Has your dog suddenly started to growl, snarl, or worst of all, bite or snap at you or your family? Is your dog suddenly aggressive and starting to worry you with their unusual canine aggression?
Sudden aggression is definitely a cause for concern, particularly if your beloved pet dog is usually calm and well-mannered! It’s even more of a concern if you’ve got young children in the family.
But don’t fear, because while sudden aggression in dogs can be scary, there is always a reason behind any dramatic change in character. And as an owner, you can help your dog to get back to its normal, friendly self!
If your dog is suddenly aggressive, then keep reading to find out what to do and how to stop it.
What is Sudden Aggression in Dogs?
Sudden aggression in dogs is any harmful, dangerous, or aggressive behavior that a dog abruptly exhibits towards its fellow dogs or towards humans. It’s unusual behavior, and your dog’s sudden aggression will have a cause behind it.
When they are loved, cared for, well-fed, and happy, dogs aren’t naturally aggressive (unless they are trying to defend you!), so owners need to take this behavior seriously from the start, before it turns dangerous and before it becomes regular behavior.
Dogs have very different characters, and aggression in dogs can show itself in very different ways: naturally calm and quiet dogs might not bite or snarl, but they could give you what we call the hard stare, otherwise - more energetic or temperamental dogs could start biting and snapping when they become aggressive!
Owners should look out for the following sudden signs of aggression:
- Growling, snarling, or barking towards people or animals.
- The hard stare (your dog looks at you unnaturally, aggressively).
- Snapping, lunging, and biting with the intent to cause harm.
Aggressive behavior could very well start with a few growls or stares that you think little of.
This can then escalate to biting if you don’t try to get the cause of the problem (and if your dog is large, or your children are small, then dog bites are never good!).
When you notice any sudden, unusual changes in behavior, then it’s good to do a little further investigation for the sake of you and your pet!
Why is My Dog Suddenly Aggressive Towards Me?
If you’ve loved and cared for your dog since they were a young pup, then sudden aggressive behavior can be seriously off-putting, worrying, and disheartening. You’ll be wondering what you did wrong or why your dog has had a change of heart towards you.
In most cases, the cause of the sudden aggression won’t be your fault, or there will be simple changes you can fix in your dog’s lifestyle that make them feel more comfortable at home.
It could be an injury or an illness, for example, or they could be seeking more attention.
Do dogs get jealous? Yes, they do, and they also experience fear, frustration, and anxiety!
For concerned owners, getting to the underlying cause of the problem is the first step towards tackling sudden aggression. Here are the major causes of sudden aggression in dogs:
- Your dog is injured and in pain.
- Your dog is experiencing ongoing pain or discomfort from an underlying illness or medical condition.
- Your dog is scared or anxious.
- Your dog is unhappy at home or uncomfortable in its surroundings.
- Your dog is attempting to show dominance.
Some of these reasons are much more serious than others. However, owners also need to consider that their dog is just grumpy!
If the signs of aggression aren’t dangerous (no biting, etc.), and they go away after a little love and affection, then it’s probably just a mood swing!
How Can I Stop Sudden Aggression?
If you’re left wondering - Why is my dog being aggressive all of a sudden?, then there are several courses of action to take in order to stop their behavior from worsening.
If you’re worried that you can’t deal with the issues yourself or that your dog is injured or ill, then always seek out professional veterinary advice.
Here’s how to stop sudden aggression in dogs.
Keep your dog calm and isolated
Before you can start getting to the cause of the aggression, you’ll need to make sure your dog is kept calm and isolated so as not to hurt others.
If the aggression is new, then you can’t be certain how out of control it will get or how quickly. Avoid walking your dog in the park, and keep them away from other animals and children until you have a diagnosis for their sudden switch in mood and behavior.
Inspect your dog for injuries
If your dog’s behavior is very sudden and unnatural, then aggression is very likely to be caused by pain or discomfort. Dogs get hurt just like people, but unfortunately, they can’t communicate their pain in the same way that we can!
- Keep your dog calm, feed them a few treats, then give them a good inspection.
- Check for any blood, bruising, or visible signs of an accident by gently running your hands over them.
- If you find an injury or area where they are in pain, go and see your vet.
Identify illnesses or medical conditions
If injuries aren’t obvious, but your dog’s aggressive behavior appears to be caused by pain or discomfort, then they could very well have an illness or underlying medical condition.
If the behavior continues and isn’t a one-off (i.e. they aren’t just grumpy), then take your pet to the vet.
There are many conditions that could be causing them pain, and you’ll need a diagnosis and a treatment plan to move forward and to stop the condition from worsening.
Identify and avoid aggression triggers
If your dog is grumpy, experiencing regular mood swings, or undergoing long term treatment for an illness or behavioral issue that does cause aggression, it’s always good to avoid triggering them!
Dogs will have unique triggers if the problem is behavioral but could include anything from loud noises (fireworks are a huge issue for dogs, for example), sudden noises or movements, or certain behavior towards them from humans or other dogs.
To avoid unwanted dog attacks or aggressive behavior in public, you need to keep your dog on a leash when outside or keep them away from other animals entirely.
Seek out expert behavioral advice
Is your dog suddenly aggressive to other dogs in the house or in the park? Is there no injury or illness?
- If the aggression is a serious problem, but there’s no physical problem for your vet to treat, then you will need to consider behavioral therapy and training for your pet dog.
- A dog’s aggression always has an underlying cause, but while physical injuries can be identified and fixed, it’s the emotional ones that are more difficult to identify and treat.
- Behavioral therapists can offer expert advice to help you out, including ways to deal with past trauma or ongoing separation anxiety, for example.
For the sake of your dog’s health and your own family life, it’s always good to seek out an expert opinion if you’re struggling!
Dog Suddenly Aggressive: Final Word
Your dog’s health and well-being should be your number one priority. If you’re concerned by sudden aggressive behavior that’s completely abnormal, your first course of action should be a visit to your local veterinary practice.
Get your dog inspected for injury or illness, so that your pet can be treated before things get worse. If your dog’s behavior isn’t due to injury, then a dog trainer or behavioral expert will be able to offer further advice on stopping any aggression.
Hopefully, this guide to sudden aggressive behaviour in dogs has helped! Why not bookmark it, so you’ll be ready to help your dog when they need it most?