Skip to main content

Following my last article on fear, today I will give a brief overview of aggression.

In my experience, most assaults actually start out of fear. If a fearful dog cannot run away, we fall into the flight or fight reaction.

Fear is often misunderstood as aggression, and if not handled properly, it will become aggression. Often people inadvertently turn fear into aggression because it is not dealt with appropriately.

Unfortunately, dealing with real aggression is a time-consuming task and must be done consistently to be effective.

I strongly advise owners to get a good trainer to help them out in these situations. Owners must learn to be good leaders and not to resort to “dominating” their dog or physical punishment. Corporal punishment would include beatings, kicks, electric shocks or claw collars.

In my practice, I see fear as the most common cause of aggression. Owners facing corporal punishment issues would be the second most common reason.

The first thing is to determine if the dog is actually fearful, and if so, what is the cause of the fear?

signs of fear

A fearful dog will move his body and face away from an approaching hand. They will have a tucked tail and a wrinkled forehead – they look worried.

They can also be hypervigilant, looking quickly and frequently in all directions for imminent danger. They may try to hide under a chair or behind their owner.

Other signs may include frequent lip licking, yawning, gasping, shedding, or pooping/peeing on the floor. They are often distracted and unresponsive to commands.

How to answer

If a dog shows signs of fear, don’t reach out to him or put your face close to his face. Best to crouch down to look smaller and less scary, but at a distance where they can’t run and bite.

Sometimes it helps to offer treats. If possible, ask the owner to apply a muzzle. I have noticed that someone approaching a fearful dog can make the situation worse if they enter the room grumpy, talk loudly, or move quickly.

Causes of fear

In my experience, the two main reasons are shackling outside and the use of corporal punishment. If a fearful dog is chained or tied and cannot run away (flight), it must resort to aggression (fighting).

And I’m sure that happens more than we realize with so many stray dogs roaming our streets.

And a well-meaning owner, trying to stop aggressive behavior, may resort to physical punishment that includes hitting, kicking, bumping, or claw collars.

This kind of punishment will make the behavior worse! They are now under attack and don’t know why. Any sanction must be carried out when the activity is in progress or in the second. After that, they have no way of understanding why the punishment is happening.

how to help

If the dog is genuinely fearful and not overly aggressive, an owner can work with the dog to increase his confidence and desensitize fearful situations.

I’ve found that bringing a fearful young dog to daycare can really help build their self-confidence and desensitize them to new people, dogs, and situations.

Sterilization and sterilization will also help in the fight against aggression. Eliminating hormones will help stop dominance aggression.

A tied dog has no way to escape (run away), so not leaving a tied dog outside will also help with aggression.


The best way to train is to establish your leadership and modify the dog’s behavior without forcing it. This can be done by rewarding desirable behavior.

Every dog ​​has a different meaning of “reward”. For some it’s food, for others it can be praise or playtime.

Establish human leadership by establishing clear and consistent rules of behavior. Communicate the rules by rewarding behaviors as they happen or in a second.

Consistent rewards for desirable behaviors and removing rewards for undesirable behaviors. An example would be a dog that wants attention. If the dog jumps on the owner instead of sitting quietly, the owner will clearly withdraw his attention by standing perfectly still or turning away from the dog.

But once the dog is sitting quietly, the owner should immediately reward the dog by petting it and giving it the attention it wants. It has to happen consistently.

Anyone with kids knows that the rules will be tested over and over (seemingly endless) until the leader relents.

Corrections can be given by voice (no physical corrections). Dogs cannot speak English, so a correction must imitate another dog’s correction. It would be a growl or a “no” in a deep “growling” voice.

This topic is very in depth and I realize that I have only scratched the top. I therefore encourage owners to discuss their specific issues with a professional trainer or veterinarian who understands this topic.

And please don’t use corporal punishment or keep a dog tied up in the yard.