Aggression in Dogs and Cats

Help for aggressive behavior in cats and dogs.

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  1. What is Aggression?
  2. What Causes Aggression?
  3. More Information on Aggression

What is Pet Aggression?

Behavior such as barking, biting, growling, hissing and scratching toward other pets or humans are all signs of aggression in pets.

Such behavior is a serious problem and a safety risk. It’s the top reason pet owners seek help from vets, trainers and animal behaviorists.

What Causes Animals to Act Aggressively?

Animal instinct leads pets to want to protect themselves when they are in a defensive situation, but such behavior isn’t acceptable in a domestic environment. Aggressive behavior in animals can be extremely problematic for the owner and can do serious harm to others.

This type of behavior stems from the animal trying to communicate something. Perhaps it doesn’t want to share a treat or bone, or is fearful of something, or is in pain. A pet will usually display lower-level behaviors as a warning before resorting to an all-out attack.

Signs of dog aggression

Canine body language and posture indicate an animal feels threatened. A dog may lower its head, flatten its ears, raise its hackles, pull back its lips or wrinkle its muzzle.

Signs of cat aggression

Cats display warning signs including spitting, hissing, pointing ears forward or to the side, holding tail downward with the tip swaying from side to side and holding its rump higher than the rest of its body. When a cat wants to attack, it may get dilated eyes, assume a crouching position, puff up its fur and bare its claws.

There are a number of factors that can cause aggression in pets:

  • excitability
  • socialization problems
  • breeding
  • fear
  • male rivalry
  • territorial aggression
  • fear aggression
  • maternal fears in order to protect her litter
  • underlying physical symptoms such as pain or discomfort

To fully understand your pet’s behavior, consult with your veterinarian and get a thorough physical examination to rule out medical conditions. Sometimes behavior problems occur when an animal is sick or injured and subside when the underlying cause is remedied.

Socializing your pet at an early age is important to preventing aggressive behavior. By developing a relationship with your pet, you teach him that you are boss and leader of the pack. Expose him to various people and situations to reduce fear of the unknown. Attending obedience classes with a professional dog trainer, visiting dog parks and having your pet play with other pets are all ways to help socialize the animal.

If your pet begins to demonstrate troubling behaviors, consult a qualified animal behaviorist to ensure that you have the tools to correct the situation.

How to Help Aggressive Behavior in Your Pet

  • Socialization – Socialize your pet from an early age by exposing him to new people, other animals, places, situations and experiences. Adult dogs who weren’t socialized as puppies can struggle with appropriate behavior.
  • Training – Even 15-minute sessions of obedience training two to three times per day works wonders.
  • Diet – Feed your animal a high quality, all-natural diet that contains vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
  • Watch – Look out for warning signs of unwanted behavior, and then try to avoid dangerous situations that stimulate this behavior.
  • Exercise – Give your pet regular exercise to release pent-up energy and stress.
  • Stay calm – If you dog behaves aggressively, remember to stay calm and do not panic. Your dog will sense your panic and become worse.
  • Take precautions – If you know your dog displays unwanted behavior, use a muzzle when necessary, limit his contact with people or confine him to a gated area or cage if needed.
  • Ask a pro – Consult a professional trainer or animal behaviorist who can teach positive reinforcement training methods.
  • Don’t punish – Avoid punishment, which will only increase fear and combative behavior.
  • Spay or neuter – Spay or neuter your animal to control hormones that lead to unwanted behavior.
  • Avoid a fight – If a fight occurs between two dogs, don’t try and be a hero by standing between the animals to break up the fight – you will only get bitten.
  • Supplements – Try natural remedies, such as Aggression Formula™ Granules for Social Behavior in Pets, Calm ComboPack for Pets, and PetCalm™ Granules for Pet Anxiety
  1. “Aggression.” ASPCA. Accessed October 6, 2019.
  2. Miller, Pat. “What Causes Aggressive Dog Behavior?” Whole Dog Journal. Accessed October 6, 2019.
  3. “Aggression in Dogs.” Animal Humane Society. October 6, 2019.
  4. “When Your Dog is Overly Aggressive Towards Other Dogs.” PetMD. Accessed October 6, 2019
  5. “When Is It Time to Put Down a Dog Who is Aggressive to People.” Patricia McConnell. Accessed October 6, 2019.
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