All pets are capable of acting in an aggressive manner. Growling, snapping, and raising the hackles are all a normal part of communication in the animal world. When that aggression is directed at humans or other furry family members, it can make you question your pet’s place in the home.

Pet aggression often has an underlying cause. Taking some time to understand why your pet may be acting differently can help to prevent problems and keep you and your animals safe and happy. Blue Valley Animal Hospital is all for keeping pets and people living in harmony, and understanding pet aggression is an important part of that. 

Why Pet Aggression Happens

Some pets are naturally more aggressive than others. When a pet does something that is seemingly out of character, however, there is usually a good reason. The three main scenarios in which a pet may act aggressively include:

Defensive action — A pet who feels threatened or scared will naturally try to defend itself. This can happen if a pet is sick or in pain, or if they perceive that they’re in danger. Animals may also defend resources that they feel may be threatened, such as toys, food, treats, valued locations, or even people or other animals. 

Reactivity — Many animals, through genetics, training, or previous experiences are wired to react to certain stimuli very intensely. A breed that is meant as a guard dog may react more intensely to a perceived intruder, and a pet who has been abused may react strongly to humans that resemble the abuser. A dog who has been attacked by another dog while on a walk might be more reactive while on a leash. Paying attention to the circumstances in which your pet shows aggressive tendencies often sheds some light on the triggers, which may be avoidable. 

True aggression — There are some animals with truly aggressive tendencies. These pets tend to be dominant personalities and are often trying to assert their power or rank over others, both people and animals. 

What’s an Animal Lover to Do?

When pet aggression rears its head, taking some time to try to understand which of the above categories elicited the behavior is the first step. Once you’ve narrowed down the underlying cause:

  • Make an appointment to see your veterinarian. A new behavior in a pet could signify sickness or pain, and we can help identify and treat those issues. 
  • Remove stimuli that may be enticing the behavior. Some pets cannot have toys or other valuable items unsupervised.
  • Up your game. Providing more exercise and mental stimulation can help pets deal with anxiety and other problems. Consider taking your pet to training classes to help build confidence and provide an outlet. 
  • Avoid high-energy situations like crowds and dog parks if these seem to “amp” your dog up.

If your pet has serious aggressive tendencies or you have concerns about their fit in your home, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Some pets need intensive behavioral therapy and even medication to help them overcome these issues.
Our goal is to help pets stay in their forever homes and to keep them and you happy and safe. Pet aggression can be distressing, but when dealt with correctly and quickly, it can often be solved. Give us a call for more information.