What causes a dog to attack? What causes your four-legged friend to become enraged and aggressive? What caused the dog to attack little Lola? Legally, a dog owner is responsible for factors that determine whether a dog will bite or not. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions, dogs bite an estimated 4.5 million people every year.

Dog Problem Solutions, a website dedicated to solving issues with your pup, outlines many factors that can contribute to a dog’s aggression. First, most dogs want to be the alpha dog in a pack. Attacking another canine or a human can give the aggressor more power and control in the group. Dogs also have fear and self-defense instincts that cause them to lash out in fury. When they feel threatened, physically or territorially, they may react and fight off any possible threat to what is theirs. And lastly, dogs are aggressive by nature. Instinctively, they fend for food, water, and territory. Challenging these natural instincts will only ignite a natural flame inside them.

Humans also contribute to a canine’s aggression with threatening body language. Dogs are always on the defense. Their primary goal is to survive and anything that is threatening, or is perceived to be threatening, to them or one of their companion’s ability to survive, will cause a dog to become defensive and aggressive. Threatening body language can be a trigger of aggression. Staring directly at a dog can be seen as threatening. Even more threatening – when someone is on the same eye level as a dog, like a child, makes direct eye contact.

It is an owner’s responsibility to make sure that a dog is safe and won’t attack other dogs or humans. The Humane Society’s first step is to keep your dog out of situations where they can harm people. Then, seek medical attention to rule out health reasons for aggression and to use a professional’s advice on how to deal with the dog’s anger. One should never punish his or her dog; often it will make the situations worse.

Dog aggression is preventable. Showing a dog love and genuine affection will cause him to be loyal to people. Digitaldog.com says exposing your dog to “different people, places, experiences and things, until they are comfortable with them all, are all exceptional ways to develop a dog’s sense of security and confidence.” Giving a dog confidence to obey and follow commands is another contributing factor to taming aggression. Teaching your pal that being good and take direction will give him even more encouragement to listen. Getting him excited to learn and behave at a young age will create a team between you and your dog.

Love at a young age is the first defense against an aggressive pup, but early life is not the only time that a four-legged friend can learn to behave. There is hope for older dogs with aggression issues too. It is a slower and longer process to slow and manage aggression, but it is possible. The primary difference between training older and younger dogs is that older dogs “must receive praise for good behavior and mild discipline for bad behavior,” according to the Dog Owner’s Guide.  The key to training any dog is trust and encouragement.

A dog’s bite is worse than its bark. Curbing his aggression is a way to control his bites and teach him to be social. Knowing his personality and what he is uncomfortable around will make him easier to coach and suppress his aggression. The best thing to do for your dog’s confidence is to love him and to show him affection.