Why Do Dogs Attack?

Why Do Dogs Attack?

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Have you ever questioned why your normally calm dog suddenly becomes enraged and determined to fight whatever comes his or her way, or what stimulates my dog to attack other dogs in parks or on morning walks, or can you imagine a dog you've always loved and trained charging at you furiously and ready to attack you? Nobody wants to believe their dog is capable of attacking. "Is your dog friendly?" is one of the most common questions we get when people want to say hello to our dog. That individual really wants to know if your dog will attack them when they approach to say hi.


    Dogs attack people usually as a result of fear or territorial dominion especially when they are protecting something/someone they hold in esteem or defending their favorite things. This may result in aggressive behavior. Similarly, pain sentiment can cause a dog to charge at the owners, However, all dogs have the potential to attack people, owners, or other dogs in a variety of situations.


      As a Dog owner, with a German Shepherd dog named Smart, I understand that unexpected my dog could attack at the least moments and just turn his face to appear fiery and won’t even listen to me until I deal with him or come close enough to make my impact. Although Smart is a lovely dog but likewise handles his territory with full responsibilities.

      Many times, what makes Smart to attack is usually after I have discipline him for a wrongful deed i.e., he destroyed my footwears, smart can go soar for the whole day therefore anyone unfamiliar that approaches our gate or step into the compound is in serious danger because Smart will furiously charge at him.

      I was almost attacked by Smart the day a car hit him during our weekend exercise at a park, the accident fractured his right forearm, then in my own little way to caring and checking the arm, he snapped at me, I quickly retracted my hand because I can see the fury in his eyes then I understood pain can agitate dogs.


        Prior to attacking, most dogs will try to communicate their displeasure by barking, growling, or snapping at the air. But what causes dogs to attack people in the first place? There are four main reasons for this:

        • Fear

        Fear is at the root of the majority of aggressive dog behaviour. A dog may be afraid of something or someone approaching them or intruding into their space. When something a dog is afraid of gets too close, it can overwhelm or "over threshold" the dog, causing it to attack. When a dog attacks out of fear, they are usually trying to get away from whatever or whoever they are afraid of.

        • Caught off guard

        When dogs are startled, especially if they have been sleeping, they can attack. A shocked dog may become agitated and unsure of where they are or what is going on, and may attack. These dog attacks may catch both people and dogs off guard. This is especially common in older dogs, who may have diminished vision and/or hearing and may become confused if startled awake. Always be careful not to disturb a sleeping dog, and teach children not to crawl into dog beds or awaken sleeping dogs.

        • Guarding

        If your dog has something precious that they don't want to share, such as toys, food, or chews, they may attack out of fear that it will be taken away. As part of resource guarding behaviour, attackers may attack to protect valuable items. Some dogs, regardless of breed, may have strong guarding instincts and may attack if they believe their home is being invaded or if they believe a member of their family is in danger (regardless of if that danger is real.)

        • Frustration

        Another situation that can lead to attacking behaviour in dogs is when they become overwhelmed. Dogs may attack out of frustration if they feel trapped in an unwelcome or unpleasant situation. Dogs can become frustrated if they are unable to reach something they desire because they are restrained by an owner or a leash. Dogs may turn and attack at whatever or whoever is holding them back, which is known as redirecting or a redirected attack.


          Most well-socialized dogs, in general, try to avoid physical or aggressive confrontation. Dogs converse their desire to interact or their desire to avoid an aggressive encounter through their body language. Not all dogs are natural or skilled communicators with other dogs, just as not all people are.

          When there is a new dog around, particularly if there is a dominant male present prior to the arrival of another male, this can lead to daily territorial wrestling.

          Aggression between dogs that aren't familiar with each other can be caused by fear, a lack of communication, or defensive, possessive behaviour over resources. Grunting, growling, barking, lunging, snapping, and attacking are examples of the behaviour.


            What makes a dog turn on its owner in such a dramatic way? Experts say the situation is still unclear. However, there are several factors that cause dogs to lash out. Here are a few to keep in mind:

            • Pain

            For dogs, being sick or injured can be extremely stressful, frightening, and overwhelming. When a dog is injured or in pain, even the most tolerant can attack. If your dog becomes injured, be aware that they may attack if handled, so use caution when lifting or moving your injured dog. If your dog's behaviour changes dramatically, it's best to make an appointment with your veterinarian rather than trying to handle it on your own.

            • Prevent Flooding and Overwhelming

            The goal is to keep your dog from being "flooded" with high stress situations. Flooding applies to exposing your dog to a huge number of things that frighten or frustrate them for an extended period of time. It's an attitude that causes anxiety in dogs and does nothing to change their emotional response to the situation that they find bewildering. In these circumstances, your dog is more likely to attack as a result of being overwhelmed or overstimulated.

            • CONCLUDING WORDS

            Unless they feel threatened to themselves, their pack, or their territory, dogs are not predisposed to attack humans. Because some dog owners are reckless or irresponsible, we cannot always remove the risk. We can, however, arm ourselves with information that will help us avoid escalating a situation and minimise the damage if it does escalate to an attack.

            Dr Marvelous Ibiniyi, DVM

            A pet enthusiast and young veterinarian in the making, who loves writing and giving educative information about pets especially dogs and cats. Dr Marvelous has a German Shepherd dog named Smart and likewise a Persian cat named Rolex.

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