Fear causes people to behave in ways that aren’t typical, and the same can be said for dogs. When people become afraid, there’s no specific reaction that’s hardwired into us. Much like our furry friends, it can cause us to become aggressive. If you believe your pet is acting aggressively out of fear, take a moment to try and understand their behavior.
The key to identifying the source of aggression in your pet is understanding that dogs react for a variety of reasons, not just from fear. Territorial and protective aggression is associated with defending valuable objects, redirected aggression occurs when a dog takes out their frustrations on someone or something other than what provoked them, and individual variation aggression is determined by a dog’s threshold for tolerating agitators. With so many types of aggression in dogs, it’s important to break down the differences thoroughly, and we’re going to focus on fear-based aggression.
As noted before, a fearful dog can act and react in several ways. The flight response is often the simplest way for dogs to avoid an intimidating situation, and many will run away when they become frightened. However, when escape is not an option the dog will usually defend itself by showing aggressive behavior. Despite being afraid, they use aggression as a self-preservation tactic.
This can look like any or all of the following:
What complicates fear motivated aggression is that it’s not always easy to anticipate when it’s about to occur. A dog can be cowering in fear and appear very submissive, but strike out unexpectedly toward a person or dog they consider a threat. Another complicated aspect of fearful aggression is that dogs won’t always respond when the threat is directly in front of them. Some dogs will wait until the person or animal that frightened them turns to leave then attack. That’s why it’s incredibly important that people never turn their backs on a fearful dog.
Fearful dogs display the following posture and traits:
Aggression can occur in the most gentle of dogs if they become frightened. This does not warrant punishment, owners should always be aware of their pet and help them avoid potentially dangerous or frightening situations. That being said, it’s not always possible so be aware of fearful posturing. If your dog consistently shows fear-motivated aggression, contact It’s A Dog’s World for help –this is a behavior that requires skilled attention. Together we can help your pet.