Educational Articles

Dogs + Behavior & Training + English

  • Aggression may be defined as any threat or harmful behavior directed toward another individual or group. Aggression in dogs commonly includes body language or threat displays such as a hard stare, growling, barking, snarling, lunging, snapping, and/or biting. There are many different categories or types of canine aggression including territorial, possessive, maternal/protective, pain-related, predatory, frustration, social conflict-related, sexual, disease-related, and fear- or anxiety-related aggression. The most common presentation of aggression is fear or anxiety motivated. The treatment of aggression will depend on the cause of aggression. Aggression should first be discussed with your veterinarian regarding the most appropriate treatment.

  • Territorial or protective aggression may be exhibited toward people or other animals that approach the pet's property. Generally, people and other animals that are unusual, less familiar to the dog, or most unlike the members of the household are the most likely targets of territorial aggression.

  • With a little effort, a lot of patience, the advice of veterinary professionals, and a new anxiety wrap, you and your dog may successfully weather the storm. Take some preventive steps to help distract your dog during storms and use food or toy rewards to make the time less stressful. 

  • Barking is a normal and natural behavior for dogs. Barking can mean the dog is happy, frustrated, bored, anxious, excited, fearful, alarmed, territorial, and more. If your dog is barking a lot and shows other signs, see your veterinarian as your pet may need medical treatment. Barking can be prevented through training when all your dog’s needs are met. This handout provides example scenarios and sample training plans using the ABC Method of training.

  • Dogs and cats use aggressive signals to communicate and can often do this without causing injury. It is important to learn to recognize subtle signals to prevent an escalation of aggression. Some aggression reflects underlying medical and behavioral illness. Any aggressive behavior in dogs and cats should be assessed to determine the cause and establish a safety protocol. Aggressive behavior in dogs and cats can lead to serious injury to people and other pets.

  • Many behavioral concerns reflect normal behavior and can be resolved with simple training. Other behaviors reflect behavioral abnormalities or may have underlying medical or physical causes. A veterinary behaviorist is trained to assess and treat both normal and abnormal behaviors and can identify medical conditions that can affect behavior. An accurate assessment from the start can improve the outcome.

  • There is a wide range of non-pharmaceutical products designed to improve a pet's behavior. There is little oversight for many of these products which means that any given product may not work for your pet. Ask your veterinarian before using any over-the-counter product for your pet. The label “natural” does not guarantee a product is safe to use in dogs and cats.

  • Dogs and cats that experience frustration may exhibit displacement behaviors or may redirect aggression toward another target. Conflict can also trigger repetitive behaviors that appear to have no function, known as stereotypic behaviors. A compulsive disorder is diagnosed when a repetitive behavior occurs frequently enough to interfere with a pet's quality of life.

  • Behavior problems can be due to medical or behavioral causes, or both. A clinical history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing will help determine if there are underlying medical conditions contributing to the problem.

  • Many behaviors are normal but problematic for a particular person or household. Some behaviors are not normal and may be unsafe for the pet or for others. The first step is to ask your veterinarian to examine your pet for signs of physical illness. Then, a behavior consultation can be scheduled to assess the behavior and design an appropriate treatment strategy.