How to Deal with Aggressive Pets



October 21, 2021

Man’s best friend can sometimes turn on a dime, for a variety of reasons, into a primal angry beast. Fear, bad past experiences, abuse, lack of socialization, possessiveness, or anxiety due to changes in their environment, can cause dogs to act aggressively toward other dogs, other animals, or other people. Read on for some insights!

What Aggression Looks Like

Is your dog:


If so, he’s crossed the line from playful dog into the territory of aggression! This could be due to any of the reasons above, or the dog not being exposed enough to other dogs or people, changes like a move, a new baby, or a new pet in the house, being in pain, feeling the need to defend their territory, their toys, their food, or their people, or the need for dominance in establishing a pecking order.

What To Do About It

In your dog, your best bet is to find out what his triggers are—strangers? Children? Something else? Do your best to find out what it is exactly. If you’re stumped, first see your veterinarian to have them rule out any medical problems. If that doesn’t explain it, you may want to see a behaviorist, socialize safely, or seek out some training. You simply punishing your dog in an unstructured manner for aggression will likely only escalate things.

If You Encounter Someone Else’s Aggressive Pet

If you’re out and about on your own and, for example, approach a yard with a barking or snarling dog, cross the street and walk on the other side so he doesn’t perceive you as invading his territory.

If a dog chases you, don’t try to outrun him. Stay calm and back away slowly. Don’t make direct eye contact, and don’t yell, clap, or try to make yourself look big and tough. This is all threatening and could be triggering. It’s never a bad idea to carry something with you when you’re out—at the very least, a jacket or some kind of bag or backpack. If an aggressive dog approaches and tries to lunge or attack, hold said item between yourself and the dog. If they bite it, let them have it. And for perhaps a greater level of protection, you could carry a sound-emitting tool like the BarxBuddy that will make an alarming sound when a button’s pressed, that only the dog can hear, not you. Press the button a few times and back away.

Dog-on-Cat Aggression

The best defense here is an early education. Introduce your pup to a cat when pup is young, and they’re more likely to see each other as comrades. Changing an adult dog’s behavior is hard. But if your dog is aggressive with your cat or goes ballistic when it sees another one out in the world, try reconditioning as such:


If you have a cat and your dog is habitually aggressive with her, you might keep them separated if that’ll mean a happy life for both parties. Show discerning discipline to the dog so they know what they’re doing is wrong. If he or she is allowed to continue without correction, they may think they’re doing well—protecting you or fighting off a nuisance.

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