When you’re walking your pet in a public place, do you ever get that uneasy feeling that something bad is going to happen? It could be anything from an animal attack to a car accident — but it probably won’t be either of these things. What most people don’t know is that there are actually many different reasons why animals may exhibit aggressive behavior toward humans. The same can also apply to pets.
For example, if you’ve got a cat, have you ever seen one try to swat at another cat with its paw? You might think this was cute, but cats don’t typically use aggression as a way to communicate affection. They tend to use it as a means of self-defense. If a smaller cat comes too close to them while they’re sleeping on the floor, a larger cat may feel threatened and become protective of itself by attacking the other.
Similarly, if a large lion were to see a small gazelle approaching, it would likely display aggressive behavior by chasing after the gazelle. This type of instinctual behavior has been observed among all types of animals, including birds, fish and even primates like monkeys.
On the next page, we’ll discuss some of the more common reasons that pets behave aggressively toward humans. Keep reading to learn how to tell the difference between protectionism and aggression.
What’s the Difference Between Dog Aggression and Protectionism?
If you’re a dog owner, you already know the basics about protecting your pet. When you leave your pup outside during hot summer months, you want him to stay safe from predators, heat stroke and rainstorms. To keep him from wandering into traffic, you should teach him where he needs to go.
And you should always make sure that the leash you choose will allow you to control his movements without strangling him. But did you know that there are times when it isn’t just your pet that needs protection from others? In fact, sometimes your dog may need protection from you!
Just like any other animal, dogs have natural instincts that cause them to react negatively to perceived threats. For instance, if your dog sees a squirrel running across the road, he may start barking and growling. He’s not necessarily trying to hurt the squirrel he’s simply warning the rest of the pack that there’s trouble coming.
Even though you might find this kind of behavior annoying, it doesn’t mean that your pooch is trying to harm you. Dogs often bark defensively because they’re afraid of being attacked by wild animals such as bears, mountain lions and wolves. However, if your dog barks at every little noise he hears, you may be preventing him from defending himself against bigger threats later on.
Some experts say that dogs should only be used as tools to serve human interests, rather than as pets. This philosophy is called “protectionism,” which suggests that man is superior to animal and that animals should exist solely to meet our needs. On the contrary, “aggression” refers to the act of fighting back in order to defend oneself or one’s possessions.
Many people believe that dogs should never resort to aggression because they’re loyal and loving creatures who deserve respect and love. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that dogs are still animals, so they respond to stimuli based upon their genetic disposition. Their bodies, brains and dispositions have evolved over time to help them survive in packs, and they must rely on similar instincts to survive alone.
How Does a Dog Decide Whether to Bite a Person?
Although dogs are considered carnivores, meaning that they eat meat, they usually don’t consume much beyond plants and grass. Meat is high in calories, but it takes up a lot more room in a dog’s stomach than plant material. A typical adult dog weighs around 40 pounds (18 kilograms), whereas an average wolf chases down prey that weigh approximately 100 pounds (45 kilograms).
Wolves prefer to hunt moose, deer and elk, whereas domestic dogs enjoy eating a range of foods, from raw vegetables and fruits to cooked meats and bones. As long as they receive enough food, water and exercise, dogs rarely starve or suffer from malnutrition.
It’s important to note that although dogs are generally harmless, they can be provoked. There are countless stories out there about people getting bitten by angry or frustrated dogs. Some of the most common incidents involve children and puppies because children tend to provoke dogs through playfulness or loud noises.
Other cases include women who dress provocatively and men who wear shorts or baggy pants. Because of this, you should know how to identify the differences between defensive aggression and predatory attacks before you get bit. Here are some signs to look for :
Panting – After a dog gets excited, he becomes anxious and begins panting. Panting is a sign that indicates aggression and fear combined.
Bite mark – Before biting, a dog marks its intended target with saliva to provide a clear indication of what happened. Your dog may lick or smell the area to determine if it’s injured.
Blood Loss – Blood may leak from minor wounds caused by nipping or scratching. If the wound is deep enough, blood could escape from the mouth and run down the victim’s body.
Injuries – Although the vast majority of dog bites result in no injuries whatsoever, some victims may experience cuts, lacerations, puncture wounds, sprains and bruises. These can occur regardless of how big or strong the dog is.
Once you understand the signals and symptoms of a dog bite, you can take action to prevent further injury. Weigh the pros and cons of taking legal action against the offending dog’s owners, then contact your local police department to report the incident. Be aware that reporting a bite can lead to retaliation from the owner of the bitten party.
If you own a pet, chances are good that you’ll encounter a dog once in a while. If you’re lucky enough to live near a park or somewhere else where dogs roam free, you may occasionally come across a stray dog, especially during warmer months.
Like coyotes, feral dogs are opportunists, meaning that they feed off of whatever they can find. Feral dogs are scavengers who will happily feast on garbage and carcasses left behind by dead animals. Because of this, if you spot a stray dog, avoid interacting with it and call your local authorities immediately. Stray dogs carry rabies and other diseases that can infect humans.
As mentioned earlier, dogs are naturally territorial, which means that they view other animals as enemies and will attack them if necessary. Most dogs are content to chase cars, rabbits and squirrels, but if a dominant male or female feels that its territories are under threat, it may lash out at perceived rivals.
Male dogs particularly dislike rival males who attempt to mate with their females. Female dogs may attack other female pups or older female dogs. Sometimes dogs will turn on members of their own species, especially if they’re jealous of another dog’s success or the attention of a particular member of the opposite sex.
Older dogs may become hostile due to old age, poor health or lack of adequate nutrition. Finally, if a dog believes that it’s in danger, it may lash out at anyone within reach.
To keep your dog happy and healthy, you need to establish rules regarding acceptable behaviors. Teach your pet basic obedience training and limit interactions with strangers. Also, consider neutering or spaying your pet so that it won’t reproduce. Since they’re not designed to fend off predators, animals that haven’t had proper nutritional intake and socialization may suddenly try to fight off competitors for resources.
You should also watch out for certain breeds that are prone to aggressiveness. Pit bulls are notorious for attacking and killing other animals. Bull terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers are also well-known for their tendency to bite. One reason for this is that they’re bred to be fighters. Bulldogs are also notoriously violent, especially when cornered. Chows are incredibly stubborn, so their owners may end up having to put their beloved pets down. Rottweilers are also often mistreated by their owners, leading them to develop aggressive tendencies.