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19 May 2024Aggression

Forms of Dog Aggression




Breed tendencies and human selection for aggression have been created by breeding practices. However just because you own a strong protective breed does NOT give you the right to make excuses for so called breed tendencies & aggression. In our mind breed tendencies are NOT valid excuses for dog aggression.


Social aggression is a byproduct of dominance, rank order and hierarchy. It is typicaly linked to just about every form of aggression on this list. The lack of social experiences with other dogs, humans and changing environments can cause a dog to become unsure leading them to be defensive and reactive in social settings. Usually dogs that have social aggression can learn to be social through proper handling, reinforcement and socialization.  Teaching them how to cope and communicate in social situations with other dogs and people.


Dog on dog aggression can fall under several forms of aggression and is a very generalized statement. But Ridley K-9 Academy believes true dog aggression exists and can not be fixed (just managed).True dog aggression is when a dog is constantly looking for a fight with another dog. Arousal can be stimulated by scent alone. They ignore the other dog’s distance increasing signals. In fact, dog aggressive dogs look for weakness in other dogs to exploit .Their behavior is not based on rank order. They are bullies with no regard. We feel true dog on dog aggression is NOT natural. However, we feel natural and normal canine aggression is being exploited by humans who use selective breeding to create dogs who are genetically predisposed to be dog aggressive.


Play aggression begins when dogs playing together start getting over stimulated. At one point one dog reaches their individual threshold and begins to use threatening signals and reacts with aggression if the threat persists. Short intense unconfident aggression is usually the result. Play aggression can escalate very fast when a dog is just starting a socialization program. If the dog feels worried he will go right back into defense. You see this when these dogs are just learning how to play with other dogs. While they are playing they start to worry and become reactive again. Play aggression is common in homes with several dogs who play with each other too hard. Play aggression can also be very bad between littermates / siblings. Siblings tend to go into rank order and will use aggression much faster than they do with other friends. You will usually notice the more worried and unsure dog reacts with aggression first.


Yes, it is normal for a dog to have some fear. It is built into their fight or flight survival mechanism. So, it is also natural if a dog shows aggression towards a person or dog when they feel unsure or are in a position where they have no way to escape a threat. Fear aggression can also be traced back to poor breeding and selective breeding for looks and not temperament. Fear & aggression can begin to show in an 8 week old puppy. Fear aggression can also be learned & reinforced by other people as well as the dogs owners. This is usually the reason the dog’s fear aggression worsens. However some fear aggression can be decreased or avoided all together by properly reading the dogs language and properly responding to it. 


All animals can learn aggression from their parents & piers. People can also teach a dog to be aggressive. Aggressive behavior can be learned and generalized very quickly it works for them. Once a dog learns aggressive behavior works to their advantage they will readily use it in many other situations.


Territorial aggression is a form of natural aggression that every dog carries in their genetic makeup. Yes some bred of dogs have more than others. Territorial aggression can be built upon very fast through successful reinforcement.  A dog will naturally determine their own boundary if you don’t determine it for them. We feel it is our dog’s job to be territorial over their home and family. However, it is ultimately our call as their owner to say who is welcome and who is not.


Possessive aggression is also a natural aggression directly related to guarding of valuable objects (ie. people, toys, bones, food, physical object).The dog will keep a consistent touch on the object while posturing. They own the object and they intend to keep it by using forward aggression to back the second party off. Aggression can be triggered by threatening or innocent approach by another dog or person. Teaching the “Drop It & leave it” commands are of utmost importance with possessive dogs.


Protection aggression is based on protecting a (second-party) person or dog. Protection aggression is directed at a (third-party) person or dog coming too close to the second-party the dog is protecting. Protection aggression can be learned when a dog is successful at scaring a third-party off by using aggression. Breed tendencies are important to remember when dealing with protection aggression. If a third-party approaches in a threatening manner then sure its okay for a dog to protect their owner. Again we believe a dogs job is to protect their family members. However the dog should still be controllable and respond to their owners command.


  • Conflict aggression is directly related to handler-dog interactions. This type of dog is very reactive toward their handler. When the handler keeps this type of dogs from getting their way, they will act out with aggression towards their handler who is keeping them from what they want. You see this type of aggression with high drive working dogs as well as spoiled pet dogs.


Redirected aggression can occur when a dog is prevented from directing agonistic behavior toward their original target. Resulting in a dog unloading all their frustration on the closest third-party (human or dog) available. You commonly see this when two dogs are behind a fence running up and down the fence line when stimulation is passing by. Then all of a sudden one dog unloads on the other dog. In the dog’s mind it is the third-party’s fault they cant get to the targeted stimuli. Redirected aggression is very quick and hard then, Then usually the aggressor goes back to the original target.


Pain aggression is based on a dog’s individual pain threshold. Some dogs are more stoic and some are just the opposite. You will never know how much pain a dog is in. But each dog has a limit to what they will tolerate without reacting with aggression. Some dogs will try to mask their pain too. But others are much more reactive and will react aggressively when they anticipate pain. This is a mixture of fear and pain aggression and is a very reactive combination. Animals who have been injured can understandably be very aggressive due to their constant pain. This aggression can be very violent until the pain is gone.


Prey aggression is the instinctive need to fight and kill their prey. These dogs like to stalk and chase but have a need to fight and kill. You can see prey aggression when a dog shakes its prey in their mouth. The prey aggression stops when the fighting in the dogs mouth stops. 


Maternal aggression is a form of natural aggression that comes from instinct and genetics. New mothers can have tendencies to launch intense attacks towards strangers (people & dogs) who approach her puppies. This maternal aggressive behavior is due to chemical hormonal changes within the bitch. Symptoms will subside as her puppies are weaned off her. However we believe once a bitch has had a litter of puppies they do not forget that maternal aggression and how well it works for them. We have also seen mothers develop more protective & territorial aggression after a litter of puppies.


Idiopathic aggression means aggression for no known reason. The dog reacts and attacks with a lot of force and violent aggression for no known reason. Idiopathic aggression has no regard for humans, dogs or objects. These dogs usually show no aggression at other times. This dog will be calmly sitting by you one moment and the next they are attacking. This dog has neurological problems and should be taken to a neurological specialist. Idiopathic aggression is not a catch all label. It is UNUSUAL for a dog to attack for no reason. USUALLY people totally miss read or miss altogether what the dog’s language and posture is saying. So, in the dog’s mind this is a valid reason to reacted with aggression.