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The Signs of Aggression

Do you know the signs of aggression?

Are you ignoring the warnings?

Are you living on the edge because of your dog?

IMPORTANT: If your dog is showing signs of aggression, you should rule out any medical problems or injuries that may be causing your dog pain. A trip to the veterinarian is a good idea.

A dog is a member of your family and should be. He or she is your friend, companion, buddy and pal. You can only hope to bring as much comfort and joy to your pet as your pet brings to you. It is no wonder that many dog owners, when faced with an aggressive dog, wish that the unacceptable behavior would simply go away --- dissolve --- take a powder --- and get lost. 

So, they ignore it --- pretend it doesn't exist --- and avoid it. They insist, "He'll grow out of it!" Or they think, "Our dog loves us and wouldn't hurt a member of the family." Or they say, "He isn't aggressive all the time." Hello! Think about it. If dog owners (and a lot of professionals) didn't ignore the problem, people wouldn't be living with aggressive nightmares. Children wouldn't be maimed for life. There would be no deaths from dogs. Insurance companies wouldn't be denying homeowners and renters the liability coverage they so desperately need. And certain breeds of dogs would not be discriminated against. Aggression is not a breed problem. It exists in every breed, just as loving, wonderful dogs exist in every breed.

Keep an open mind and take a new look at your dog. It's the only way you can recognize and acknowledge the signs of aggressive behavior. You can't solve, modify or control dangerous behavior if you don't recognize it. If you can't modify the behavior, sometimes you can control it and that can save your dog.

It is a mistake to believe that if a dog has not bitten anyone, the problem is not serious. If the other signs of aggression are there, you are just lucky to this point. An aggressive dog can go beyond his warnings at any time and hurt someone.

Early signs of aggression are usually easy to deal with, but the older a dog gets, the less likely you will be able to modify or even control it and that can seal the dog's fate -- or someone else's. 

Some signs are blatant, others can be subtle.

Some of The Signs - if they occur anytime, anyplace, for any reason, directed at any person, animal or thing. Any of these warnings mean the dog could bite:

  • Growling  
  • Snarling
  • Curling lips 
  • Mounting people
  • Lunging
  • Snapping
  • Blocking your path
  • Barking aggressively
  • Biting (even if it does not break the skin

Some of the places and times these signs may occur:

Food areas

  • Walking by the dog while he is eating

  • The dog steals food and someone tries to retrieve it

  • The dog is under a table during a meal and someone tries to retrieve a dropped piece of food

  • Two male dogs or two female dogs being fed at the same time

  • When stopping a dog from digging in the garbage


  • Trying to remove the dog from your bed

  • When a dog is moved or touched

  • Trying to get the dog out from under the bed

  • When someone enters the room

Children's Rooms

  • When visiting children play with the dog

  • While roughousing with the dog

  • A child pulls parts of the dog's body

  • Teasing the dog

  • The dog takes a child's toy and the child tries to take it back

Encountering strangers in dog's territory

  • Delivery person or stranger comes through the door

  • Someone reaches out to give the owner something or to shake hands

  • Chases a stranger when he or she leaves

  • When dog is loose in the yard during a delivery

  • Dog is tied up and someone enters his territory (Tying up a dog is not a good idea -- fences and dog runs are recommended)

  • When a stranger reaches down to pet the dog or it appears the dog is cornered

In a car

  • Stranger approaches the car

  • Dog sees another dog

  • Dog is moved off the car seat

In public

  • When on a leash, dog lunges at joggers, bikers, rollerbladers -- anyone going by

  • Another dog approaches or passes by

  • Dog is tied up in a park or outside a store

  • Small dog is in its owner's arms and someone approaches

  • Dog is being handled by a veterinarian, groomer or other professional

  • Someone stands over the dog making him feel dominated or fearful

  • Dog chases anything that moves

Other times and places  

  • Removing dog from furniture

  • Retrieving a child's toy or someone else's possession

  • Dog is blocking a doorway

  • Dog is being given medication

  • Dog is sleeping

  • Someone approaches the dog in "his territory"

  • When dog is being verbally corrected or corrected during training or problem solving (It is assumed the all correction is humane and never abusive)

  • Putting on the leash and collar (inside or outside the house)

  • Dog is startled by sudden movement


"I've been working with dogs and their owners for more than 35 years," says Uncle Matty, "and denial is everywhere." In many cases, owners of aggressive dogs just don't get it. They see their dog as another person and they try to people-reason with their dog saying things like, 'Oh, Benny, don't growl at daddy!' But a dog is an animal with animal instincts that are not the same as human reactions. Other owners get it, but -- they know the dog is aggressive,   they just don't want to hear about it. They cross their fingers and hope the dog will outgrow the behavior. They play canine roulette and often get downright defensive when someone says the dog is aggressive. and some owners know the risks and dangers and responsibly take steps to modify or control the problem. I hope you are one of them.

Responsible owners attack the problem head on.
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