Are Dogs Naturally Aggressive?
It’s a debate that rages on: are man’s best friends misunderstood animals, unfairly labelled
as belligerent beasts, or do these canines let their naturally aggressive temperament take
over? In other words, are dogs naturally aggressive?
Which Behaviours Indicate Aggression?
There are a variety of behaviours that aggression covers and, equally, many reasons for
aggressive behaviour. Contrary to popular belief, aggression isn’t always caused by the
desire to hurt someone or something; in many cases, aggression can be caused by fear,
stress or frustration.
Other causes of hostility may lie in a traumatic experience, lack of training and bad breeding
practices or little to no socialisation at a young age.
As with humans, it can come down to the nature vs nurture debate: there’s no concrete
evidence that dogs have an aggressive predisposition or for whether external factors and
bad dog owners cause some to be more aggressive than other pets.
Certain signs indicate whether a particular dog has some aggressive characteristics, or is
about to behave aggressively; spot them early enough and you may be able to stop an
Signs to Look out For
Contrary to what’s portrayed in the media, biting is not the only form of aggressive
behaviour that should be looked out for; it’s important that you’re aware of what’s normal
for your dog. Dogs can show aggression in a variety of ways, so what do you look out for?
Is your dog being aggressive or just showing a lot of personality?
Much like in humans, aggression can be brought on by a range of emotions.
If you suspect your dog is aggressive, there are ways to rectify their behaviour in a
controlled and safe manner, without having to punish them.
What to Do If You Have an Aggressive Dog
Aggression is an instinctive reaction – one that, like in most humans, is hard to change.
However, all is not lost, and there are ways you can work on aggression and look at
investing more time in training so your dog can learn what’s right and wrong, much like with
a naughty toddler.
Punishing the dog into submission is not the answer. This can release a fight-or- flight
response and the dog can either respond more aggressively or begin to feel fearful, which is
unnatural for most canines.
>Initially, try to ascertain if there are any recurring circumstances in which the dog’s
aggression occurs, then stop anything that contributes to the recurring negative patterns.
But if there doesn’t seem to be a correlation, take a visit to your veterinarian to ensure that
there are no physical conditions that could be causing your canine to be acting in this way.
Much like humans, our dogs can simply become grouchy when irritated or poorly.
If the vet can rule out any physical reason why your dog may be acting up, you should next
visit a behaviourist. The behaviourist can work with your dog to teach them acceptable ways
of acting. How long this will take depends on your dog, but patience will be a virtue.
No matter how serious the aggressive behaviour gets, improvements can always be made
through correct management, whether that means working with a behaviourist or veterinary
or training your dog yourself.
Always remember that it’s extremely difficult to generalise a dog’s temperament based
solely on their breed. It’s important to treat each aggressive dog on a case-by- case basis as
it’s so hard to identify the dominant factor in why dogs become aggressive.