Aggression may be defined as any threat or harmful behavior directed toward another individual or group. Aggression in dogs commonly includes body language or threat displays such as a hard stare, growling, barking, snarling, lunging, snapping, and/or biting. There are many different categories or types of canine aggression including territorial, possessive, maternal/protective, pain-related, predatory, frustration, social conflict-related, sexual, disease-related, and fear- or anxiety-related aggression. The most common presentation of aggression is fear or anxiety motivated. The treatment of aggression will depend on the cause of aggression. Aggression should first be discussed with your veterinarian regarding the most appropriate treatment.
Territorial or protective aggression may be exhibited toward people or other animals that approach the pet's property. Generally, people and other animals that are unusual, less familiar to the dog, or most unlike the members of the household are the most likely targets of territorial aggression.
Barking is one of the most common complaints of dog owners and their neighbors! But, for dogs, barking is natural. It can serve as a territorial warning signal to other dogs and pack members. Dogs may vocalize when separated from their pack or family members.
With mild or minor behavioral problems, clients are often able to correct the problem by means of reward-based training, as is outlined in the other handouts in this series. However, when problems are more serious, it is easy to make the problem worse rather than improving it.
Displacement behaviors are usually normal behaviors that are performed at an inappropriate time, appearing out of context for the occasion. Displacement behaviors arise from situations of either conflict or frustration. Conflict refers to the situation in which an animal is motivated to perform two or more competing behaviors (e.g., approach or withdraw, greeting but fear of being punished).
Behavior problems can be due to medical or behavioral causes, or both. A clinical history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing will help determine if there are underlying medical conditions contributing to the problem.
This is a broad topic that includes a variety of therapeutic options including herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies, nutraceuticals and supplements. There are few controlled studies to show that any of these treatments are effective in pets.
It is not unusual for behavior problems to develop in older pets, and often there may be multiple concurrent problems. Some of the changes associated with aging may not seem significant, but even a minor change in behavior might be indicative of underlying medical problems or a decline in cognitive function.