Aggressive Behavior and its Management in Dogs

Within last 10 years, it has become increasingly more common for veterinarians to see dogs presented for behavior problem and this reflect the change in society’s major role for the dog, from a working farm animal or backyard inhabitant to four-legged family member. Owners may not know what is normal canine behavior or they may have unrealistic expectations from the dog. Because they have only known individual dogs as family members and have not observed the more universal aspects of dog behaviors.

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Aggression can be normal behavior or a problematic one, depending upon your point of view, clinically, aggression means that one or more of distance increasing behavior expressed in an agonistic way as the dog asserted itself at the expense of someone else. Aggression may be of various types it may be dominance aggression that is dominance to ward peoples, dominance over other dogs and inter species dominance. Generally, dominance aggression starts developing in puppies at an age of 6 wk when litter mates establish their hierarchy usually over food. The young puppy that growl and snaps at the owner over food or handling should be put through the anti-aggressive puppy training.

When dominance aggression is directly toward human, it may be fortunately, willingly or due to instinct behavior. The first is not common, but is dangerous one and occurred when a stranger encountered a dominant dog in its territory. The second is due to mismatching in personalities of the owners and the dog. If the owner has a timid personality and the dog is a fairly dominant type, problems are almost guaranteed. A fairly dominant dog can be an excellent pet for a man having dominant nature, but not for a mild and subdued natured man. The third category of canine aggression towards human is that occurring in a dog that never learns that he is not the dominant member of the family. Some time dogs occasionally may become jealous to children while love and affection are denied to them and thus becomes the victim of aggression and the severity of this type of aggression tends to escalate over time.

Aggression due environmental changes is commons in dogs reared in isolated and non-social environment. The mental and physical conditions of such dogs remain in such a way that it likes to remain away from human annoyance and whenever exposed to such environment they suddenly become aggressive to an extent that, it may even bite. Whereas, dog with professional training or reared in social and well mannered society may also show aggression which may be pain induced or illness induced and the most common victim of this type of aggression are veterinarian or the dog handler.

On the other hand, intersexual aggression between dogs of the same sex appears to be driven only on the fact that they are of same sex and have sexually dimorphic behavior and is likely to be seen in intact males than in castrated ones. An environmental factor that may provoke this type of aggression is the presence of a bitch in estrus and in contrast to this Inter-female aggression is not common.

Measures to be taken to minimize aggression

  • Anti-aggressive puppy training which will make the pup less aggressive can be done by taking the food bowel away from the reach of the pup. This will create annoyance and the pup starts growling. While growling it should be slapped on its face and the bowel should be kept beyond its reach at least for five minutes. While it stops growling or struggling the food should be allowed to its reach this procedure must be repeated for number of days to make it submissive to its owner.

  • Psychological treatment can be given as per the demand of the situation that is isolation, chaining, quaxing and rewarding whichever is necessary.

  • High quantity of protein diet causes elevation of serotonin level of brain which has sedation effect and thus helps in management of aggression.

  • Ataractic drugs can be used to sedate animals to reduce the aggression but can only be used under the proper guidance of veterinarian.

  • Anti-androgenic drugs commonly used in males to reduce the level of testosterone level which in turn prevent sexual urge and over-aggressions in male dogs.

  • Castration in case of male will make it more docile and this is particularly useful in young and middle aged dogs.

  • Extraction of tooth in case of ferocious biter dog which has inflicted number of injuries may be brought under surgical extraction of incisors and canine tooth as last option only under the proper guidance of veterinarian.


Scientist, Division of Medicine, ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly-243 122 (UP)

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