Causes of Dominate Aggression in Dogs

Tess Thompson

Dog biting is something that is very likely if a dog is in an aggression mode. Aggressive dog behavior is clearly characterized by ominous or threatening behavior. It can lead to injury of other animals and even human beings, including family members.

There are various factors that influence aggression in dogs. Dog aggression can result from some underlying medical condition, inept handling, fear, anxiety, or an inherent desire to dominate the pack. Dominance-related aggression in dogs is actually the most common type of dog aggression in domesticated dogs. If dominance aggression surfaces, obedience training may be needed all over again. It is difficult to identify dominance as the root cause of aggressive behavior, since your dog may otherwise show signs of affection. However, it must be noted that given a chance he may assume leadership and try and dominate. This can result in an expression of displeasure, even during normal actions like putting the collar on or petting him on his head.

As pack animals, dogs have an instinct to dominate. Since dogs were domesticated from wolves, they have retained pack mentality where survival depends upon leadership. Leadership also determines who gets the best of what is available, including mating rights.

Inept handling and training can trigger the dominance instinct in dogs. The animal does not have a sense of equality. The social structure of the pack is determined only by submission and dominance. Over time, a dog starts to treat the family as a part of the pack and tries to dominate. This is mainly because the dog expects to be treated well if he can manage to dominate. The kindness of the handler and family are often mistaken for subordination. In no time, the pet stops obeying commands and resists discipline, much to the annoyance of the owner.

As a dog owner, if you do not take corrective measures and train your dog to establish that you are the leader of the ‘pack’, the dog is likely to assert his dominance over territory also. He may refuse to get up from the sofa, bed, or any other area that he has ear-marked as his ‘own’ territory. Refusal to obey commands, snarling, snapping, and growling are common signs of dominant aggression. Eventually, the dog may consider a hug as an effort by you or your family member as an effort to assume control, and may snap or even bite. The stance that dogs normally use to assert dominance is showing readiness to lunge forward, with an erect posture and ears turned in front.

Effective training and re-training in certain cases is often able to chasten the dog to accept commands and shed aggressive behavior. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to aggressive behavior. A genetically predisposed dog may not cast off his aggression easily. In difficult cases of dominant behavior, training alone may not be enough. In such cases, castration is recommended. Training techniques should be used only after the dog has otherwise calmed down to some extent.


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