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Aggression in Dogs Toward Familiar People

Dominance, Fear, or Predatory Aggression in Dogs

Aggression in dogs is often deemed normal by some, yet it can be impulsive, erratic, and potentially hazardous. Behaviors indicative of aggression encompass growling, lip lifting, barking, snapping, lunging, and biting. When aggression is targeted at family members or individuals familiar to the dog, current treatment strategies focus on managing the problem, as there exists no known cure.

Symptoms and Types

Identifying abnormal aggression in dogs can pose a challenge. Typically, aggression manifests around the dog’s food bowl, toys, or during handling, especially with familiar individuals like their handlers or household members.

Frequent displays of aggression may not always target the same person consistently. Signs of aggression include ears tucked back, snarling, avoiding eye contact, biting, and lunging.

While aggression towards familiar individuals generally signals a serious issue, there are cases where a dog may become aggressive following a painful medical procedure or due to chronic pain.

Causes

Certain breeds tend to display more aggression than others. Breeds such as Spaniels, Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, and Rottweilers, among others, are known for this tendency, although aggression can occur in any breed. Typically, signs of aggression surface between 12 and 36 months of age, with male dogs exhibiting it more frequently than females. Aggression towards familiar individuals can also stem from medical conditions or the aftermath of medical procedures. Furthermore, inconsistent or harsh punishment from the dog’s owner can exacerbate the animal’s aggressive behavior.

Diagnosis

In a veterinary assessment, your veterinarian will assess for fear-based aggression, anxiety disorders, and pathological diseases. However, conventional blood tests usually do not reveal any abnormalities

Treatment

Animals demonstrating aggression towards familiar individuals require rigorous behavior modification therapy, possibly supplemented with medication. Behavior therapy focuses on eliminating or managing situations that trigger aggression. Veterinarians assist owners in identifying triggers and behaviors for correction. Some dogs may need to wear a muzzle until their behavior improves. Implementing affection control, where the animal must obey a command before receiving treats, proves effective in behavior modification. Additionally, desensitization can reduce the animal’s response to anxiety and fear.

Physical activity can also help alleviate feelings of aggression in dogs. A low-protein/high-tryptophan diet has shown success in reducing aggression. While there are currently no approved medications for treating canine aggression, surgical neutering of aggressive male dogs is a common recommendation.

Living and Management

The treatment guidelines aimed at decreasing aggression are intended to be lifelong and must be diligently and consistently adhered to by the dog’s owner. Currently, there is no cure for aggression.

Prevention

One of the most effective preventive measures is to refrain from breeding aggressive animals and to initiate socialization and hierarchy training from a young age.

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