What Causes Dogs to Become Aggressive With Owners?

An aggressive pooch is sometimes just a worried one.
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As a doggie owner, the goal is to develop a harmonious and loving relationship with your pet. If your dog is displaying any hint of aggression with you, it's absolutely imperative to get to the root of the problem immediately -- and then cut it out, with the guidance of an experienced pet behavior professional.

Being Scared

An aggressive dog is often truly just a scared dog. If your dog misinterprets one of your actions as being a menacing one, he might deal with the situation by taking on an aggressive attitude. Your action could be something as simple as trying to clean his feet after he walks in from the muddy outdoors. As innocuous as something might seem to you, it could potentially confuse and frighten your dog -- and perhaps even lead to truculent results. In some cases, the fear is directly related to a tough situation in the past, perhaps a scary encounter with a past owner. Lastly, stressful and unfamiliar situations can also cause dogs to be aggressive, like car rides to the veterinarian's office.

Protection of Belongings

Dogs' survival instincts from their ancestors in the wild sometimes kick in, causing them to be immensely protective over anything "precious" to them, whether their supper or a brand new toy. If your dog behaves aggressively any time you so much as look at him while he's enjoying his dinner, then he's resource guarding. Resource guarding behavior can range from growling and partaking in extended eye contact to biting and running after people and other pets, so take note.

Social Power

If a dog thinks of himself as being the "top dog" in his household, he might behave aggressively toward his owners. Dogs who perceive themselves as being dominant over everyone else can be extremely assertive, from barking to demand for treats to growling and snapping at their human family members from seemingly out of nowhere. Remember, canine society in the wild is formulated around the pack. If your dog thinks that he's the leader of one, you might notice some bossy and pushy behavioral patterns.

Health Woes

Before assuming that your dog is scared, dominant or anything else, consider the possibility that he might be in pain or suffering from a health ailment. Physical discomfort is a major trigger behind uncharacteristic aggressive behavior in dogs. If your dog usually is sweet and loving toward you and abruptly starts up with the aggression, take her to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Anything from tumors to thyroid issues can potentially bring upon aggression, so don't wait around. Get the crucial veterinary attention.

Not Enough Social Interplay

Your dog's fierce behavior could be an effect of insufficient social experiences in life, perhaps from his time as a puppy. If your dog hasn't been around a lot of people or fellow dogs, he might not have a basic understanding of social cues and behavior. This is typical of dogs who were quickly removed from their littermates as puppies. Puppies who didn't get the chance to play and closely interact with their siblings in the earliest weeks of their lives sometimes grow into confused and socially inept adult dogs, which occasionally leads to aggressiveness.


Aggression in dogs is no laughing matter, and can often be extremely dangerous not only to yourself, but also to your family and other pets. Because of the risks potentially involved, it is absolutely vital to never try to fix an aggressive canine's behavior without professional assistance. Get the help of a professional pet behaviorist who understands the ins and outs of doggie aggression. Crucially, make sure that an aggressive dog never has access to any children or other animals in your household. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a reputable professional in the field.