Does Anxiety Cause Aggression?
One of the most consistent things that causes a dog’s behavioral issues is anxiety. When a dog gets anxious, it can lead to all types of problems — destructive chewing, excessive behaviors (digging, barking, etc), and even aggression.
For those dogs with aggressive tendencies, it is very rare that the aggression comes from some mysterious past life or neurological issue. Sure, they do happen, and plenty of rescue dogs have had dodgy lives before coming into a loving, stable home. An abused or neglected past life can play a role into how a dog is socialized and grows, but when a dog is with their new family and home, there’s always a chance to overcome the past and progress to the future.
Our Charlotte Dog training is about dogs from all background finding behavioral balance and happiness in their homes. When we work with a client, we pinpoint what the issues are and what is causing them. Anxiety is the consistent culprit. Once we figure out what’s causing the anxiety, we create a structure to eliminate it, through confidence building and consistent leadership.
One of my first clients was a dog named Bandit, who was being aggressive toward guests (human or canine) coming into the home. It was originally brushed off as just “being a little territorial”, so therefore it was natural and harmless. While many dogs do exhibit some territorial behavior, Bandit was taking it too far —he bit his owner’s aunt when she was visiting. Many people said Bandit was just a mean dog and that he should be re-homed to avoid any other aggression incidents.
Bandit was territorial, but he was also biting out of fear. When I first met Bandit, he barked aggressively, but was also backing up and cowering away. He was afraid of me and anxious over my presence in the home. His owner consoled him when he was acting aggressive, shushing him gently and telling him, “It’s okay”. When trying to eliminate the problem, Bandit’s owner was actually reinforcing and communicating to Bandit that his anxiety-driven aggression was okay! We had to get the communication between Bandit and his owner more clear and solid, plus his owner needed to demonstrate more leadership, rather than letting Bandit “figure it out on his own”. Bandit and all dogs seek direction, and as leaders/parents, it is our duty to lead our dogs to success and better behaviors!
Aggression is a scary issue, but it doesn’t mean the dog is nuts or completely hopeless. Change is possible for aggressive dogs as well. The root of aggression can be anxiety, and if we can snip that root, than an aggressive dog can overcome their aggression and flourish positively!
Does your dog show signs of anxiety? Are you scared it’s slowly leading into more serious problems, such as aggression? Don’t wait until it gets worse…call us at 704.741.2880 and we’ll help immediately!