Is You Dog Aggressive? Maybe You’re Just Not Feeling Its Pain

Study suggests that hidden pain may be the cause of canine aggressive behavior.

Is your dog overly aggressive and you are not sure what you can do about it? New research suggests the problem may be that your pooch is in pain.

New research suggests that dogs can sometimes suffer sudden episodes of aggression because of pain that has never been diagnosed or treated.

Researchers have learned that there are many factors that explain aggression in dogs: the conditions of the mother during gestation, the handling of the puppy in the neonatal phase, the age at weaning, the experiences of the animal during the socializing phase, diet, exercise, genetics and learning techniques based on active punishment during adulthood. However, aggressive behavior also may come from pain that is not physically apparent but which the dog is really experiencing.

12 Dogs, Different Breeds Studied

Between 2010 and 2011 a team of researchers at the University of Barcelona in Spain analyzed the aggression problems of 12 dogs (Giant schnauzer, Irish setter, Pit-bull, Dalmatian, two German shepherds, Neapolitan Mastiff, Shih-Tzu, Bobtail, Catalan Sheepdog, Chow-chow and Doberman).

All the dogs were diagnosed as having aggression caused by pain. Out of the 12 studied, eight had suffered from hip dysplasia. The scientists identified the most frequent circumstances in which dogs were aggressive, the most characteristic positions, most frequent target of attacks, and if they were impulsive or, in other words, whether or not they showed signs before an imminent attack.

The study showed that dogs that were already aggressive for other reasons before the onset of pain attacked their owners more intensely and frequently when food was taken away, when they were moved from their rest area or when they were made to do something. Animals displayed aggression in the same situations (or nearly) as those that were already aggressive.

Hip Problem Decisive Indicator of Aggression

On the other hand, dogs that had never been aggressive before the onset of pain began to behave in this way in situations were an attempt is made to control them. In addition, the study shows that those dogs were more impulsive or, in other words, attacked with no prior warning in the form of growls, for instance. The researchers found that if the pet is handled when in pain, it will quickly act aggressively to avoid more discomfort without the owner being able to prevent it.

Canine hip dysplasia affects more than 40 percent of Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Rottweillers and is a hereditary and degenerative bone disorder that affects the joint connecting the hip and the femoral head. In general, it can affect any breed of large dog but is less frequent is small breeds. The new study suggests that the pain produced by hip dysplasia is a key factor in the risk of large dogs becoming aggressive. But the problem begins when the dog experiences periods of little pain before the hip problem is even diagnosed.

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User Comments
  1. momofplenty

    On June 14, 2012 at 9:53 am

    My dog has hip displasia, i know exactly what your talking about. when she has no pian she is great but she hurts, she growls if we move her.

  2. Kharla Jolly

    On June 14, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Aggressive behavior can be from their fear of pain or a threat of harm. My dog is happy, unless he’s backed in a corner with no where to get away. Then, he snarls if someone comes at him. Micah isn’t mean in any way, at other times. Thanks, for a great share, a nice one.

  3. Rarity HIll

    On June 14, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Thanks for the information. I can now understand my pets better.

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