Pete Wedderburn
20th November 2019 - 3 min read

If your dog shows signs of aggression towards a person, it’s likely that they see the adult or child as a threat to them or the things they value, like their food or toys and so aggression is used to try and remove or deter the threat.

Types of Aggression

Dogs displaying aggressive behaviour usually do so out of fear through:

  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Snapping
  • Nipping
  • Biting
angry white dog

Dogs Biting Children

Incidents, where dogs bite children, are common, usually because the child has unknowingly put the dog in an uncomfortable situation and failed to understand when the dog has communicated the fact that it’s frightened or stressed. To help prevent this, children should never be left alone with a dog, even when the dog is resting.  

Punishment Does Not Work

If your dog shows signs of aggression, it’s extremely important not to punish them. A huge amount of research has been carried out in this area and there’s strong evidence to suggest that punishment does not work and may in fact cause other problems.  

Understanding the Aggression

Dogs use their body language and vocalisations to communicate how they’re feeling so it’s important to understand the perceived threat, so that you can remove the stimulus, or take actions to desensitise the dog to the situation. If you simply punish them for being aggressive, the behaviour is likely to be repeated as the stimulus to the aggression is still ongoing.

The following situations are examples of prompts to aggressive behaviour, and how you can deal with them.  

Towards a Stranger

  • If your dog has displayed aggressive behaviour to a stranger outside of the home, avoid any interactions where you will meet other people or dogs before speaking to a qualified behaviourist.

Towards a Human or Dog in the Household when protecting a resource

  • If your dog has displayed aggressive behaviour towards an adult, child or another dog in your household because they were guarding food, toys or territory – stay away from the thing they felt the need to protect. And longer term, work with a good behaviourist to tackle this so-called “resource guarding” aggression

Towards Another Dog

  • If it was aggression towards another dog, separate the dogs with baby gates or put them in different rooms when you feed them, as this is a time of high arousal and competition, more likely to lead to fighting. Also, monitor the dogs closely at other times. Aggression can be a one-off episode or in some very challenging cases, it can become ongoing and can be very difficult to resolve.

Dog Muzzles

If you’re concerned about your dog biting, buy a muzzle that your dog can eat, drink and pant through comfortably.

dog with black muzzle over mouth

If your dog has bitten any person or another dog, it’s important to make an urgent veterinary appointment for a behaviour referral as this will help ensure the safety of others and your pet’s wellbeing. A biting incident is stressful for everyone involved so the sooner you get professional help, the better.

See our Services to find a behaviourist near you.