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Major Factors That Cause Canine Aggression

Have you been the victim of an attack by an aggressive dog? Bisnar Chase represents dog bite victims in California and has spent over thirty five years pursuing dog bite victim's rights. Call 1-800-561-4887 for a free consultation with an experienced dog bite lawyer to see if you have an injury case.

There are many reasons why a dog can become aggressive. Sometimes, the level of aggression a dog exhibits may have to do with its breed. To see the list of breeds, which have been deemed dangerous for their breed reputation, visit our "Common Dangerous Dog Breeds" page. In cases where a dog's temperament issues stem from its genetic makeup, there is no real cure for aggressive behavior. When it comes to these dogs, instinct will always prevail. Other causes of aggression can include disease, injury or discomfort.

Since all dogs have a tendency to be aggressive at some point in their life, you can take steps to curb that aggression. Working with a trainer and understanding signals from your dog can be very helpful. Aggression triggers can then be avoided and hopefully will not lead to a dog bite.

Aggression Caused by Medical Conditions

The following is a list of diseases or illnesses, which can cause aggression in dogs:

  • Hypothyroidism: A condition in which the thyroid gland produces less of the hormone than normal. It is the most common hormonal disorder in dogs and usually develops between the ages of 4 and 10.
  • Neurological Problems: Neurological issues can develop in dogs as a result of an injury or illness. Perception and judgment may be affected, causing aggression. Examples of neurological problems in dogs include:
  • Hydrocephalus - A disease resulting in excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the ventricular system (fluid filled spaces) of the brain. This causes surrounding brain tissue to become thinned or compressed.
  • Encephalitis - Inflammation of the brain caused by either a bacterial or viral infection.
  • Head trauma - Either a blunt or penetrating injury to the head. The most common cause of head trauma to dogs is motor vehicle accidents. Swelling or bleeding of the brain will affect the dog's proper functioning, leading to aggression.
  • Brain tumors - Tumors that form on the brain, caused by many known and unknown factors.
  • Epilepsy - Two types occur in dogs: Idiopathic Epilepsy, which is when there is no known cause, and it is assumed that the condition is inherited. Secondary Epilepsy is when a specific cause for the seizures can be determined. Dogs are most often aggressive in the post-seizure phase.

Behavioral Seizures

Partial seizures, which occur in the region of the brain that controls aggression (hypothalamus or limbic system), can result in sudden unprovoked aggression in your pet. The signs of this type of aggression are as follows:

  • A sudden mood change right before the occurrence of the seizure.
  • Sudden violent aggression for no reason.
  • Signs of autonomic discharge.
  • Aggressive posture continuously during the seizure and possibly lasting from as little as several minutes, to hours or even days.

There are several breeds, which are known for this type of aggression including springer spaniels, cocker spaniels, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, golden retrievers, bull terriers and poodles. Veterinarians can run a battery of tests to determine the exact medical cause for aggression in dogs.

Instinctive Aggression

Other types of aggression are behavioral and often due to instinct. They are as follows:

  • Dominance-related aggression: This is the most common type of aggression in dogs. The aggressiveness is directed towards one or several family members or other household pets. Dogs are pack animals and related to humans as pack members.
  • Territorial aggression: This type of aggression is directed towards approaching animals or people who are outside of their pack (outside of the dog's household). Dogs display this type of aggression in defense of their area (home, room, yard), owner or pack member.
  • Inter-male Aggression: Aggression between adult male dogs involving territorial or dominance disputes.
  • Inter-female Aggression: Aggression between adult female dogs living in the same household.
  • Predatory aggression: Aggression that is directed towards anything that the dog considers to be its prey. This usually includes other species but sometimes can include any type of quick moving stimulus such as a car or bicycle.
  • Pain-induced aggression: Aggression that is directed towards the person or item that has caused the animal pain. Examples include when a person attempts to touch a painful area or when shots are given.
  • Fear-induced aggression: Aggression, which is directed towards a person when trying to approach the fearful dog. This type of aggression is common in situations where the dog is cornered or cannot escape or when being severely punished by its owner. Unpredictable children can also cause this type of aggression.
  • Maternal aggression: Aggression that is directed towards any person or animal that approaches a mother dog with puppies.
  • Redirected aggression: This type of aggression occurs when a dog redirects its aggression from one source to another. A common example of this is a dog barking at the door, but then redirects its aggression on its owner who is holding him/her back.

Legally Speaking: If you are bitten by a dog

If you have been injured in a dog attack, please contact an experienced dog bite attorney. We are passionate in our pursuit for justice and fair compensation of severely and catastrophically injured clients. We've handled many dog attack cases for both children and adults. Since California is very clear on dog bites, chances are you have a case. It's rare that a person is not held liable for dog bite cases in California - even on or off their own premises. Dog bite compensation varies depending on how severe the injuries are. Many dog bite victims end up with permanent scars. To learn more call us for a free legal consultation at 800-561-4887.


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