Dogs are very complex creatures, wolves tamed by humans thousands of years ago. Aggression is one of the more dangerous and harder to understand nature of dogs. A little territorial behavior from a dog is natural, but knowing how to identify a dog’s types of aggression can help keep you and the dog save and happy.
There are three types of aggression, fear-induced aggression, protective aggression, and redirected aggression. A dog can also have an individual type of aggression. In any case however, you should ask an expert for help, don’t try to fix the problem yourself.
Fear-induced aggression is defined as “A defensive reaction which occurs when a dog fears that he/she is in danger of being harmed.” This means that in the dog’s perception of the situation, he/she could be harmed by the action that immediately follows your current one. If you are raising your arm to throw a ball your dog might perceive that as an arm raising to hit him/her. If your dog reacts badly to one of your actions, it might be because your dog has reason to believe the action that follows could potentially harm them.
Protective, Territorial, or Possessive Aggression
These three types of aggression are very closely related. Protective aggression occurs when the dog believes his ‘pack’, most likely you and your family, are in danger. The dog might feel that he/she has to move to protect his/her pack, resulting in violence on the dog’s part. Territorial aggression occurs when the dog is allowed to regularly scent-mark (urinate) in particular places, most obviously your backyard or while on walks around the neighborhood. Territorial actions could be as simple as barking at the mailman, or as serious are jumping on house guests. This type of aggression can be strongly ingrained in your dog. Possessive aggression might happen when a dog protects its favorite toys, food bowl, or objects in your backyard. Dogs can become very defensive of things that wouldn’t really matter to you, but remember, aggression comes from perception.
Redirected aggression is a difficult type of aggression to identify because behavior might be caused by any number of other things, depending on the dog’s environment. This kind of aggression is caused by the dog being unable to act upon another kind of aggression that he/she feels. A dog unable to chase another dog off their territory might turn and instead become aggressive to a family member or a dog within reach. I think that it most relates to human frustration, since we tend to be snappish toward our friends and family members when something else, maybe work or academics, is responsible for frustrating us.
Dog aggression can be tricky to identify and deal with, but when a dog is being aggressive consistently, and you cannot identify the reason, always find an expert to help before the aggressive behavior escalates to violence. Nobody wants to be hurt by their dog, and dogs certainly don’t need to be made to feel aggressive toward humans or other dogs. Do your dog a favor and help them feel comfortable in their environment.