Fear Aggression Behaviour in Dogs

Fear Aggression Behaviour in Dogs

Fear aggression is considered a type of dominance aggression; however, unlike other types of dominance aggression, fear aggression is only aggressive if there is an external factor present. Dogs that are fearful and aggressive toward other animals, drivers, strangers, and even human beings are not necessarily dominant in nature. Fear aggression is simply a type of aggression that dogs will display when they feel threatened or attacked by another living creature.

Though fear aggression can be dangerous to a dog’s well-being and those around it, fear aggression can be prevented. Many dog owners claim that their dogs are afraid of humans, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Fear aggression does not necessarily mean that your dog is scared of you; it also has to do with the owner’s or other person’s actions. If you do not treat your dog in a way that allows him to feel comfortable, he will behave aggressively.

What Causes Fear Aggression?

Dogs that are afraid of something (or someone) will usually exhibit aggressive behaviour toward the perceived danger. Most dogs on average are nice and adoptable, but there are still some oddball dogs who have personality flaws or fears that they need to overcome. Some dogs possess a fear of storms, others feel threatened by strangers or people they perceive as “bad”, while others simply get too nervous around children or other animals. Fear aggression due to humans is a common fear experienced by many household dogs.

Dogs are highly sensitive creatures that feel pain easily, therefore a dog will most likely have some type of aggression when it is afraid. Fearful dogs, in particular, will often show aggression only when they are approached.

One of the biggest obstacles in curing or preventing fear aggression is ensuring your dog feels comfortable and safe with their surroundings. By doing this you’ll be able to keep your dog from feeling threatened or feeling the need to show aggressive behaviour for self-defence. Dogs that are comfortable with their owners and those around them experience less stress and therefore less anxiety. This type of stress can cause dogs to be aggressive and even fearful.

As mentioned previously, fear aggression is not typically dominant in nature. It is more of an indicator that your dog is afraid and might need to work through some personal issues with you. An owner must realize that their dog may be reacting negatively to a situation because he feels threatened, and therefore take it upon themselves to help him become more comfortable in his surroundings.

Is Fear Aggression Contagious?

As mentioned previously, fear aggression can often lead to dominance aggression, a form of aggression that occurs when dogs feel threatened by humans or other animals. Unfortunately, fear aggression can also spread to other dogs in the same household, especially if they are constantly exposed to another dog who is experiencing the problem.

What are the Symptoms of Fear Aggression?

Like all dogs who experience aggression, fear aggressive dogs will display a variety of behaviours that can include (but are not limited to) growling, snarling, lunging, snapping, biting, and trembling. These behaviours happen when a dog feels threatened or attacked. Fear aggression may cause dogs to attack discriminating, even turning against their own owners.

This more so enforces the fact that owners need to allow their dog(s) to become more comfortable around the family or surrounds. You should always avoid provoking fearful dogs as that may be the trigger to make them feel threatened. This can include certain types of activities such as leaving your dog in a yard alone for too long or letting other dogs play with him. Fear aggression is best avoided by keeping dogs separated when they are fearful and allowing them to avoid confrontation with other animals, as well as people, whenever possible.

How is Fear Aggression Treated?

Fear aggression can be treated with a number of different techniques; however, some may not work if the problem is genetic or caused by early abuse. Early socialization and training are beneficial for all dogs, especially those who tend to exhibit fear aggression.

Fear aggressive dogs often respond positively when the dog is taught what is expected of him, as well as what will not be tolerated. The training technique used on the dog depends on the specific cause of his aggression; however, in some cases, behaviourists choose not to use medication on an aggressive dog due to its side effects.

Many times, a dog that displays fear aggression can also display dominance aggression. It is important that you are able to differentiate between the two types of behaviours because they are treated in different ways. By knowing the difference between fear aggression, protective aggression and dominance aggression you may be able to use the right approach to treat your dog.

When working with a fearful aggressive dog, it is important to do as much as possible to prevent situations where there could lead to a potential confrontation. For example, always carry your keys or cell phone when you are walking or out in public alone with your dog. Not only will this assist in making your dog happier overall, it will prevent it from becoming fearful.

A fear-aggressive dog may also become more confident once he has been treated for his aggressiveness. It is important that you are able to recognize and understand the signs of this type of behaviour so that you can correct him as promptly as possible.

How Can I Prevent Fear Aggression?

Owners of fearful aggressive dogs would like to think that they can prevent their dog from acting aggressively by getting them used to other dogs, unless they are brought up with dogs from a very early age, fear aggressive dogs are usually unable to live in many day care settings or boarding facilities because other animals may attack them or simply run away while they are there.

If you do adopt a new dog into your household or take in an abused dog, it is important that you do everything possible to protect him/her from others who might be prone (or experienced) with aggression. A crate of some sort or a kennel that will help ensure that he will not be able to harm himself or others if he does decide to act aggressively.

It is also important for you to keep in mind that other dogs may view your dog as weak because of his fear aggression. Other dogs may jump on him, play rough with him, and this can lead to increased anxiety and possibly even an attack from your dog. You should also know the difference between aggressiveness and playfulness when it comes to interaction with pets and people. Your dog may jump, nip, and even bite if he is feeling threatened. This is very different from playfulness.

Talk with your veterinarian about possible medication options if your dog has become aggressive as a result of fear and anxiety. Around half of the dogs who suffer from fear aggression respond well to medication when combined with behaviour modification. Work with your veterinarian to determine if behaviour modification or medication is best for your dog.

It is important to be vigilant about the signs of fear and anxiety when dealing with a new puppy or adult dog. Understand their behaviours and how they can be treated; it could end up saving your dog’s life, a friend’s life, or even your own!


Fear aggression among with all types of aggression is always a difficult problem for dog owners to deal with. It is even more difficult when you do not recognize that your dog is suffering from this type of anxiety and does not know how to handle it. However, with the proper training and socialization, fear aggression can be prevented. It can also be treated in dogs that already suffer from it.

It takes commitment from the owner to train their dog if he has any aggression issues. If you do not spend the time and energy needed to train your pet, it will be difficult for him (or her) to get better, as well as for you to enjoy having him around.

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