Upbringing, environment, behavioral problems and lack of socialization can make any dog prone to violent tendencies. The common myth is that a predisposition to violence is linked to breed. This is not true. Although certain breeds have stronger guarding and hunting instincts, that isn't the same as a predisposition to violence. Any dog has the capacity to be violent, and it's the owner’s responsibility to ensure the dog is well adjusted and safe.
Environmental Causes of Violence
Dogs instinctively avoid conflict. That’s why they use body language, whether aggressive or submissive, to make their point without resorting to fighting. When a dog becomes violent, he has surpassed the aggression stage and has acted on his impulse. In many cases, this kind of behavior is driven by fear, rather than the dog having a preference for violent behavior. In other cases, the dog may be protecting his territory or guarding his resources, such as food and toys.
Other Causes of Violence
If a dog is unwell and is experiencing pain, he may act violently to being touched. This is a reflex, rather than a premeditated act. Mistreatment of dogs can lead to canine violence, too. A dog who is physically abused will learn to expect that any approach made to him, whether from a human or other animal, may result in him experiencing pain and fear. In order to stop this happening, abused dogs may take the initiative and get their retaliation in first.
The Difference Between Aggression and Violence
Aggression is natural for dogs. If a dog believes his territory is being impinged or that his owners are in danger, he may act aggressively toward the perceived threat. This is his way of giving a warning. He’ll do this in a number of ways, typically starting with an aggressive posture, then graduating toward vocalization, such as low growling and barking. When a dog is in a violent state, he may lunge, chase or even physically attack his target. While owners should discourage and, if necessary, physically restrict their dogs from acting aggressively when it occurs, the focus should be on providing an environment where the dog feels safe and providing opportunities for the dog to socialize. Learning social skills as a puppy will greatly reduce a dog’s propensity for aggressive behavior.
So-Called Violent Breeds
There are no violent breeds. Some breeds are more likely to act in a territorial, protective or predatory way, but this in no way means that they are a danger to those around them. Such breeds include herding dogs like the German shepherd, guarding breeds like the rottweiler, hunting breeds like the greyhound and breeds with a history of being used for fighting and baiting, such as American pit bull terriers. With proper training, socialization and a suitable environment, these breeds are as calm and passive as any.