Aggression is part of a dog’s essential nature. However a tamed dog that is aggressive and biting is usually a fearful dog. Fearful dogs forget their training and resort to defensive and controlling behaviors that were part of its ancestor’s pack mentality.
Growling and nipping at each other is one way that canines keep the hierarchy in a pack in its proper pecking order. This means that if your dog is growling or nipping at you, he is trying to put you in your place or expressing fear that you will harm him or take something away from him.
In the case of an extremely difficult alpha dog, aggression and biting can also mean that the dog sees you as infringing on his territory. Sadly if your dog is displaying this type of aggression with you than he has also lost his confidence and trust in you. This can only be restored with retraining and calm, consistent authority. Aggression may consist of several components. Almost all of them are fear-based reasons to nip and bite.
1. Self Defense. The dog may be thinking that he is defending himself from other dogs, and if he thinks he is the alpha dog then those other “dogs” might also include you and members of your family. Sometimes the dog is justified in this response especially if your family pack includes a grabby toddler or teasing children.
2. He might be feeling possessive of his toys or his foods.3. He might be terrified. Dogs think that a “good offense is a good defense.”
3. He might be in pain. If a dog is suffering from arthritis or not feeling well he may display aggression in order to warn others to back off and “don’t touch me, you make it worse!”
Each case of aggression is different. How you deal with it depends a lot upon its cause and the type of aggression involved. There are subtle differences for instance between the four different types of aggression – fear, territorial, possessive and dominance aggression. The minute that your dog starts displaying any type of aggression (such as biting) treat as a liability. You should begin to take immediate action to correct his behavior or quarantine him before he can harm other people or other animals. Taking prompt, swift measures to control your dog, even if it means confining or restricting him is crucial. If you let the behavior continue, you could be in for a lawsuit. If you have a possessive dog, you may need to keep him confined in his crate when you have people over. If you are out in public and are at all unsure of your dog’s temperament then keep him on the leash and use a muzzle if you are going somewhere that you know might provoke him to snap or bite. This includes public places such as parks and the vet office I would recommend that you get your dog a thorough physical check up to make sure that he is not suffering from any physical problem that is causing the aggression.