How can I recognize signs of aggression in my dog?

As a dog owner in California, you have a responsibility to keep your pet from causing harm to others. Failure to do so can lead to serious injury, as well as harmful lawsuits that may even result in the loss of your beloved animal. You can keep others safe from harm however by recognizing common signs of aggression in dogs and knowing how to mitigate them.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there is no one “cure” for an aggressive dog. Aggressive behavior in pets can often be circumstantial (caused by a person’s actions or the situation itself) and therefore it can be hard to anticipate when your pet will lash out. To this end, you are responsible for reducing exposure to those situations where your dog might have an opportunity to hurt a person.

You must also be able to recognize the tell-tale signs of aggressions in canines. While every animal is different, in general there are a few key things to look for to indicate your pet is feeling uncomfortable or threatened. The bearing of teeth or growling is a clear indication of aggressive behavior. Some dogs will also perform what is known as “mouthing”, which is when the animal places its mouth around one’s limb without using pressure. Dog showing aggression can also lunge or stand in a stiff posture.

Additionally, there are many different types of aggression that a dog can express. Your pet may become agitated if it perceives a threat against you or another family member. Fear-based aggression is also common, wherein your dog reacts hostilely to perceived threats. Some dogs’ aggression is even based on a social hierarchy, which means they feel entitled to a heightened status over others.