Why is My Dog Acting So Aggressively? How Do I Make It Stop?

17 12 2008
Gizmo & Ginger, Spike, dogs, behavior

Gizmo in the foreground, Ginger in the background

Earlier this month, a reader, Cindy, wrote me about her two dogs, Gizmo and Ginger.  Both of them are rescue dogs, Gizmo joining their family first, with Ginger joining later on as a companion to assist Gizmo’s separation anxiety.  They play well together 95% of the time, only having issues when Ginger’s energy is too much for Gizmo.  The problem Cindy is most concerned with however, is that when they go for a trip to the dog park, Gizmo exhibits some aggressive behavior, growling and mounting other dogs. Read the rest of this entry »

Aggression Part One – Dominance Aggression

3 11 2008

I received a question via e-mail last week about aggression.  Since there are eight different types of aggression, I have decided to break things down into an eight-part series on aggression.  Dominance aggression is the first topic I will cover, and it is included below.


What is it?

With dominance aggression, everything is about control.  It is the struggle between a dog and the human deciding who is actually in charge.  Dogs are always giving communication signals.  Sometimes, humans do not pick up on the true meaning of these signals.

Some large dogs like to jump up and put their paws on your shoulders.  Most of the time, people think that this is cute because it looks like he is giving the person a hug.  While it may look really cute, the dog is thinking, “I’m in charge here!”

These are the signs of a dominant aggressive dog:

  • They do not like to be stared at.
  • They do not like for anyone to reach over their head.
  • They act aggressive when they are corrected verbally.
  • Their aggression may become worse if you physically corrected.
  • They do not like to be pushed on their shoulders and back.
  • They do not like to be moved from (aka demoted) from beds and sofas.
  • They nudge your hand to insist that you pet them.
  • They growl or bare their teeth for no reason.
  • They snap at people without cause.
  • They defend “their” property (food, toys, etc.)

What can you do if you find that you have a dominant aggressive dog?

  • Remember that you can not train what you can not control.
  • Control your dog’s access to keep him only in certain areas of your home.  Close doors or use baby gates.
  • When outside, always use a head halter or muzzle.
  • Avoid the things that cause the aggressive behavior.
  • Supervise or confine your dog around other animals or children.
  • If you are challenged by the dog, relieve the tension by sweet talking him.
  • Dominant aggressive dogs can be especially dangerous.  This is a problem that does not get better on its own.  Consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.


  • Canine dominance aggression develops between 18 and 36 months of age.
  • When a dog has learned dominance aggressive behavior, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to change.
  • Puppies should begin socialization with humans by 3 weeks of age and continue with positive situations until 14 weeks of age.  This socialization will help their future relationships with people.
  • Adult dogs should ALWAYS be rewarded for their good behavior.  This does not necessarily mean treats.  Dogs love attention, so hugs, petting, and general expressions of love are also treats.  Keep in mind that these same rewards should not be given for bad behavior.

This is a reminder that this material and any material I write is for your information only. If you suspect in any way that your dog is having a problem with dominance aggression, I strongly advise you to seek professional guidance. Aggression of any sort is far too complex to understand by reading a few pages on the Internet.  I feel that humans and my fellow canines will be better served you do not try to tackle this issue alone!