult and dangerous. 

Understanding what is causing this undesirable behavior is the cornerstone of figuring out how to correct it. This guide walks you through some of the most common causes of aggression in dogs.

Other Emotions

Like humans, dogs experience a wide range of emotions daily. Sometimes these emotions can make them feel content, but sometimes these emotions cause them to act out. Some of these emotions that could lead to aggressive responses include:

  • Boredom: Without enough mental stimulation, some dogs finally release all this built-up emotion through aggressive outbursts. Sometimes a few extra walks, toys, or even training classes can help redirect this energy. 
  • Anxiety: Anxiety is extra scary for dogs because we can’t explain to them what caused a scary sound or why a worker is in the house for the week. Dogs feeling especially anxious might feel like they need to defend themselves, which can lead to aggression. 
  • Stress: Whether you’re getting ready for a move or are adopting a new pet, periods of extreme stress can cause your dog to become aggressive. Without some outside help, it can be hard for owners to determine the source of stress.

Genetic Predisposition

Certain breeds are more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors, but just because they have this biological predisposition does not mean they will automatically be aggressive. Dogs with this genetic predisposition still need external factors to activate their aggressive tendencies. If they are triggered by anxiety or the need to protect their territory, they might explode. 

Underlying Health Issues

If your dog isn’t feeling well, he or she might be more likely to become aggressive. When a dog is in pain, their survival instincts can kick in. While trying to defend themselves, this could lead to aggression. Additionally, certain neurological issues can alter a dog’s personality. These issues could be the result of a health problem like a brain tumor or even an injury. Dogs with rabies will also display aggressive tendencies. If a health issue is the cause of your dog’s aggression, it’s essential to work closely with your veterinarian. 

Help for Aggression in Dogs

If your dog is having trouble with repeated aggression, there are resources that can help. A veterinary behavior consultation can help you determine the physical or psychological factors contributing to this behavior. Professional behaviorists use various tools to help your dog get the assistance he or she needs. Some of these solutions include:

  • Behavior modification therapy
  • Counter-conditioning
  • Desensitization
  • Environmental modification
  • Positive reinforcement techniques
  • Owner education

The behavioral experts at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services can help you find a humane solution for dogs with behavioral issues like aggression. Our team works hard to ensure that your dog feels comfortable and safe when working with us to provide an environment conducive to positive behavioral changes. To learn more about our services or to request an appointment for your dog, please call (248) 334-6877.