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, Guest Author ,
July 29, 2016

Dominance—The Control Freak. These types of dogs use aggression to control other pack members or to move up the hierarchical ladder. This type of aggression is sometimes seen in families, especially when the adult(s) use dominance to control behavior. These dogs may pick on the more vulnerable pack members, including children. These dogs need a well-orchestrated training program that involves all family members, so the dog learns to respect everyone.

Possessive Aggression—Mr. All Mine. Dogs may guard resources like sleeping spots, food, or toys if they come from large litters, were raised in or live in multi-pet environments, or have a propensity for hoarding. Encourage sharing by trading desirable objects for goods of equal or more desirability until the behavior subsides.

Territorial Aggression—The Yard Guard. Defenders of the house, home, and all points in between, these dogs will bark at every passing stranger. With each successful defense—the delivery guy always leaves—the behavior works. When someone enters the house, warnings may escalate. It’s important to socialize these dogs and restrict freedom when visitors or workers may drop in.

Predatory Aggression—The Misplaced Hunter. As dogs evolved from predators, most dogs still enjoy the thrill of the chase. Dogs with predatory aggression, however, take the chase too far, moving into the capture phase. These dogs may bite bikers, joggers or fast-moving children or pets. Play games that help this dog express his predatory impulses without endangering prey-like pets and kids. Employ a conditioning program to discourage misplaced excitement.

Fear-Based Aggression—The Scaredy Dog. This is the most common source of aggression towards strangers. A lack of early socialization leaves these dogs fearful and stressed. Often, they are not assertive but furtive, using aggression to make others Just Go Away. Careful socialization and reward-based obedience can reduce their fears and improve behavior.

A skilled trainer can help pinpoint the type of aggression your dog is showing, work with you to identify the triggers and design a multi-faceted plan to manage and rehabilitate your dog.

Usually, canine aggression can be controlled, but it cannot always be “cured.” Ultimately, you are responsible for the safety of your dog and the people he meets.


For more tips from Sarah Hodgson, check out Modern Dog Parenting, available for preorder on AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound, and Booksamillion.

Having trouble communicating with your dog or puppy? Sarah Hodgson, aka the Happy Dog Mom, is here to help. She's written multiple best-selling books on dog training, and her next book, Modern Dog Parenting, will be out Fall 2016. You can reach her at sarah@whendogstalk.com or visit her website whendogstalk.com.


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