Managing 5 Key Types of Dog Aggression

There are six levels of dog aggression and five key types. What are they and how can you manage them—before things get out of hand.

Sarah Hodgson, Writing for
5-minute read

Aggressive dogs are speaking out. They are sick and tired of being treated like stuffed animals, kissing strangers and tolerating rude behavior from kids and family members alike.

Dogs who bite aren’t bad—they’re just stressed out! Unfortunately, reality bites (quite literally in this case).

When a dog bites out of fear or intense frustration, a pleasing chemical reaction takes place in its brain. Biting releases dopamine, the same neurotransmitter implicated with heroin use. This soothes the dog's emotions and has an immediate effect on the trigger (whatever is causing the reaction, person or another dog).

But dogs do not bite out of the blue, and it’s easy to prevent a mishap when you learn the various types of aggression and how to recognize when a dog is feeling guarded.

Today's Quick and Dirty tip takes you on a journey into the mind of an aggressive dog.

Levels of Aggression

First, consider the six levels of aggression as outlined by veterinarian and dog expert Ian Dunbar.

Level Description
1 At first a dog will give warning signs: a cold glance, stiff posture or audible growl.
2 Contact but no deep wounds. This bite may bleed from contact, but there are no punctures.
3 One to four puncture wounds, some bleeding.
4 Deep puncture wounds that may cause bruising (from pressure bite) or cuts in multiple directions (from a bite-the-shake move).
5 Multiple levels; four bites.
6 The victim is dead.

Level six is pretty dramatic, but remember that aggression is not a universal response to all situations. When, where, and how a dog expresses aggression depends a lot on both his nature and nurture.