When a pet misbehaves it can be disheartening, especially when it comes out as aggression. Not all aggression in pets is the same, however, and deciphering the underlying cause behind the problem can be a little tricky.

The team at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital has some experience in this area, and we are happy to help shed some light on this delicate subject.

Why Aggression in Pets Happens 

An aggressive pet isn’t necessarily a bad pet! When a dog or cat acts out, it’s our responsibility as pet owners to get to the bottom of ‘why’, so we can help keep them and other pets and people safe.

Many times a pet who is acting aggressively may be acting defensively. When an animal feels threatened or endangered, the reaction is instinctual. Sometimes this connection isn’t obvious, though. Pets may feel that their valuable resources, such as food, treats, toys, or a favorite sleeping spot, are in need of protection. They may even be defending you or another person they love.

Other times a pet may be being reactive. Just like people, some pets act more intensely in reaction to a situation than another due to their unique genetics or breed (think guarding or herding breeds). Other times poor socialization is at play. Small dogs in particular can have this tendency. 

Some pets act with true aggression, often trying to establish their position in a pack. These instances, however, are less common than the other scenarios. 

What to Do

If you have a pet who is behaving aggressively, you can certainly take some steps to try to prevent it from continuing. The first step is to look at the circumstances under which the behavior occurred. This often contains valuable clues about whether a pet may be acting defensively, reactively, or truly aggressively.

Also consider:

  • Your pet may be experiencing pain, illness, or another condition that is contributing to a defensive attitude. Call us so that we can rule this in or out.
  • There may be identifiable triggers to the behavior that you can control or avoid.
  • Chaotic or high-energy situations can be difficult for even the most well-behaved pet.
  • You may need to remove highly valued items from the environment if they are a cause of aggression. 
  • Some pets may be a behavioral consultation and/or further training.

You can also work with your pet on basic obedience and socialization. Focus on positive reinforcement training, rewarding desirable behaviors rather than punishing bad ones. 

If the aggressive behaviors continue despite your best efforts, or begin to escalate, you may need to get a board-certified animal behaviorist involved. Sometimes changing behaviors in our pets is a lot of work, but it is inevitably worth it for man’s best friend.