What is Fear Aggression in Dogs?
Fear aggression in dogs is fairly common and often misunderstood. Fear aggression is directed towards a person or another animal and the motivation is to display aggressive signals (showing teeth, growling, lunging or even making contact and biting) in an attempt to move that dog or person AWAY. Fear aggression rarely comes out of the nowhere and frequently there are subtle warning signs that happen well before the big obvious ones like growling and lunging.
Flee, Fight or Freeze
When a fearful dog feels threatened or unsafe the best option is for them to move away. If the option to move away (flee) isn’t there or the dog learns that moving away doesn’t work (i.e. your uncle who keeps pursuing your nervous dog in an attempt to “make friends”) then the dog may turn to more a proactive means to protect himself, by moving towards the threat and showing teeth, growling, lunging or biting (fight). The third option a fearful dog has is to just hold very still and “tolerate” the intrusion into his space in the hopes that the threat will just go away (freeze). Often the freeze is misinterpreted as the dog being “OK” when in reality the dog is really not OK at all.
Fear aggression is often a combination of genetic and environmental factors, it can also be the direct result of a traumatic experience. For some dogs just one extremely negative experience is all that is necessary to open the door to long-term behavior fallout.
What are the Signs of Fear Aggression?
Dogs that are fear aggressive often start at the low end of the aggression ladder.
Every dog is different, but the common signs of discomfort include:
These signs may be even be present in young dogs or puppies.
If your dog is uncomfortable and then feels cornered or trapped, he may escalate up the aggression ladder to the growl, lunge, snap or bite in an attempt to get the threat to move away.
It is also not uncommon for a dog with fear aggression to retreat from, freeze or even “tolerate” an interaction but then lunge, nip or bite at the person from behind as they walk away.
Training Solutions for Both Ends of the Leash
Ask Me Anything
Schedule your 50 minute virtual Ask Me Anything for quick, laser focus on one issue. Quick questions on house training, why your dog won’t come inside (if you have a fenced yard) puppy issues and jumping up are examples of appropriate topics. Not suitable for aggression, biting or other serious issues.
Take a deep dive into your dog’s behavior. We look at the Whole Dog. We ask Why is this behavior happening, then move into the How, how do we stop it, how do we change it, etc.
Allow 1.5 – 2 hours for this deep dive.
On demand courses are available online and at your convenience. They are an effective and fun way for you to learn and improve your dog’s behavior from the convenience of home. Click below to check out our ever-expanding library of courses.