Aggression and attacks by dogs can occur for several reasons, and even the friendliest dog can cause damage or injury by its mere presence.
Dominance aggression is an instinctive tendency in some dogs to aim for the top position in their pack, which can include the dog owner's own family and even visitors to the property. The signs to look for are the dog being overbearing (in your face so to speak), making direct eye contact with you and its hackles may also be up.
Fear aggression occurs when a dog is frightened because it feels threatened or cornered. The signs to look for are the dog may back away, with its tail between its legs, and it may urinate before deciding that attack is the best form of defence.
Territorial aggression occurs when a dog attacks because it believes an intruder has invaded its territory. This territorial aggression can extend beyond fences to include the footpath or road outside the dog's home. The signs that a dog is about to attack are shown in its body posture. The dog will usually brace its body, with its hackles up; ears flattened and may be growling.
Prevention and protection
If confronted by an aggressive dog there are a number of thing you can do to protect yourself, your family and other people (in particular young children):
Appearance: Act confidently, but avoid behaving in a threatening or dominating manner. Turn side on to reduce the visual impact - you will not look so large to the dog.
Eye contact: Avoid making eye contact because the dog could take that as a challenge.
Movement: Move slowly (and calmly) away from the dog: sudden movement might prompt the dog to instinctively give chase.
Dogs communicate by barking. It is expected that all dogs will bark, especially if someone comes on to the dog owner's property.
If a dog barks for a prolonged period it might cause considerable disturbance to neighbours. The Council can serve notice on the dog owner requiring that nuisance to stop. If that is not adhered to, then further action might be deemed necessary by the Council's Animal Control Department.
There are a number of reasons for excessive barking and as a result there are a number of ways to deal with the problem. If you believe a dog is barking excessively contact the Animal Control Department for expert advice and assistance.
For more information tips visit the Government's dog safety website (it will open in a new window).