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Aggressive or Vicious Dogs
  • What to do/Not to do
  • Types of Aggression
  • A dog's bark may be worse than his bite, but most of us would rather not find out one way or the other. Growling, baring teeth, snarling, snapping, and biting are all aggressive behaviors—but dog aggression includes any behavior meant to intimidate or harm a person or another animal. Although these messages are among the handful of communication tools available to dogs, they're generally unacceptable to humans. Because humans and dogs have different communication systems, misunderstandings can occur between the two species.

    But from a dog's perspective, there's always a reason for aggressive behavior. A person may intend to be friendly, but a dog may perceive that person's behavior as threatening or intimidating. Dogs aren't being schizophrenic, psychotic, crazy, or necessarily "vicious" when displaying aggressive behavior.

    Because aggression is so complex, and because the potential consequences are so serious, we recommend that you get professional in-home help from an animal behavior specialist if your dog is displaying aggressive behavior.


    Individual Variation

    The likelihood of a dog to show aggressive behavior in any particular situation varies markedly from dog to dog. Some dogs tend to respond aggressively with very little stimulation. Others may be subjected to all kinds of threatening stimuli and events and yet never attempt to bite.

    The difference in the threshold prompting aggressive behavior is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. If this threshold is low, a dog will be more likely to bite. Raising the threshold makes a dog less likely to respond aggressively. This threshold can be raised using behavior modification techniques, but the potential for change is influenced by a dog's gender, age, breed, general temperament, and the way in which the behavior modification techniques are chosen and implemented.

    Because working with aggressive dogs can be potentially dangerous, behavior modification techniques should only be attempted by, or under the guidance of, an experienced animal behavior professional who understands animal learning theory and behavior.