We’ve all heard the old adage, “Dogs are man’s best friend.” But if that’s true, why are there 20,000 dog attacks annually in Los Angeles County, CA? To answer that question, it’s important to understand what causes canine aggression. Keep reading to learn what can cause a dog’s behavior to become threatening.

Understanding a Dog’s Behavior

Understanding how a canine is feeling is often difficult because they can’t talk to us to tell us what’s wrong. Dog behavior is just as complex as human behavior, based on instinct, training, and the need to communicate their feelings. 

Has an angry two-year-old ever punched you in the nose? It can be helpful to imagine a dog as being like a toddler, whose only choice for communicating frustration, fear, or pain is to throw a tantrum. If a dog is acting aggressively, there is a reason behind it, even if that reason is simply, “I don’t feel well.”

Eight Reasons Why a Dog Might Be Acting Aggressively

1. Pain Aggression

Have you ever struck out at someone without thinking because they touched a bruise or jostled a sprain? A dog will react the same way if a person presses against a sore area or otherwise intentionally or unintentionally inflicts pain.

2. Fear Aggression

Dogs may respond aggressively out of fear if a stranger approaches them or backs them into a corner. This is often why canines are wary of small children, who behave unpredictably and lack boundaries. Fear aggression occurs when the dog feels distrustful or trapped.

3. Possession Aggression

A dog may become aggressive if something they perceive to belong to them is threatened. This includes anything the dog has grown attached to, including their people and territory as well as toys and other objects. A guard dog is effective because, as far as they are concerned, they are defending their own property.

4. Self-Defense Aggression

Again, understanding what causes canine aggression can be as simple as looking to human behavior. If someone or something is threatening your personal safety, you might react aggressively and defensively. A dog will also use aggression in self-defense.

5. Dominance Aggression

A dog may direct dominance aggression at anyone or anything that threatens the dog’s standing within its perceived pack. This is why a dog might be aggressive towards certain household members and other family pets. Conflicts between two or more male dogs also often relate to dominance issues.

6. Maternal Aggression

The maternal instincts of any female animal will make her aggressive in the defense of her babies. Sometimes, she only needs to see someone or something approaching to have an aggressive and defensive reaction.

7. Predatory Aggression

A canine may act aggressively towards anything it perceives as prey, most often smaller animals. This instinct has to do with the quick movement of the prey, so smaller animals—or even a person on a bicycle—can trigger predatory aggression.

8. Illness or Disease Aggression

Aggression isn’t always due to instinct or training. What causes canine aggression in some dogs is a disease. Illnesses that may cause aggressive behavior include hypothyroidism, encephalitis, brain trauma, epilepsy, rabies, and others.

When Does Typical Canine Aggression Become Problem Aggression?

A dog’s aggressive behavior becomes a problem when someone gets hurt (or is in danger of getting hurt). Dog attacks can cause serious injury and trauma to human victims, including severe nerve damage, disfigurement, psychological trauma, or even death. These are the cases where it becomes necessary to contact a personal injury attorney.

How Can I Prevent Being Bit by a Dog?

Now that you understand what causes canine aggression, you can help prevent dog attacks upon yourself and your family. Always take note of the signals a canine is giving you, and always ask the dog owner if it’s okay before approaching a dog you do not know. Even if the owner claims the canine is friendly, pet the dog yourself before allowing children to do so.

Are Dog Owners at Fault for Their Dog’s Aggressive Actions?

In general, yes, a dog owner should and can be held responsible for an attack involving their dog. Many times, dog attacks result from owner negligence or lack of training. 

However, circumstances exist under which a dog owner cannot be held legally accountable:

  • The victim was trespassing at the time of the attack
  • The victim incited the attack by provoking the dog
  • Dog bites are not unexpected as part of the victim’s job description (veterinarians, etc.)
  • The canine bites the victim while working with police or the military 

Victims of dog attacks where none of the above circumstances apply have the ability to bring a lawsuit against the dog owner.

Contact an Injury Lawyer at The Dominguez Firm

Here at The Dominguez Firm, we understand what causes canine aggression because we have been dealing with dog bite legal cases for more than 30 years. If a dog attack has seriously injured you or your loved one, our dog bite lawyers can help. We offer free case evaluations, so there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by talking with us. Call us today at (800) 818-1818 in Los Angeles, CA, for an initial consultation.

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