Aggression in Dogs
Can Aggression Be Cured?
Pet parents of aggressive dogs often ask whether they can ever be sure that
their dog is “cured.” Taking into account the behavior modification techniques
that affect aggression, our current understanding is that the incidence and
frequency of some types of aggression can be reduced and sometimes eliminated.
However, there’s no guarantee that an aggressive dog can be completely cured.
In many cases, the only solution is to manage the problem by limiting a dog’s
exposure to the situations, people or things that trigger her aggression.
There’s always risk when dealing with an aggressive dog. Pet parents are
responsible for their dogs’ behavior and must take precautions to ensure that
no one’s harmed. Even if a dog has been well behaved for years, it’s not
possible to predict when all the necessary circumstances might come together to
create “the perfect storm” that triggers her aggression. Dogs who have a
history of resorting to aggression as a way of dealing with stressful
situations can fall back on that strategy. Pet parents of aggressive dogs
should be prudent and always assume that their dog is NOT cured so that they
never let down their guard.
Are Some Breeds More Aggressive Than Others?
It’s true that some breeds might be more likely to bite if we look at
statistics gathered on biting and aggression. There are many reasons for this.
One likely reason is that most dog breeds once served specific functions for
humans. Some were highly prized for their guarding and protective tendencies,
others for their hunting prowess, others for their fighting skills, and others
for their “gameness” and tenacity. Even though pet dogs of these breeds rarely
fulfill their original purposes these days, individuals still carry their
ancestors’ DNA in their genes, which means that members of a particular breed
might be predisposed to certain types of aggression. Despite this, it’s
neither accurate nor wise to judge a dog by her breed. Far better predictors of
aggressive behavior problems are a dog’s individual temperament and her history
of interacting with people and other animals. You should always research breeds
to be sure that the breed or breed mix you’re interested in is a good fit for
you and your lifestyle. However, the best insurance policies against aggression
problems are to select the best individual dog for you (please see our article,
Puppy from a Litter, for more information) and to provide her with
appropriate socialization as a youngster (please see our article, Socializing Your