This is the most serious of behaviour issues and the most common reason why dogs are surrendered to rescue centres or needlessly euthanised. For many dog owners, it can be very upsetting and frustrating to see how the once adorable puppy or sweet rescue dog has changed from being funny and cuddly into a snarling, lunging monster. What a way to repay all the ‘love’ you have given it!
Dogs are not born aggressive, but all have the propensity to be aggressive due to circumstance and upbringing. It is a survival technique and they learn to use aggression in a variety of situations to get what they want dependant up the personality of the dog. Most aggression results from fear and it is the timid, shy, nervous or fearful dogs that end up feeling so vulnerable, stressed, trapped or cornered that end up biting. It only takes once or twice for aggression to work, for the dog to then use it regularly to “save” itself from the situation and it becomes a habit when those circumstances again present themselves. Sometimes a dog will misunderstand its’ position in the human/dog pack and use aggression to try to keep order; this is very upsetting for the family whose dog is now “turning” on them.
Aggression problems are mainly only seen in adult dogs and are rare in young puppies. Whatever the age or cause, it is important to take action quickly to train the dog into acceptable behaviour. Puppies do try to “mouth” in play or because of teething and although this should be discouraged from early age, it is not usually aggressive in nature.