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3 Reasons Dogs Get Aggressive (And What You Can Do About It)

Dogs are such an important part of the family that when a dog begins showing signs of aggression, it can be very worrying.

At Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear, we know it’s quite common – and actually normal – for dogs to show signs of aggression. 

You want to be able to trust your dog to behave well, not pose a threat to anyone and to feel happy and relaxed.  Understanding dog aggression can help you better support your dog and reduce the feelings that can lead to aggressive outbursts. 

But before we get on to what you should do to handle aggressive behaviour, let’s first look at the reasons dogs get aggressive in the first place…

1. Fear

The main reason dogs show signs of aggression is because they feel frightened or threatened in some way. If a dog feels backed into a corner, literally or figuratively, they may feel the need to defend themselves by growling, snarling or baring their teeth (or worse).

2. Possessiveness

Dogs can become very possessive over their favourite toy, bed or a special treat. Your dog may even feel very possessive over you. If your dog feels as if their treasured object is under threat, they can become aggressive.

black and white dog staring

3. Illness

It’s important to know that if your dog suddenly starts showing signs of aggression, it could be caused by a health problem. If your dog is in pain or feeling unwell, they might start growling, snapping or generally be a little grumpy in situations which previously they never would have. If this happens, your vet should be your first port of call for a check-up.

So, what are the next steps?

Understand the first signs of stress in a dog

Learning to read your dog’s body language is a brilliant way to improve your bond and your understanding of your dog. 

This is particularly helpful when it comes to recognising stress in a dog as early stress signals can be very subtle. Your dog will usually show early warning signs long before escalating to a growl, snap or a bite. 

Early signs your dog is stressed include:

  • Lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Whale eye (showing the whites of their eyes)
  • Turning head or body away
  • Ears back or tucked tail
  • Stiff or tense
  • Still or frozen

dog aggression ladder

Get professional help

    Sometimes it can be hard to be objective about your own dog, which is why getting help from a professional makes sense if you are worried about your dog’s aggressive behaviour.

    A dog behaviourist will be able to analyse why your dog gets aggressive and come up with an action plan for dealing with it in a positive way.

    We recommend using a behaviourist accredited by the Animal Behaviour and Training Council  so you can be sure you're choosing an ethical and qualified behaviourist. 

    german shepherd with nose in Tug-E-Nuff Food Bag Tuggy

    Play regularly

      Playing every day with your dog is the best way to improve your bond so that you know your dog inside out, and can understand their thoughts and feelings better. Interactive games using Tug-E-Nuff toys are also a great way to give your dog an outlet for pent up emotions, which can help with overall behaviour.

      bid dog chasing squeaky rabbit fur chaser

      Staying safe

        If you find yourself in a close-contact situation with a dog that is becoming aggressive, stop what you are doing at the first sign of aggression.

        Stay calm and stand still. Never move towards an aggressive dog. If it’s your dog being aggressive, try distracting them with something positive and move them away from the thing triggering the reaction. If you feel you need to remove yourself, avoid direct eye contact as you back away slowly.

        Did you know that chewing or destructive behaviour can also be a sign of anxiety? Discover 5 ways to stop your dog's destructive chewing here. 

        Read Next 

        How to boost your human-dog bond

        What the experts want you to know about reactive dogs

        17 tips for helping nervous dogs


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