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Can you control your dog's aggression? – Earth.com

Dog aggression is a serious concern for pet owners, as it can be unsettling, stressful, and even dangerous, not only for the dog but also for other pets, family members, and strangers. 
Given the complexities and varying degrees of aggressive behaviors, Dr. Lori Teller, a clinical professor at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, provides expert guidance on recognizing and addressing these behaviors effectively.
One particularly severe and complex form of aggression is rage syndrome, which causes dogs to exhibit extreme aggression without any apparent triggers
“Dogs with rage syndrome have episodes of extreme aggression toward a person or other animals that occur seemingly out-of-the-blue and without provocation, yet they otherwise appear friendly and happy,” explained Dr. Teller. 
This condition is notoriously challenging to diagnose and treat, since the causes, which may include genetic and neurological factors, remain unclear. 
“No identifiable trigger leading up to the attack is one clear sign of rage syndrome. Additional signs include confusion or seeming dazedness during or immediately after an episode, glazed eyes, dramatic escalation of aggression without any warning, and unpredictability of episodes,” noted Dr. Teller.
It is crucial not to confuse rage syndrome with conflict- or fear-based aggression, which are more common and natural responses to perceived threats or conflicts. 
According to Dr. Teller, there is usually a clearly identifiable trigger for other types of aggression, unlike with rage syndrome. Yet, some owners have difficulties reading a dog’s body language or recognizing the trigger. 
In cases of fear-based or conflict aggression, dogs often display warning signs before an attack, including a hunched body posture, lip-licking, trembling, baring teeth, growling, or snapping. 
These forms of aggression are often defensive in nature, but dogs may also exhibit predatory behaviors that appear aggressive but are actually offensive and driven by the dog’s instinct to pursue prey.
When a dog exhibits aggressive behavior, owners should avoid intervening physically during an episode to prevent injuries. After the episode has subsided, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian. 
“The veterinarian will obtain a complete behavioral history and probably perform some diagnostic tests to rule out a medical problem that has led to the aggressive behaviors,” said Dr. Teller. “An example of a medical problem that may trigger an aggressive response is when someone touches a painful area, such as with osteoarthritis or an ear infection.”
By contrast, “rage syndrome can be caused by seizure-like activity in the brain, so veterinarians may recommend an electroencephalogram, a test that measures electrical activity in the brain, or an advanced imaging modality such as an MRI or CT scan, which takes detailed images of the brain to identify any abnormalities in its structure,” she added.
Long-term management of aggression requires a comprehensive approach that includes both medical and behavioral interventions. 
Depending on the underlying cause of aggression, dogs may be given an anxiolytic medication to relieve anxiety, an anticonvulsant to control the risk of seizures, or a combination of such medications. A behavioral modification plan is also essential and may involve referral to a veterinary behaviorist.
Understanding the different forms of aggression and seeking professional assistance when necessary can help dog owners provide the necessary care and support for their pets. 
By addressing aggression effectively, the impact on the dog’s life and the broader household can be minimized, leading to a safer and more harmonious living environment.
Dog aggression is a significant behavioral issue that can manifest in various forms, ranging from growling and snapping to biting. It often arises due to multiple factors including genetics, lack of socialization, poor training, fear, or a previous negative experience. 
Dogs may also exhibit aggressive behaviors when they’re trying to assert dominance or protect their territory, owners, or resources such as food, toys, or other objects.
Understanding the triggers of aggression is crucial for managing it effectively. This involves observing when the aggression occurs, such as in the presence of other dogs or strangers, during meals, or in specific locations like their resting area. 
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