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Aggressive Dogs: What Causes Aggressive Behavior?

Growling, baring teeth, snarling, snapping, and biting are all aggressive behaviors and these behaviors are warnings that a dog may bite or otherwise harm a person. What causes a dog to behave aggressively?
 
There are several types of aggression that a dog may exhibit.
 
Dominance aggression
 
Dogs are social animals who view their families as their “pack”.  When a dog perceives that his place in the pack has been challenged, he may show dominance aggression.  A dog may feel threatened if he is asked to give up his favorite spot on the couch for a guest. He may respond by growling at the visitor or otherwise trying to intimidate the newcomer into submission.
 
Physical restraint, such as reaching for a dog’s collar or petting him by reaching over his head, may also be interpreted by the dog as a challenge for dominance. If a normally friendly dog growls, try to determine if your own behavior might be seen as a threat.
 
Fear-motivated aggression 
 
This type of aggression is a defensive reaction that occurs when a dog believes he is in danger of being harmed.   
 
The dog may be responding to the threat of other dogs, an unfamiliar voice, or even a movement that can be interpreted as threatening such as the raising of an arm to throw a ball.  
 
Protective, territorial, and possessive aggression
 
These types of aggression are similar; they each involve the defense of belongings. Territorial aggression is usually associated with defense of property; to a dog, the property may include anywhere he has marked with his urine, including areas outside the owner’s property line.   Protective aggression refers to aggression directed toward people or animals that a dog considers a threat to his pack, or family. Possessive aggression occurs when a dog defends his food, toys, or any other valued objects.  This can include trash as the value is perceived by the dog.
 
These types of aggression often occur when a newborn joins the household.
 
Redirected aggression
 
Redirected aggression occurs when a dog is provoked by someone he cannot attack.  The aggression and anger is redirected at someone else.  For example, a dog may become agitated by a person passing on the other side of a fence.  Since the dog cannot attack that person, he may attack a child playing in the yard instead.
 
Predation
 
Predation is aggressive behavior motivated by the intent to obtain food; it is not meant to harm or intimidate.

Some dogs are rarely aggressive; others can become aggressive quite suddenly and attack with very little provocation. If a dog is showing aggressive behavior, the owner has a responsibility to ensure that the dog does not harm others.  He should seek the advice of a veterinarian and confine the dog so it is not a threat to others.
 
In California, dog owners are liable for the injury that their dogs cause.  If you or your child has been injured by an aggressive dog, contact the Orange County dog bite attorneys at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis and Leslie to learn more about your rights and how you can receive compensation for your injuries. Call us at 866-981-5596.
 
For more information about finding a personal injury lawyer in Orange County, request our free guide: “Avoid Lawyer Advertising Hype! A Lawyer's Method for Finding a Lawyer.”


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