An Anxious Dog Can Become An Aggressive Dog
It happens too often, and it is a issue that can prevented if the right measures are taken. I’m talking about dogs that experience anxiety or nervous behavior that soon start showing aggression. This aggression manifests from anxiety that either goes completely untreated, or is reinforced due to coddling and zero ownership guidance.
A lot of people think that aggression in a dog can be random and just pops out of thin air. Or that your dog MUST’VE been abused in the past, so therefore that’s why they’re showing aggression. While it may be surprising that your friendly, social dog is now starting to growl or snap at people, there is a cause behind it somewhere. It varies case by case, but I’ve seen aggression develop for many reasons, so has my colleague a dog trainer in Raleigh.
Possibility #1: Past trauma/abuse. Let’s talk about this because this is the thing that almost all owners of aggressive dogs assume is what’s causing the aggression. Any trauma can cause a dog to become fearful, anxious and aggressive, sure. However, what happened in the past doesn’t have to pave the dog’s future, as long as you don’t allow it to. Your dog’s present life with you can be happy and fulfilling, and you help your dog overcome this past. Dogs that have suffered an abusive or neglectful past life might have increased chances of developing aggression, but even still, most of the time this is not the direct link to it. It’s more so the fear or anxiety that is caused by this trauma…
Possibility #2: …which leads to fear and anxiety being a cause for your dog’s aggression. If your dog was beaten in the past, we cannot change that now. However, the fear and anxiety caused by those beatings can change, as long as we put in the time, patience, consistency and love into the dog’s new life and upbringing. Anxious or fearful dogs, when it put in a stressful situation, usually see two choices in front of them— fight or flight. An aggressive dog can be demonstrating either; an aggressive dog showing the “flight” may growl and then run away to hide. The “fight” could be outright biting and lunging. Anxiety and fear don’t magically disappear, but they can be overcome. To combat it, we must find out why your dog is currently experiencing these. Is he anxious because he never gets exercise, so he acts out by barking and aggressive play? Is he fearful over kids because he has never been introduced to a child before? Is your dog flooded with stressful stimuli, rather than gradually exposed to it? There can be a number of reasons, and to face it, we have to work on getting the dog’s confidence up.
Possibility #3: Isolation and lack of socialization. This is related to the fear and anxiety, as dogs that have been isolated from certain triggers, might be completely shocked and unsure once they are finally face-to-face with it. This is why for puppy owners, it is so important to look into safe, productive socialization techniques for your young dog. Awhile back, I worked with a Yorkiepoo that was never exposed to dogs bigger than him when he was younger. As he grew up and saw bigger dogs, he would react fearfully—barking, lunging, and attempting to bite. This dog had no idea how to properly respond to seeing a bigger dog, because he had never seen one before and no one told him how to properly respond. Which leads to one of the most common causes, along with anxiety and fear…
Possibility #4: Being in a leaderless pack (aka: no training). Dogs are pack animals and they need a leader in that pack. If there isn’t one, they are either going to be stuck in a fear spiral until that position is filled, or they will take that leadership upon themselves. If a dog becomes the leader of the owner, then anything could be fair game in the dog’s eyes, including aggression. One of my first training cases was a woman who did not sleep in her own bed because her dog would snap at her anytime he was on there and she approached the bed. She said her dog was a rescue that was abused in the past, so she didn’t want to “punish” the dog when he acted out. This is NOT a healthy relationship for either human or dog. Training is not about being mean to your dog, but showing them how to succeed and be happy in their life with you. It’s about setting boundaries, not making them miserable. It’s about showing the dog the joy of being well-behaved and calm, rather than letting them “grow out of it” or running amok. A dog that is running amok, I guarantee you, is not a happy dog—they’re only doing what they are taught, which for some dogs, is nothing! Dogs WANT guidance, and if owners aren’t leaders, their dogs are going to be in a bad situation.
Ultimately, fear and anxiety are the roots of aggression, whether it’s because the dog has no leader or because he/she has never been socialized appropriately. Sure, maybe your dog’s troubled past has caused some problems, but what’s important is the present and how we’re going to help these aggressive dogs overcome these issues and avoid euthanasia. Aggression is a serious and sometimes daunting behavior issue to face, but change can occur even with an aggressive dog! If you need help for your dog’s aggression, call us at 800-649-7297 and we’ll evaluate your dog’s case and find the best training plan for them!