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For many years we have always heard of the word AGGRESSION in dogs and I have seen so many different descriptions between, owners, breeders and trainers, this has become a Controversial Topic and Many true experts have their own definitions. Most recently have seen lots of discussion on trainers about fighting aggression with aggression, other trends goes towards redirecting the dog before the effect that triggers the aggression comes near, there are so many different techniques and procedures in which each trainer speak about aggression, and its important to try to understand scientifically what aggression is.

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Training bite work for IPO
Dog working in Sport of IPO

**Aggression**, in scientific terms, refers to a range of behaviors and reactions that are intended to cause harm or inflict injury or discomfort on another individual or entity. It is a complex and multifaceted behavior observed in various animal species, including humans and animals like dogs. In scientific literature, aggression is typically categorized into several types, including:

1. **Predatory Aggression:** This type of aggression is seen in animals hunting for prey. It's characterized by stalking, chasing, and capturing prey, often without any signs of anger or hostility.

Some characteristics of predatory aggression include:

  • It's often silent.

  • It often results in a lightning-quick approach to the prey animal.

  • It's often a behavior the dog enjoys although it is dangerous and lethal for the receiving animal.

Some ways to manage predatory behavior include:

  • Teaching your dog to stay in contact with you.

  • Performing safe parts of the predatory sequence when you come across wildlife.

  • Creating an outlet for your dog's predation needs.

  • Building a strong “emergency cue”.

The full wolf predatory motor sequence (PMS) is said to be:

  • Orient > eye > stalk > chase > grab-bite > kill-bite > dissect > consume.

Dog worked in the training table, all under control
Aggression positively been work on the training table

2. **Territorial Aggression:** Some animals, including dogs, may exhibit aggression to defend their territory. This can include growling, barking, or even physical attacks to deter intruders.

Territorial aggression can be offensive or defensive. Dogs may only display aggression toward strangers on their home property and not respond aggressively to strangers on neutral territory.

Territorial aggression can be caused by:

  • Dominance

  • Fear or anxiety

To deal with territorial aggression, you can try:

  • Using reward-based training to teach your dog that all resources come from you.

  • Regular exercise for your dog.

  • Planned socialization based on the behavior.

  • Counter-conditioning and desensitization.

dog playing with Ball to redirect
redirection of dog to take focus out of trouble

You can also develop safety and management tools with a dog-training specialist.

Most forms of territorial aggression are likely to occur on the property, but some dogs may protect areas where they are temporarily housed.

3. **Protective Aggression:** Protective aggression occurs when an animal, often a parent, defends its offspring or another vulnerable member of its group. It is an instinctual behavior aimed at ensuring the safety of the vulnerable individual.

Protective aggression is a natural behavior that dogs exhibit when they feel threatened. Dogs may become protective of their pack, such as their mother protecting their puppies.

Signs of protective aggression in dogs include:

  • Growling

  • Raising hackles

  • Barking immediately

  • Overreacting to situations

  • Lunging towards perceived threats

  • Baring teeth at perceived threats

  • Biting

  • Urinating to mark territory

Territorial aggression is a type of protective aggression that dogs exhibit toward people or animals that approach their property. Dogs may fear for themselves and their owners, and may be fiercely protective of their family and home.

To stop a dog from being protective, you can try:

  • Reacting promptly and pulling the dog away with obedience and engaging comands before he faces the situation that triggers his aggression

  • Walking away from the person or pet, working them on comands until they have fully calmed down.

dog redirected to focus attention
cc working obedience

You can also try desensitization and counter-conditioning training, which is a gradual process of changing your dog's behavior. Desensitization can be useful for dogs that guard their food bowl or growl when you try to take away a toy.

4. **Dominance Aggression:** In social animals, like wolves and some domestic dogs, aggression can be associated with establishing or maintaining social dominance within a group or hierarchy.

Dominance aggression, also known as conflict aggression, is a difficult behavior for dog owners to manage. It's characterized by threats directed toward the owner when the dog feels challenged. Dogs exhibit this aggression when testing limits and establishing dominance ranking within the family.

Signs that your dog's aggression is dominance related include:

  • Aggressive behaviors in response to verbal corrections.

  • Aggressive responses triggered by eye contact.

  • Attempts to herd other pets or humans using nipping.

  • Guarding behavior of toys or food.

dog worked in training table
working dog for IPO

Dominant dogs may also:

  • Stare, bark, growl, snap, or bite when given a command or asked to give up a toy, treat, or resting place.

Dominance among dogs is determined by factors such as size, weight, sex, hormonal status, and previous experience.

To train a dominant dog, you can try:

  • Staying calm.

  • Being assertive.

