Pet aggression

Aggression can come in many shapes and forms in our pets. Signs of aggression should be dealt with early on, quickly and consistently, and sometimes may require the intervention of a certified behaviorist or trainer to get at the heart of the issue and make lifelong changes.


Aggression is, at its core,  a problem not only because it can put other pets or people at risk but also because it’s a high stress situation for your pet and sadly is the reason many pets find themselves without homes or euthanized.


Signs of aggression can include

  • growling,
  • biting,
  • snapping,
  • lunging and
  • aggressive guarding around food or toys.

Different types of aggression include

  • leash aggression,
  • protection of people or territory,
  • misdirected aggression and
  • food aggression.

If your pet shows signs of aggression, set up an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out a medical/physical cause . Hormonal imbalances, aging-cognitive changes and pain are common medical causes for new aggression.


If medical causes are ruled out, then it is time to work with a trained behaviorist to get at the core of why this behavior is occurring and to teach you, the pet parent, ways to navigate this sometimes frightening experience. You may find that you are communicating fear when you are walking your dog on a leash and encounter a stranger. That fear gets transferred to the pet and then to innocent passersby. Having someone watch your interactions with your pet, along with their responses to other animals and people, can assess trigger points and help change your pet’s, and your, interactions. You may find that you are reinforcing the aggressive behavior by your reactions. For instance, if you act excited when a friend arrives, your dog may misinterpret your behavior as fear.


Pharmacological and biological options exist but should not be a first line choice as some can actually worsen aggression.


We at Heal House Call Veterinarian want to give every pet and every pet family the best chances of living together in a secure and harmonious environment.


Heal House Call Veterinarian is an opportunity for practice ownership that provides a network of like-minded veterinarians, business and technical support, online scheduling and marketing support for veterinarians who want to practice quality medicine, have excellent quality of life and enjoy the benefits of being a business owner. Go to to learn more.


Photo Credit: “Labrador Growl” by smerikal – Flickr: Growl. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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