Anxiety Leads to Aggression: Don’t Let it Happen to Your Dog!
Anxiety is fairly common, as is aggression – if you’re seeing these in your pet, you’re not alone. Let’s talk about some of the ways the two connect, and why they have a link. A lot of dogs show anxiety through repetitive behaviors like chewing or self-induced lesions from licking. These are anxious, and can lead to more defensive, reactive behavior if not treated.
Why Does Aggression Occur?
Aggression is normal in some contexts; used socially with other dogs to negotiate territory, status, or to defend themselves when threatened. In addition, submissive displays (rolling, groveling, urination and retreat) are similarly natural when a dog feels threatened and out of their league.
If submissive signals are missed and not heeded, the dog might feel like they need to react with aggression to be understood. Like humans, dogs will lash out if they feel that the person isn’t treating them fairly or listening to them, which causes a dire reaction. Over time, a dog who has to react often with aggression might learn that they need to jump straight to aggression to get the point across.
Aggression is a Learned Response
If an owner is cruel or very dominant, fearful dogs may be forced to respond aggressively. In addition, punishment is often applied inconsistently, creating anxiety because the dog might expect one thing and get another. At their root, owners are leaders, and should set a cohesive standard for their dog. If your dog is not sure if it’s going to be rewarded or chastised for a behavior, it might react defensively, and humans interpret that as being aggressive.
It CAN Be Fixed
These behaviors can be corrected. The main key is to always be patient and kind towards your animal, but to also be consistent with the way you teach behaviors. Set the example that you’d like them to follow. If you’ve noticed your dog picking up anxious or aggressive behaviors, or finding that you don’t know why your dog is reacting aggressively, feel free to contact one of our trainers at Heart of Texas Dog Training to talk about your next steps, or learn more about our in-home training programs.