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postheadericon When a good dog suddenly starts displaying aggressive or even hostile behavior it can be a frightening experience for any dog owner

When a good dog suddenly starts displaying aggressive or even hostile behavior it can be a frightening experience for any dog owner.  It is not uncommon that a dog that was once sociable and friendly suddenly becomes aggressive.  As with all negative and unexpected situations there are of course worst case scenarios, but a sudden change in a dog’s behavior is no reason to panic, the key to dealing with the situation is to get at the reason for the sudden change.

You need to remember that your dog is descended from wild animals, and while the modern domestic canine is very different in many ways from the wolves that virtually all dogs descended from, some traits remain, and they do surface from time to time.  While it is true that a dog’s mind is simple and that teaching a dog certain behavior is relatively straight forward, you need to remember that a dog’s primal behavior is inherited, and it can’t be modified, just worked around.  In order to do that, you need to know what you are dealing with.

For starters, wolves are pack animals, and it is this basic fact that is probably behind your dog’s mysterious behavior shift.  To your dog, you are a member of his or her pack.  How you behave determines what sort of a pack member you are:  Are you a dominant member of the pack to be followed and submitted to?  Or are you a weak member of the pack that needs protection and special attention?  In either case, there are different triggers for sudden aggression.  A dog will adjust his or her behavior accordingly based on yours.  The cause of the dogs aggression should be determined be a professional trainer, as the owner is often too close to the situation.

A dog will become aggressive when it feels there is some kind of threat.  A typical cause in both types is when a dog becomes possessive about something.  Typically, the “object” is food; it can also be a bed or even a cherished chew toy or any object the dog has grown attached to.  If your dog is submissive to you, he or she is less likely to exhibit this type of behavior; however, when submissive dogs do get possessive, they are likely to be more aggressive.  The good thing about submissive dogs, is that this behavior Is more easily corrected.

Dogs can also become aggressive over territory, dogs who regard themselves as leaders are typically very territorial.  Anytime they feel there is a threat to their space, they will try to defend it.  A dog’s definition of what its territory is varies, typically though, a dog will consider the house and the immediate vicinity its territory; although some dogs have been known to “claim” larger areas.

Dogs also get aggressive when they feel a member of their pack is being threatened.  The trouble with dogs is that they have a limited understanding of people, and in fact, it is often this misunderstanding that causes them to behave aggressively.  Dogs with more dominant personalities are again more likely to display this sort of behavior, but when a threat is perceived to be extreme and immediate, even dogs with submissive personalities will step up to “defend” the pack.

Aggression in dogs needs to be dealt with immediately and decisively, to not do so could be outright dangerous.  If a dog does something as trivial as growling, or worse snapping at you when you take away its bed for cleaning, you cannot let it pass.  The dog will then think that you tolerate that sort of behavior, and that it is acceptable.  If you just let it pass, succeeding incidents will likely be more severe.   You should get professional assistance to learn positive methods of letting your dog know you are the master.  Should your dog get to a point where it snaps at people habitually, you should definitely get professional help as soon as possible, and keep your pet on a leash until then.

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