  • Establishing rules for acceptable behavior and bad behavior.

  • Being consistent.

  • Leading the pack.

  • Making the dog work.

Sometimes You should also seek help.

Medical conditions such as thyroid issues and testosterone imbalances can trigger dominant behaviors. A complete physical examination is recommended to rule out any underlying medical condition

5. **Fear Aggression:** Fear-based aggression is a response to a perceived threat or danger. The animal may react aggressively as a means of self-defense or to escape a threatening situation.

Fear aggression is a form of self-defense in dogs. It occurs when a dog wants to increase distance between itself and a trigger, such as another animal or a human. Fear-aggressive dogs may:

  • Use body language to drive away the threat. For example, they may cower, lip lick, or bare their teeth.

  • Bark and try to intimidate people they feel threatened by.

  • Place their weight on their back foot, signaling they would rather run than fight.

Fear-aggressive dogs may also:

  • Freeze, flee, or fight.

  • Growl, lunge, snap, or bite.

Fear aggression can be treated by:

German Shepherd protecting his young owner
German Shepherd Maxximus and Adianez

Treating their fears. Punishment will never work and will usually make the problem worse.

  • Using positive training methods. For example, ignoring and redirecting unwanted behavior.

  • Being patient and not setting unrealistic expectations.

  • Going at your dog's pace.

  • Teaching your dog to nose target.

Aggressive behavior can be a symptom of certain mental health conditions, including:

  • Conduct disorder.

  • Intermittent explosive disorder.

  • Oppositional and defiant disorder (ODD).

Other causes of aggressive behavior include:

  • Fear

  • Anxiety

  • Stress

  • Unmet physical needs or emotional needs

  • Traumatic experiences

Fear is the most common cause of aggression in dogs. Fearful dogs try to look small and invisible, and may exhibit these signs:

  • Tucking their tail instead of standing straight and rigid

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Showing their teeth

  • Growling or snarling

  • Rapid nips or bites

Other signs of aggression include:

  • Stiff body posture

  • Ears pinned back

  • Lowered head and body

  • Submissive body language, such as holding back their ears, lowering their head and body, and tucking their tail between their legs

Dog Aggression for food
Dog being aggresive with food

Defensive-aggressive dogs may also dislike being touched and may bite out of fear.

If your dog shows signs of aggression, especially with little or no warning, you should take them to a vet for a check-up.

6. **Inter-Male Aggression:** In species where competition for mates is common, males may display aggression toward rival males to secure access to females for mating.

7. **Maternal Aggression:** Female animals may display aggression to protect their offspring from potential threats.

8. **Redirected Aggression:** This occurs when an animal cannot respond directly to a perceived threat, so it redirects its aggression toward a nearby target.

It Occurs when a dog is acting aggressively or violently toward something (such as another dog), and a third party intervenes. This usually ends poorly for the third party, who is often just trying to play the role of peacemaker.

A common example is a person trying to break up a dogfight. While trying to pull the two dogs apart, the person could be bit by one or both of them.

The dogs aren’t necessarily intending to attack the person, and this may not make them untrustworthy around people. However, in their frenzy and fury, they’ll chomp on anything that gets in their way—including your arm, leg, or any other body part.

Max German Shepherd running protecting the fence
Chasing the fence

What Causes Redirected Aggression?

Redirected aggression really isn’t a separate form of aggression. It’s just garden variety aggression, except it doesn’t get focused on its intended target. At its most basic level, it’s caused by arousal (not always that kind of arousal). It can occur if something interferes with a dog while they’re being aggressive, but that’s not the only thing that can cause it.

Redirected aggression can happen when the dog is physically incapable of attacking their intended target. For example, if two dogs are behind a fence and both want to attack a cat on the other side, one dog may turn that aggression on the other.

They’re not mad at the other dog, but since they don’t have another outlet for their rage, their canine companion will have to suffer. These attacks could just be hard nips or they could be full-on violent assaults—or the dog could cycle between both options with little predictability.

Since redirected aggression is just thwarted aggression, you’ll need to treat it the same way that you’d deal with regular aggression. It doesn’t require any specialized training or treatment.

Aggression can manifest in various ways, including vocalizations (barking, growling), body postures (puffing up, standing tall), and physical actions (biting, attacking). It's important to note that aggression is not inherently "bad" or "negative." In some cases, it serves as a survival mechanism or a means of establishing and maintaining social order within a species.

German Shepherd and owner Southernwind Kennels
Maximus and Ceci

Aggression becomes problematic when it poses a danger to individuals or interferes with their ability to function in their environment. In domesticated animals like dogs, inappropriate or excessive aggression can be a cause for concern and may require behavior modification and training to manage and control.

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