Aggression: Know the Difference


There are different kinds of aggression that dogs can show. Not all of them stem from the dog being mean, but all of them can lead to serious injury if the signs are not interpreted properly. The different types of aggression are food aggression, fear aggression, and animal or human aggression.

The way to determine which aggression you are dealing with is to know the signs and to remember that often a dog will not attack without warning. It is up to you to either know your dog or know the signs.

If a dog has fear aggression, the first thing it will want to do is run away and hide. If it turns to run, let it go and hide until it calms down. As it is retreating it will be cowering or in a hunched position and lip licking. If the dog feels cornered and has nowhere to run it will start to growl, snap or bite, or lunge in hopes that the threat will go away. If a fear aggressive dog starts to bite, it would be a shallow, rapid bite. The dog is more interested in getting the threat away than to cause serious injury.

A dog with food aggression will scarf or gulp its food, growl and snarl, bark, and even bite.  They want you to be as far away from their food as possible. The people most affected by this type of aggression are small children.  Working closely with an animal behaviourist is important in correcting this behaviour and creating a safe space for your family.

A dog with animal or human aggression is usually caused by past unpleasant experiences with another animal or human. Signs of this include lunging, raised hackles, pricked ears, bared teeth, and directed eye contact. This aggression is usually mistaken for fear aggression, but in this case when they attack they usually don’t stop.

If you are worried that your dog or a dog around you is aggressive, learn your signs and find the best way to prevent injury to yourself or others. You can contact your veterinarian, animal behaviourist, animal trainer for tips and strategies to help your furry friends overcome this.

Written by Aileen Holcroft , ACA